When I was a little girl, I had a knowing about animals. I knew they could feel very deeply. I knew they were very intelligent and could understand everything people said to them.
And I knew they came into our lives for a purpose, to help us learn something important. I wasn’t sure where these ideas came from, yet I felt deep in my soul that they were all true.
The other thing I knew when I was little was that I was going to have a German Shepherd some day. I had many wonderful dogs when I was growing up, but none of them were German Shepherds because my parents said our yard wasn’t big enough.
When I turned thirty, my childhood dream finally came true. One night I saw a horrible story on the television news about some puppies discovered in a dumpster, cruelly discarded after they had been used as Pit Bull bait. Two of the puppies were barely alive and were rushed to the hospital for medical treatment. One was a German Shepherd. She was named Lucky, and when her wounds healed she was put up for adoption. So many people wanted to adopt her that the SF/SPCA held a lottery to determine who would become her new guardian. I was the lucky winner.
Soon after bringing Lucky home, I realized that, while her physical wounds had healed, her emotional wounds had not. She was six months old when I adopted her and had more fears than I could keep track of. Because of the trauma she had endured, she was afraid of almost every sound imaginable and spent an enormous amount of time hiding, cowering, and breathing so hard I feared she would hyperventilate. When she saw another dog, she would drop to the ground, curl into a ball, and throw up.
Many people suggested that I just not bring her outside anymore, but I knew that wasn’t the answer. It broke my heart to see her living with such fear and I was determined to find a way to help her recover from what she had been through.
I started searching for answers, turning over one stone after another, looking for ways to help her feel more at peace. I first delved into holistic medicine, finding herbs and flower essences that helped soothe her both physically and emotionally. I studied the mind/body connection and began to see how powerful and damaging our emotions can be when they are trapped in our bodies. I took classes in T-Touch, became a Reiki practitioner, and pored over books on energy healing so I could work with Lucky to release old energy stuck in her body. Little by little, she showed signs of improvement.
I began to remember the things I had known about animals as a child and started talking to Lucky, explaining to her what was going on, letting her know what we were doing and why. I found ways to communicate with her, and for her to communicate with me. I realized that not only was she capable of feeling things (fear, worry, peacefulness, etc.) but that I could experience her feelings as well. I didn’t have a word for it at the time, but later learned that people call it being “empathic.”
I used what I was picking up from her to help her when she was afraid. I acknowledged her feelings, explained that she had choices about how long we stayed in a situation that was making her uncomfortable, and assured her that I wouldn’t let anything bad happen to her. We developed a strong level of trust that gradually allowed her to let go of the trauma she had experienced.
It took four years, but finally Lucky was able to greet other dogs comfortably. We could sit comfortably outside a coffee shop and enjoy people (and dog) watching together. There was no more diving under my chair for safety, or panting and drooling in reaction to what she saw and heard. At home, I could once again use the coffee maker and washing machine without worrying what it would do to her.
Eventually, through our constant communication and the use of energy work and holistic medicine, she became as happy and peaceful as if she had never experienced any kind of trauma at all.
One day I remembered one more thing I had known as a little girl: Animals really do come into our lives to help us learn. In my quest to help Lucky heal from her emotional wounds, I learned to heal myself and to tap into the knowledge and gifts that had been in me since I was a child.
I consider myself incredibly lucky that Lucky came into my life.
Maureen Burkley works with animals and their guardians to promote physical and emotional healing. She does this by using her gifts as an Animal Communicator, an Intuitive Empath and a Reiki Practitioner. www.healinganimalstruths.com.