The Healing Power Of Animals
I have had a connection to animals since I was very young.
I was the kid who adopted every injured snake I found, a bat, even a family of robins whose mother had been killed by the neighbor dog and I taught them to fly by throwing them up over my bed.
That was a messy and disgusting lesson, but they all lived and were set free, so my mission was complete.
My first cat was a stray that nobody else was allowed to bring home because he was so disgusting and had some sort of allergy that caused him to sneeze constantly.
I named him Michael and took him home to take care of him.
Throughout the years I have adopted many, many animals of every species and nursed to health many that were injured in the wild. (Sidebar: in some cases such as birds of prey, endangered animals or dangerous animals it is important that you call an animal rescue or animal control to handle the situation and NOT handle a wild animal on your own).
I’ve always had a bit of a soft spot for the underdogs of the world, quite literally, and my son and I became a foster family for the Humane Society in Wisconsin for many years.
We had a border collie, Jasmine, who was an amazing companion dog, and she loved having foster puppies at our house.
She also loved people, so with Jasmine we began a pet visiting program to the local nursing homes.
The Eden Alternative
The program was based on the theory behind the Eden Alternative and brought together shelter animals and elders in need of companionship.
The Eden Alternative is based on the theory that people are meant to be surrounded by plants, animals and children and interacting with others.
Some of the main principles of the Eden Alternative are:
The three plagues of loneliness, helplessness, and boredom account for the bulk of suffering among our Elders.
An Elder-centered community commits to creating a Human Habitat where life revolves around close and continuing contact with plants, animals, and children. It is these relationships that provide the young and old alike with a pathway to a life worth living.
Loving companionship is the antidote to loneliness. Elders deserve easy access to human and animal companionship.
(for more information on the Eden Alternative: http://www.edenalt.org/about-the-eden-alternative/)
Animals Help Others
Based on the first three principles, we started the program called Animals Helping Elders and Others where shelter volunteers would train volunteers for the program to take shelter animals to visit the local nursing homes.
We took our dog Jasmine to visit at our town’s nursing home as part of the program.
She absolutely loved being there and visiting with the people who lived there and they loved having her.
For many people, it brought back memories of having their own pets back in their homes.
The program lasted for many years, until the local Humane Society in River Falls, Wisconsin closed.
Jasmine kept visiting the nursing home until she died, but she was a great example of how animals can be a living example of bringing our yoga off the mat.
Animals are natural healers, and especially when someone has been taken out of their home, their comfort, or has begun to lose their memory, an animal can bring them great peace just by being with them.
A Loving Gift
Jasmine was a true gift to the world. She healed many hearts with her presence.
When my son was fourteen and was in the PICU recovering from a coma, having suffered a severe Traumatic Brain Injury in an accident, we had a friend smuggle her into the hospital to sit with him, and I know she brought healing energy to him.
He was not able to walk or speak at the time, but he smiled and hugged his dog when she jumped into bed with him.
His body and his mind would not work for him, but the love he felt for his dog and she for him, broke through the fog.
She was so loved in our community that the local paper ran an obituary article about her when she died. I thought I would never get another dog again because I was so brokenhearted.
But that would not be the case, as my calling in life apparently seems to have animals in it and along came Murphy, my Mastiff-Pit, two years later, who had been abandoned, and our adopted dog Chica, and Foster, the latest addition of abandoned animals to our crew.
I also have a pig named Junior and some cows that we take care of. Jasmine wouldn’t want it any other way.
There are many ways that animals fill a hole in our hearts, and in many ways through serving animals we are living our yoga.
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