In the beginning......
It was my own cat, Bella who changed my life, and started me working with animals. There have always been animals in my life, whether they've lived with me and my family, or with friends and other people I know. But it really wasn't until Bella came to live with me that I knew that this was to be an important path in my life.
I was lucky enough to be made redundant a few years ago, and knew that after too many years of corporate slog, I wanted my life to be very different. I'd known for a while that redundancy would be coming, so had some time to think about what this new life would be - but the course of events leading me to where I am now were quite amazing.
It all started when Bella came to live with me. After I lost my last beloved cat I'd decided not to bring another into my home as I spent a lot of time travelling with my job; it just wouldn't have been fair. But eventually, after I'd been settled for a couple of years, the time was right. It happened out of the blue, and was what I needed to help rescue me from depression and stress caused by my job.
One day I noticed that the local free newspaper had an article about a local animal sanctuary. There was a cat in the picture called Bella - and that just jumped out at me. The reason was that I knew that when a cat came to live with me, I would call her Bella. Bella was the name of my lovely grandmother, who actually didn't like animals at all, but had the sweetest face, just like a little cat. I knew she'd get the joke (she had a fabulous sense of humour), but more than that, I wanted to remember her through someone else I would love.
I wasn't feeling particularly well that day, but when I showed the article to my friend Mark, he decided we should jump in the car and head down there. The cat in the article had since been rehomed, but that didn't matter, there were others there who needed love. I had it in my mind that we would take a cat who was a little older, as I knew they struggled more to find homes. But that day, there weren't many older cats ready for homing. I spent some time looking at a couple of lovely ladies who were about 2-3 years old, but Mark kept trying to catch my attention. There was a kitten, about six months old and very vocal, who had sat there and shouted at him until he looked at her - and then he was smitten. I'd been a little dubious about one so young, as they can be a handful - and of course, would have had no difficulty at all being homed - but something about her told me she was my cat.
So we brought her home, and called her Bella. She's not stopped shouting since, and has a huge personality. And I love her to bits - and she knows it! She's now 13, and has calmed down a little, but still full of personality.
Learning to heal
She'd been with me a few months when one day I noticed she wasn't feeling too well. Don't ask me how or why, but I just felt the need to put my hands on her, and knew I was healing her. My intuition just guided me, and I knew it was right. Within about half an hour she came round, stood up, shook and jumped down - clearly feeling much better. I looked at my hands in amazement. I could still feel them tingling and buzzing. I'd heard the word "Reiki", but didn't know too much about it, so enthralled, started Googling away. Everything I was reading felt right, and I knew I was being led in that direction. I found a Reiki Master locally, registered for a class, and 6 months later was fully qualified to Reiki level 2.
One day soon after I was planning a holiday, and needed care for Bella while I was away. I found a local pet sitter who had a lovely dog, who had been suffering badly with arthritis for many years. I was still practising using Reiki, and learning, and was happy to have the opportunity to help ease her stiffness and pain - I'd go at least once a week. The changes in her were remarkable, and it was even reported that she had more confidence, and had jumped up onto the sofa - something she'd not done in years. Sadly she passed away a few months later, but happily in little pain and discomfort.
Moving into Pet Sitting
Jayne (Bella's cat sitter) had seen how I loved being with animals, and had such a good way with them, so suggested to me that I also become a pet sitter. I'd been thinking of this myself, so when Jayne suggested it too, I was on my way. I knew that I had something special to offer to all the animals I would take care of - that the Reiki that was always a part of me would help them all to be happy, relaxed and calm while their families were away.
I was lucky to have Jayne as a personal mentor while I began to set up my pet caring services, and I've since been able to repay the kindness by helping others as they set up their pet service businesses too. Whiskers Pet Care is now in its 13th year of operation, and in that time I've learnt so much from the animals I've taken care of. They have been wonderful teachers. I've also seen how Reiki and intuitive communication have been such amazing tools to have. These skills have enabled my animal friends to teach me what it is they need from a visit, and I've been able to ensure I give them exactly what they need. And so many times now I've been told how much previously shy or anxious animals have become so much more confident and happier, immediately after my visits.
It's been an ongoing journey of learning and development, and I've taken opportunities to strengthen my knowledge and skills, by attending conferences, learning new therapies and healing modalities, and sharing with others who spend their lives working with animals.
Communicating with animals
I'd always been very intuitive when I was younger, but this had become rather stifled in recent years - however, when I left corporate life, and started on my Reiki journey, it returned very quickly and very strongly! There were a couple of incidents where I found that I was communicating with animals - both in situations where I wasn't expecting to, and both where I knew unequivocally that that was what was happening. Again, this led me to want to learn more about it, so that I could do it properly. I found a great teacher - James French, and his partner Shelly - and discovered that this was something I loved doing.
So now, I can take care of animals while their families away - but also know that they're getting the best care possible as I bring them Reiki healing to help them to be relaxed and happy, and intuitive communication so that I can be sure I'm doing the right thing for them. It's also great to be able to let the families know not just how they're doing, but how they're feeling.
I'm sure my amazing journey will continue, so I'll be back to update it again from time to time. But finally, eternal gratitude and love to my wonderful angel cat, Bella. xx
Along came Dylan!
Bella's always been quite vocal and demanding, and there were many times I felt she would like a companion. Yet it was also very clear she felt that I was hers and hers alone, and I did wonder whether she'd tolerate another cat in the house. I wasn't on the look out for a cat, as I wasn't completely convinced, but one day, while volunteering at Animals in Distress, I met Dylan, a little boy of almost 5 months. You can read the story on my blog here: Dylan comes to stay
He's been with us for 9 years now, and it's been interesting and challenging, and of course another wonderful learning experience - for both me and Bella. While it was clear that Bella was my angel cat, who helped me to change my life path, Dylan is my meditation and healing buddy. He doesn't say much, but there's a depth to him that's not always clear at first - although he always seems to convey this depth in photos. His part in my/our life/lives is now becoming clearer, but it will always be a learning experience - that's what it's all about. I'm not sure what I expected when he came to live with us; I guess I hoped that he and Bella would learn to be all close and cosy with each other, but I know now that will never be their relationship. But had that been the case, there wouldn't have been the learning opportunities I have with them. And they've learnt to be ok with each other, so it's mostly a happy household.
As the years have gone on, I have noticed that Dylan has some challenges. He's never been diagnosed (mostly because most vets wouldn't know how to), but I've come to realise that he is very likely autistic - or the cat equivalent of autistic. With autistic humans, there are a range of different issues and pointers to this condition, no-one is the same as anyone else, and the severity of the condition varies too. It's just the same with Dylan - and I've come to identify three different issues that point to autism in him. And interestingly, one of the character traits I noticed right at the start, that of being very deep, is one of these. He can get very very lost within himself, but he's trained me how to pull him out of this when it happens.
And as time has passed, I've realised that both Bella and Dylan have come to me for a reason, as they both have issues for resolving - it's a part of my training, and they're wonderful teachers.
And here's Polly!
So, for many years, we were a family of three - me, Bella and Dylan. No plans to adopt another cat, and really no room for another cat either.
But, as is often the way, the Universe has other ideas. I understand now that it's a part of my mission to have cats as my family who have challenges, so that I can help them.
I'd moved house, and had more room, but there were no ideas about having another cat to come to live with us. After all, Bella is a princess, and still makes it very clear that Dylan is with us under her suffrance. They've worked out how to get along, but I know I'll never see them curled up together, or engaging in mutual grooming. And Dylan, well, how would he cope with another cat?
In fact, all his life, he's loved other cats, but it's a factor of his condition that he doesn't know how to relate to them, how to be with them. And he and Ian got along very well when Ian lived with us (and I write these words, I realise that I've never written about Ian, I shall have to correct that!). But things went badly wrong when my next door neighbours adopted a little kitten who'd been abandoned in the area - they were a little slow to have him neutered, and he became quite aggressive. And this didn't abate afterwards - in fact it got worse, and he'd often be beating up Bella and Dylan if he came upon them outside. With Dylan's condition, this changed how he viewed stranger cats - and became quite terrified.
Anyway....... One day, a year ago (in fact, a year ago yesterday, from when I'm writing this), a friend was on holiday in Crete, and came upon a kitten and her mother. As we know, this isn't unusual in many other countries, especially around the Mediterranean, where it's warm, and cats tend to roam. And where, culturally, it's not often common for cats to be neutered - another topic I shall have to return to!
Now, we know that we can't all go adopting all the hundreds of cats and kittens we find as strays while we're on holiday, but she was concerned about the little one, as she had an awful eye infection, and both eyes were sealed shut. There was a fear that she'd wander into the road, and be run over. Cutting a long story very short, she found a local vet to treat the eyes, and a foster carer through the Cretan Animal Protection organisation. But, because of the many thousands of homeless cats there, they will only take a cat into foster care if a home can be promised overseas.
So I jumped in and said I'd take her, and would find her a home once she was here. I had a spare room, so that she'd be away from Bella and Dylan. However, it wasn't long before I'd decided that she would become a part of our family permanently. But very sadly, having been thriving for a few days, she took a turn for the worse and passed away. The infection must have taken its toll on her little body.
By then I'd become used to the idea that we were going to be a 3 cat family, and when another little one came to my friend's attention just a few days later, and I offered a home to him. Once again though, despite having received wonderful care from the foster carer (who has since become a good friend of mine), he too declined and passed away. There are many issues with adopting cats and dogs from overseas, but I'm not going to go into this here.
I knew that we had room in our home and our hearts for another little one, so I decided that the first one that came to my attention, no matter what, I would offer a home to. But this time it would be closer to home. And in just a couple of hours, a good friend here, who runs a rescue, posted pictures of two delightful little kittens, who'd been rescued from a feral colony at just 3 weeks old, and she was hand rearing.
I offered to adopt them both when they were old enough in just a couple of weeks, and went to meet them. They'd told me their names were Polly and Flo, and they were a complete joy and delight. They came to live with us, and moved into the spare room, and I enjoyed many hours sitting with them watching their antics.
However, this story also takes a sad turn. After just a week, little Flo became poorly, and despite frequent visits to the vet, just seemed to be getting worse. She'd stopped eating, and I was having to bottle feed her, but she was feeling so ill that she didn't even want that. And one day I got up, went to see them both, and realised that something had changed with Flo - she'd given up, and just wanted to go. So, together with my friend who'd hand reared them, we took her to a different vet, who agreed that it would just be cruelty to keep her going, and the kindest thing would be to let her have her peace.
I was concerned about Polly, as they'd been very close - but when I got back and told her, she said to me that she already knew. And it became clear that Flo had joined with Polly's spirit, so it was like I had two little cats in one body!
Up to that point, they'd not really met Bella or Dylan - the plan was to mostly keep them in their room for a while longer yet. But once Polly was on her own, I knew that wouldn't be fair. She's a gregarious little thing, and I think would struggle to cope. So, I began letting her out into the rest of the house for a couple of hours at a time - and the first time she realised she had a big brother and sister, I could see how thrilled she was!
As I write this, she's now ten months old, almost fully grown, and just as bonkers as ever. Of course, Bella would really rather she wasn't here, but it's not personal. Yet she does her best, and knows she's here to stay. It's Dylan that's the biggest surprise though! For six months he would pretty much hide away from her, but she put on a charm offensive and won him round. Almost overnight it seems, he decided that she was ok, and they were going to be friends. And they are. And it's wonderful for him!! She brings him out of himself when there's a tendency to get a little lost inside, and they both love chasing each other around. Even though he's the size of a small horse, Polly is confident, and not bothered by that in the least. She's happy because she has a big cat brother to play with, and he's happy because he has a little cat sister to play with. It's what he always wanted with Bella, except that she just wouldn't have it!
I've been very lucky - although like most lucky people, I've gone and made my own luck!! What I mean here is that I've learnt and gained so much through my volunteering activities in animal rescue centres. I have no idea now how many animals I've worked with and helped with Reiki, but it will be in the hundreds, perhaps more. And many many of these I still remember. They are all quite unique and wonderful!!
Bella came from Animals in Distress, so one day, while taking some items for their charity shop, I asked about coming to volunteer Reiki to help their animals - many of whom come in injured, unwell, and traumatised. They'd not heard of Reiki, and some of the staff were just a little sceptical at first, but soon saw how it was helping. After 3 years there, I decided to leave after some changes, and soon after was contacted out of the blue by the new manager at Peggy Henderson's in Sale (Society for Abandoned Animals), to see if I'd like to help their animals with Reiki. Again, learning so much from the animals, as well as useful skills for pet sitting, such as taking care of hygiene.
As I write this (updated in June 2019) I'm currently not actively volunteering in rescue - with a job that's 7 days a week, it was getting difficult. But I still support them - and in fact my support for so many animal rescues has grown, including several in other parts of the world.