Animals and Pain

One of the most common questions my clients have for their animal is, “Are you in pain?” Pain has so much power in our culture and can mean many different things to different people. Years ago my fingers were sore for months from Lyme Disease. It was inconvenient but not devastating. But what if I had been a concert pianist? I image the finger pain would mean something very different to me in that scenario.

So how do animals think of pain?


A few months ago I watched out my office window, day after day, as my horse lay on the ground, her foot throbbing in pain from an abscess. I was doing what I could to relieve her discomfort medically, but hoof abscesses take time to heal. I think I “suffered” more that she did as I fretted over if she would get better and how would she get better. She, on the other hand, took the situation as a moment to moment issue. When it was sunny she would lay in the sand, enjoying the sun, resting her foot. When I threw hay down from the loft she would stand up and focus on her one true love – food! She never wondered if or when she would get better. She just knew to lie down when her foot hurt. She definitely felt pain, but how she perceived the pain was different from how I might under similar circumstances.


Asking rabbits about pain is one of the most difficult tasks as an animal communicator. They prefer not to talk about pain. Even amongst other rabbits. Showing any vulnerability puts these animals at the top of a prey list and they want to avoid that. When my rabbit Bramley was young he fractured his hip. It was obvious that something was very wrong because he was dragging his hind legs. He hardly complained, still ate, still used his litter box, and barely altered his routine. As he grew older he occasionally communicated to me that he had back pain (from the resulting arthritis). I was so fortunate that he was willing to share his vulnerability with me so that I could help him. I believe his willingness to communicate about pain came directly from his experience with homeopathic remedies helping him.


Most animals do not “naturally” believe that humans can change pain. But many domestic animals do eventually learn that humans have some ability to help (although they usually see that as very limited). Often dogs will understand that you can take a thorn from their paw, but they have no expectation of you fixing their chronic hip pain. Sometimes when I suggest to an animal that people might help with pain they think it is very odd, as if I suggested that I could make it rain less often!

So what does pain mean to animals? That has many answers, and some are unique to the individual animal, but I can comment on some generalities regarding species. For example, often to small prey animals pain means vulnerability. To most animals it is in the moment. It is very unusual for an animal to speculate regarding the future consequences of their pain. Sometimes pain is very upsetting to animals. For example a cat with impacted anal glands may run from the litter box in fright as they believe “something” is biting them. Sometimes pain is ignored; like the dog who is born with hip dysplasia and doesn’t know life without some pain.


What I have learned from animals is to take my own pain moment to moment. To avoid making it mean something about my future. And to acknowledge the pain without making the pain a bigger part of my life than necessary. (Of course, that’s me on a good day. I am not yet as easy going as my horse!)

Donkey Games

Donkeys love to play. When Ichabod (the Mammoth Donkey) was growing up, he had other youngsters to play with. He arrived here and expected Burrito to play with him, but Burrito was not interested… at least not at first.  donkeytire

Ichabod continued to invite Burrito to play and eventually he gave in. Burrito still never initiates the play, but if Ichabod walks up to him with a toy, and nugs at him a bit, he will usually start to play.


Their favorite game is tug-of-war. The favorite toy is a rubber food bowl, but they also enjoy large sticks and an old bicycle tire.


Aside from tug-of-war, they also enjoy racing. Burrito corners really well, but Ichabod has the long legs, so they can really run quite vigorous races. Sometime they use Mallory (my horse) as a turning post and end up running circles around her. She completely ignores that and all other donkey games.


They also enjoy wrestling! Burrito has found some great strategies for completing against his giant friend. Sometimes he stands on the high side of the sloped paddock to gain a height advantage.

Donkey games are a highlight in my day. I can see them playing from my office window and my dining room window. My whole family enjoys tug-of-war contests while we eat dinner!

My Wild Backyard

We have a wild backyard! I wish I had a photo of everyone who has stopped by, but some pass through so quickly we never get a chance to snap the photo. Some of the more interesting visitors I have seen but not yet photographed are; coyotes, moose, bobcats, and blue heron. We also have the usual chipmunks, snakes, mice, and many varieties of birds including blue birds and goldfinch.

So here it is, my wild backyard… (This is the real deal people, many of the photos were taken from inside the house through the windows; because just because I can communicate with animals does not make standing next to wild bears a good idea!)










How Henry Came to Be “Ours”

Our animal friend’s come to us in so many different ways don’t they? For me, I have inherited a cat, been given a horse, selected animals from shelters, purchased a riding donkey, had a cat walk in as a stray and so on…

A few months ago we were ready to get a new cat and we wanted to be sure the new one got along well with Owen (rambunctious male kitten) and we needed the new guy to be comfortable in an active household with young kids. Also he needed to be rabbit friendly. And we wanted the new cat to be the right match for our daughter Sierra. It was a tall order to fill!

We went to the shelter after being tipped off about a half grown kitten that might be a good match. We went into the room with the kitten and two other cats. That kitten might have been one of the cutest cats I have ever seen (aesthetically speaking). And he was friendly and playful. Most likely a reasonable match for our family. There was also a fat, slight disheveled cat there who immediately walked up to me and pressed his forehead into my leg. Then pressed his face into Sierra’s hands. While the kitten we came to see danced around and largely ignored the children, this other guy stayed committed to his cause of getting to know us. I asked Sierra to look into her heart and ask which cat was truly best for her, not considering the physical appearance (she was hooked on the cuteness of the kitten). She was quickly able to see that Henry was meant to be with us!

henry1      henry3)

Henry came home that day and immediately became one of my most beloved friends. He is the perfect match for Sierra, he loves sitting on laps, he plays wonderfully with Owen, and he is stunning to look at. As for getting along with the rabbit… well that didn’t go so well at first. When Henry went snooping in Ton Ton’s food dish, the rabbit chased him down, knocked him over, and jumped on him. Needless to say that was terrifying for Henry. They have since worked out a reasonable relationship, but Henry is sure to stay away from the rabbit’s food!


Isn’t it fantastic when the perfect beings enter our lives just when we need them most? (Like this little Cinderella and her Prince Charming.)


Mallory’s Teeth

Mallory has been with me almost 2 years now, and for most of that time she has been telling me that chewing is uncomfortable. I had her teeth filed by a horse dentist about a month after she came. Then a second filing a few months later. And yet another filing by a vet about 8 months after that. Still she let me know chewing was not comfortable. Better, for sure, but not right. (I am not implying that these professionals didn’t do a good job; the issue in her mouth was complicated and was not easily resolved.)


In the summer of 2012 she started limping with her hind legs. The vet said it was locking stifles (knees). He told us to walk up and down hills everyday. That helped but she was still sore.

Then, I talked with a horse chiropractor, Bud Allen, and I asked him which I should do first; another dental or an adjustment for the hind end. He said dental first. So I hired a third dentist to come check her out. He does things a bit differently than the other dental filings she had had. He uses a Dremel tool. He felt he could help her but the proposed job had risks. He was going to file down some teeth quite a bit and whether it helped or not, the job was irreversible. Mallory and I felt it was worth a chance; she really wanted to feel better.

So we did it! And the week following the dental was not great. She had trouble chewing. She had a bit of liquid in her manure due to the lack of chewing her food well. I was worried but she said she had much less pain. She and I decided it was a matter of her getting used to chewing in a new way. Sure enough, after one week she stopped dropping her food and her manure firmed up.

You haven’t heard the best part yet; her locking stifles resolved within three days of doing the dental! I never even needed to have the chiropractic adjustment. Bud Allen had told me that the jaw and hind quarters interact with one another but this result blew me away.

Needless to say, Mallory and I are very happy with the results. But I do want you to know that this is a personal, individual story, and is not meant to be advice about dentals or locking stifles. And Mallory and I promised each other before the “extreme” dental that we would not look back with regret if it didn’t work. Of course it did work, but I am sure we would have kept our promise if it hadn’t.

Requesting a Behavior Change

In my Animal Communication Workshops I offer a segment on Requesting Behavior Changes. Of course the workshop provides a lot more in-depth information, but I wanted to share an idea from the workshop that you can apply with your own animal friends.

Animals do not have the same culture as we do. You acting unhappy or telling your animal that the situation is “making” you unhappy, will not motivate change. They will perceive your mood as related to who you are being at that moment, not as a commentary on them. In other words they will look at you and think, “Unhappy person”, not, “Oh look how my behavior is upsetting them”. They will not hold themselves accountable for your unhappiness because animals don’t believe that they control human moods.


This might be confusing because you have experienced animals offering you comfort when you are sad. They are offering a behavior that makes sense to them- being loving- but they are still not believing that they “control” your mood.

So, if you are wanting to change a situation the first step is getting emotionally in sync with what you want. If you want peace when two cats are fighting; then FEEL peaceful. If you want your dog to be less scared; then FEEL confident and calm. After you achieve the emotional state you can move on to communicating what you want with your animal. (Getting the emotional part without the communication can result in behavior changes.)

Hopefully I will see some of you at one of my workshops soon! Until then, be peaceful and enjoy your animal friends.

Ichabod Gets Lost


Ichabod is a 6-year-old Mammoth donkey from Connecticut. He came directly from his breeder, and other than going to competitions this is his first new home. After the first few days, he started settling in and I decided to give him a tour. I walked him on lead around the 7-9 acre pasture. He looked around and seemed quite happy with the place.

Later that day the herd (pony and two donkeys), crossed the stream to graze on the far pasture. That night I went to feed them and Ichabod was missing. I asked him where he was and got the reply “lost”. Did you break through the fence? “No”. Good, I thought, he is still in the pasture. I went out into the pitch dark field looking for a black donkey. It felt a bit hopeless. I called out his name but got no response. It was really dark, but I heard a little rustle. Ichabod came up next to me. He was so scared. He gladly followed me back over the stream and once he oriented he took off sprinting for the barn.

I gave my pony, Mallory, a stern talk. “How could you leave him alone in the pasture? From now on all friends must stay together.” She told me she understood.

The next day I called them in before dark, and the two came running across the stream without Ichabod. Then Mallory turned around, went to the bridge and gave the big guy and encouraging whinny. She waited for him to cross before continuing on to the barn. I could hardly believe my eyes! She is such a special pony.


Walking to the Bus Stop

My daughter started kindergarten this year and we have come up with a very fun way of getting to the bus stop. The spot where we meet the bus is a 1/4 mile away but we don’t have to go on any roads. We can walk through our horse pasture, duck under the fence, and emerge at the bus stop. Of course traveling with animals is more fun, so we bring the donkey and pony with us. Mallory (the pony) enjoys the walk very much- I bring her on a lead rope and Burrito follows along behind us. One day we decided not to bring the animals because they were still eating their hay. They were both very upset. They stood at the gate watching us walk away without them. Mallory whinnied for us four times. I promised we would not leave without them again.

to the busstop

Below are a series of photos documenting our journey to the bus stop on October 4th. It was a foggy morning with lots of dew, but by the time we got to the bus stop, the blue sky was visible. There were lots of spider webs covered in dew.

First we greet the pony (and donkey).

Pony behind Cobweb

Then we make our way across the field (usually I am in the middle leading the pony, but someone had to take the photo!)

Kids with Donkey and Pony

We stop to enjoy nature.


Across the stream on our homemade bridge.


Finally we are almost there! Just duck under the fence and past the church to the parking lot.

Bus Stop

Looking back we can see our house tucked in behind the trees. Hannah and I will head back after Sierra gets on the bus. The donkey and pony will stay behind and spend some time grazing.

Mountain view

Childhood Friendships

My best friend growing up was my cat. His name was Vidal and he was my older “brother”. He put me to bed every night, then after I fell asleep, my mom said he would head out hunting.

Dawn and Vidal

Me and Vidal about one year before he passed away (when I was 12).

I am thrilled that my children have the opportunity to have special animal relationships in their lives. I think animals offer the perfect balance of love and understanding. They also clearly teach the children that they need to treat them well and offer them understanding too. My girls have great relationships with all of our animals, but each of them has a special friend.

Hannah and Owen  have been bonded since he arrived as a kitten this spring. His timing is impeccable- he always shows up for her when she is sad or when no one else will play with her. He is incredibly patient while she builds impractical forts for him (he usually obliges her and climbs in!)

Hannah and Owen

Hannah and Owen

Sierra and Burrito have a special friendship. When he first arrived at our home (also this spring) he didn’t know anyone, but he quickly chose Sierra as his favorite. He stands quietly to receive her hugs and they are the perfect height for hugging one another. He is happy to follow her around and lets her touch his soft nose (a privilege only Sierra has).

Sierra and Burrito

This sense of “best friend” is why I have animals in my home. It is just so magical whether I am a child or a grown-up to feel that special bond with an animal. Of course one of the big lessons in having a childhood love is learning to endure the loss of that friend and discovering that it is possible to bond again. Sierra had to learn that one early when she lost Bramley. I am grateful that she stayed open and found love again in donkey form.Sierra and Burrito

Understand your animal’s thoughts; learn how they are feeling, what they need, and who they really are.

photos of animals A phone consultation with me is an opportunity to communicate directly with your animal companions by way of telepathy. You can get questions answered about their viewpoints on environment, behaviors, food, health, and how they think.  A consultation is an opportunity for you and your animal to better understand each other, creating a deeper bond or better partnership.

At the time of your appointment, we will connect on the phone and go from what is known about the situation from your viewpoint, to what the animal thinks about the situation.  While I am talking to your animal I will be quiet for a couple of minutes, during this time you can simply stay on the line.  Then, I will share with you what your animal friend has said.  There will be ample opportunity for you to ask more questions. I can tune in to your animal friends and find out issues important to them, but you asking specific questions that are important to you facilitate a consultation. Animal companions might not talk about your areas of concern unless you focus their attention on them.

Read more about how it works here.

animal photos

Note: Information on health is intended only to express the animal’s experience, not to replace veterinary diagnostic work or treatment.  Behavior changes can take time and work for everyone, consultations are intended to help you and your animals understand each other better, and while behaviors often change rapidly, results are dependent on the individuals involved.  I do not consult with animals belonging to someone other than the caller (with the exception of animals available for adoption).

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