A Language of Love – Part 1 Applied Zoopharmacognosy

People often ask what I ‘do’ with animals. It’s a hard one to answer, as I am always learning and evolving. I work in a multi-disciplinary way, and I am constantly learning to listen more and connect more with the animals I am lucky enough to interact with. The more I spend time with animals the more I become aware of how many different methods and how many of their senses they employ to communicate, between themselves, with us humans and with their environment. They use many forms of ‘language’ but all are inherently pure / from a place of love. What do I mean by this?In my experience animals communicate with no ‘agenda’. The pure nature of animals communicating and interacting is a joy to be around. Their senses are often so much more advanced than most of ours. They are honest in their communication and expressing their needs (unless this has been supressed out of them by humans). However, I often see that many humans are not very adept at picking up on this communication, or they only see or hear the communication only from their perspective, and how it meets their needs rather than that of the animal. This can lead to many issues in the human / animal relationship, and unfortunately many times it is the animal that misses out.

All animals are very in tune with their body, and have an innate ability to know what they need to keep their bodies in physical and emotional balance. We all know that stress can case all sorts of physical and behavioural problems, in humans and other animal species. However, with the animals in our lives we often deny them the choice in their diet and environment of what they need to stay healthy. When animals sense that their bodies are out of balance they are often powerless to do anything about it. By the time that we humans see there is a problem, through for example physical symptoms or behavioural ‘problems’ expressing themselves, the problem is already quite well advanced.

One way that I communicate with animals is through facilitating giving them the choice to rebalance themselves physically and emotionally through the self-selection of natural nutrients, including herbs, essential oils, clays, algae etc. We call this process Applied Zoopharmacognosy – allowing animals to self-medicate. Did you know that dogs have 278 million smell receptors compared to approximately 50 million in horses and 5 million in humans? Our animals can smell a whole world that we are largely unaware of.

In the wild animal would forage for medicinal plants, clays etc. at the first sign that their bodies are going out of balance. However, when they live with us humans, we take over, to a large extent, making those choices for them, for example by restricting their environment and diet choice. How many animals actually have the chance to forage nowadays? Normal the humans choose what and when they eat, when they rest play etc. We do this to the best of our ability, but we sometimes don’t know how to make the best choices for them. There is so much conflicting information out there how do we know what to listen to?

When I am facilitating animals (of all species) self-medication during a consult, I take a simplistic approach, and I find this works so well. Here are a few tips:

  • They innately know what they need better than I do – what they need and how much. always let them lead;
  • If I watch and listen I can pick up so many subtle signs where they are communicating their needs, the secret is to close off my brain / stop making assumptions that I know best, be still, watch and listen.
  • When I get it wrong, as long as I am tuned into them completely that is fine, they will tell me and off we go again; It is a joy to watch how they respond when I understand their needs.
  • If I have an agenda (be it time, what I want them to select, how I want them to behave, that will have a huge effect on their ability to choose – more on this in a separate blog;
  • Our animals are so used to seeking ‘permission’ from us to do everything, they can initially find it stressful to be allowed to lead. Just allowing them this free space is amazing, and will deepen your bond and communication with your animal.

Recently I have been working with a new friend and colleague in Romania who works with rescue dogs, many of which have been deeply negatively impacted by humans. Seeing and hearing how working with the essential oils and remedies such as clay can have such quick and dramatic impact of severely traumatised animals is overwhelming, and it really shows how a few simple changes, allowing the animal time and the opportunity to have some choice back in its life I of such benefit to the animal and human alike.

Mental Health is now widely talked about for humans, but not yet widely accepted how much us humans negatively (often unwittingly) impact the mental health of our animals. Using applied zoopharmacognosy is a great first step to repairing that and reopening up those communication channels. As always when we can listen animals have so much to teach us, so learning to listen to our animals more goes hand in hand with learning to listen to ourselves more, a win-win situation. We have seen repeatedly how a physical pain issue can manifest in extreme behaviour responses – many of you will relate to how frustrating to the point of despair a misdiagnosis can be or when you innately know what you need but are prevented from doing it, so just imagine how our animals feel?

So it would be great if we can all take small steps each day to reopen those communication channels – and that I truly mean two way communication, not us telling the animals what they need. This feels so good for us and our animals.

Over the next few weeks we will be exploring more how animals communicate with us, and how tuning into this can benefit us and our animals enormously. Do let us know your experiences and what you think, lets open this dialog up.

Catherine Edwards