There's something irresistibly appealing about older animals; they hold your heart with their eyes. I find I want to make especially sure that they are comfortable and happy. Here are some of the things I do for them.
Since I now know that animals can understand and absorb everything we say, think or feel I work to stay positive about their age and health, even when they're ill. I tell my older animals that as far as I'm concerned they may choose to live as long as they want and be healthy and happy to the day they die. I instruct them not to believe anything negative that people may say about aging or death.
I've noticed that people are very careless in this regard, saying things they would never say around an older person. I now tend not to tell people about my animals' physical problems or their advanced age to avoid eliciting such comments. For instance, with my cat, Jenny, I switched to saying, "I'm not sure how old she is, but she's a grandmother." I found that when I revealed her true age people would say something like, "Oh the poor old thing! She's not going to live much longer then." But they found it harder to react that way to the idea of a grandmother cat. Now that Jenny is going on 21, still in great shape, jumping, running and free from pain, I'm willing to tell her age. And now people just stare in amazement and say, "You've got to be kidding."
I also often tell my animals how much I appreciate all they've done for me. This is especially important to do at the time of an animal's death, or, if death was sudden, to tell the animal in spirit. I've come to view animals as master teachers and healers. I know my pit-lab Daisy taught me how to love unconditionally, and naturally, when she died I was inconsolable. That's the trouble with living with animals. As Irving Townsend put it, "We who choose to surround ourselves with lives even more temporary than our own live within a fragile circle " But animals are here to teach us about death too; that may even be their greatest teaching. When I finally realized that Daisy's spirit was still with me even though I had lost her body forever, everything shifted.
Now I recommend to my clients that they sit in the dark with their dying animal without touching to learn how to sense and find the animal's spirit. I've told each of my animals that whenever he or she wants to go it's all right with me and that they have only to ask if they want help with dying. I have to admit though, that I'm hedging my bets. After two of my animals died of cancer I switched over to mostly holistic care and whole food diets. My animals are definitely enjoying an extended, more sprightly old age. Here are some of the guides I used to achieve healthier animal elders: The Nature of Animal Healing by Dr. Martin Goldstein and Give Your Dog A Bone by Dr. Ian Billinghurst (I extrapolated for my cats). To order call 800-776 2665 or check out the website at www.dogandcatbooks.com. For horses, call to get an order list of the back issues of the Whole Horse Journal at 800-424 7887. (It is no longer published.) Also check out the "Suggested Readings" and "Useful Links" pages on my website, www.marta.org.
© Marta Williams
PO Box 110
Graton, CA 95444
Before becoming an animal communicator Marta
worked for 15 years as a wildlife biologist, a wildlife rehabilitator
and an environmental scientist, helping to clean up toxic waste sites
and enforce environmental laws and regulations. She has a BS in Resource
Conservation and an MS in Biology.