Posts Tagged ‘health’

The mysteries of nerves – paralysis, seizures and old age neurologic conditions Part 1 paralysis

Friday, May 1st, 2009

Did you know that one out of seven dachshunds will become paralyzed in their lifetime? That many older dogs and cats suffer from strokes and vestibular disease in their old age? That seizures are so common in some breeds that they can affect 15-20% of the breed?

Neurologic problems are quite common in our companion animals and are some of the most expensive and frustrating problems to deal with. Often times the only way to diagnose these problems is with a MRI, which can cost $1000 and requires your animal to be under anesthesia. Many times in older animals the risk of anesthesia to too great and these problems go undiagnosed.

I am often surprised that veterinarians do not offer alternative options for working with these neurologic problems. Many times the only things western medicine can offer are expensive surgeries, a lifetime of drugs, or steroids with their many side effects.

For example, traditionally a course of treatment for paralysis, back pain or paresis in a dachshund would include steroids, months of cage only confinement and possibly an expensive surgery. While surgery is a good option in some cases, especially if there is no deep pain, it has it’s own set of risks including that sometimes it does not solve the problem and can actually make things worse.

But there are other options out there!

Let’s talk about the dachshunds first! I love working with dachshunds!

They are some of the best responders to acupuncture out there. In fact I have never worked with a dachshund who did not respond to acupuncture. And they really seem to understand that you are helping them. I have been able to work with dachshunds who were completely paralyzed and with acupuncture and herbs have had them back to walking in as little as three acupuncture treatments! Wow!

OK just to be realistic, most take longer than that but the majority can be gotten back on there feet as long as they still have deep pain. Meaning that if you squeeze a back toe really hard with a surgical hemostat they can feel it. On average I would say it takes four to six months of weekly treatments.

Of course it’s not all dachshunds and I have worked with other animals with paralysis including cats and all breeds of dogs. Of these others, I would say about 90% have had a positive response. That’s still pretty good!

Most of these dogs I also put on a herbal I use called Back Support Formula.

Even better is if I can get these animals with paralysis to hydrotherapy. Swimming helps keep the muscles working well while we are getting the nerves to work again and helps keep the muscle mass from wasting away. Dachshunds and other dogs can be amazing little swimmers and it gives these animals a way to move on there own if they can’t support their weight on land.

Unfortunately for cats this is not an option as you can well imagine!

I often work with Wellsprings in Seattle, Washington but there are more and more hydrotherapy clinics opening up around the world.

I can’t tell you how rewarding it is to be able to work with these amazing creatures to help their body to heal and to see them be able to walk again.

Here are some wonderful resources on disabled pets

  • Handicapped Pets is a great site for disabled pet supplies and runs the best forums for people with special needs animals. I have had some time to hang out and participate on these forums and these folks not only are super educated on the options out there for working with these animals but have amazing stories about their own very loved handicapped companions. It is a great place to go for education and for support from others going through the same thing.
  • One of the dogs I treat has his own blog. Buddy’s blog is a great place to check out the story of a very cool little dachshund and one of my favorite patients.

Soon to come neurologic problems in older animals and seizure disorder.

Pesticides on airplanes

Friday, April 17th, 2009

Did you ever wonder why you always get sick after flying on an airplane only to be told, “it’s because of the recycled air and all the sick people sitting next to you”?

Today I was talking to a client about my recent trip to Hawaii and being sick from the pesticides in the place we stayed. “You do know that they spray all the airplanes with pesticide also, ” she added.

I had no idea! At lunch I went home and turned to the internet to see what I could find and was shocked. Did you know that not only are the insides of most planes sprayed with pesticides between stops but some countries also spray the passengers of the plane with pesticides before arriving! (These countries include India, Jamaica, and Australia)

From the Mother Jones article, Danger in the Air :

The Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticide, an environmental group based in Eugene, Ore., points out that pesticides, while dangerous on land, cause even greater harm when used on planes, because up to 50 percent of the air inside the cabins is recycled. “Pesticides break down slowly in the enclosed, poorly ventilated aircraft,” says NCAP spokeswoman Becky Riley. “Passengers are sealed in a chamber that has been gassed, and sit there for hours.”

From the article, Airline Passengers Are Sprayed for Bugs on the Pesticide Action Network’s website :

The airlines are not required to inform passengers at ticket purchase of flight sprays, and there is also no control over how much pesticide is applied on the aircraft. The Association of Flight Attendants reported in 2001 that one airline used 50-60% more pesticide than the maximum recommended by the World Health Organization. Between 2000 and 2001, one cabin crew union received complaints of pesticide-related illness on more than 200 flights. Many complaints cite damp surfaces and pesticide odors in crew rest compartments. Crews and passengers have reported sinus problems, swollen and itchy eyes, cough, difficulty breathing, hoarseness, skin rashes/hives that vary in intensity, severe headaches and fatigue, and heightened sensitivity to other chemicals. Some crew members have medical documentation of reactions consistent with nerve gas exposure, such as blood, optic nerve, and nervous system abnormalities.

There are also many lawsuits pending, filed by flight attenendants who have developed chronic disease secondary to pesticide exposure.

From the article Airlines Confronted With Pesticide Issue :

What precipitated the latest concern for airlines was a lawsuit filed in Los Angeles by Houston attorney Linda Laurent on behalf of 350 United and American Airlines flight attendants against pesticide manufacturers. In addition, a class action lawsuit filed by attendants against the same manufacturers is proceeding through the courts in Louisiana. Laurent contends that one of the pesticides, which goes by the brand name Perigen, contains permethrin as the active ingredient. It is applied in concentrations of 2%.

“The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) prohibits permethrin to be used in occupied aircraft and allows it to be used only in the cargo holds at a concentration of 0.5%,” the suit said. “Currently, application…in passenger compartments of commercial airlines is at levels of permethrin four times that permitted by the EPA for cargo use. The EPA list permethrin as a possible human carcinogen.”

One of the most commonly used products is made by Airosol Co. of Neodesha, Kan., one of six companies named in a lawsuit by flight attendants. A warning label on the can says: “If inhaled, remove victim to fresh air. If on skin, remove contaminated clothing and wash affected areas of the skin with soap and water. Get medical attention if irritation persist.”

It is truly amazing to me that airlines could get away with this, especially without passengers knowing.

Thanks Heather for bringing this to my attention!

My vet can no longer help! Who do I turn to now?

Wednesday, March 4th, 2009

How do you decide where to turn when western medicine has run out of options? Almost everything available for humans is now available for animals but how do you decide between all the options. There are chiropractors, acupuncturists, reiki practitioners, homeopathic veterinarians, nutritional consultants, hydrotherapy specialists, massage practitioners, and many other options. If you read the internet there are hundreds of supplements made especially for animals and many sound like they work miracles.

Here are a few tips –

  • 1. Get a referral from someone you trust if you can. Many veterinarians will now refer to alternative practitioners. We don’t take their business and we send back happy clients. If your veterinarian cannot offer a referral check with your local pet food store, especially the neighborhood ones, they often have a list of referrals. They also work with animal people all day long so they know the word on the street on who and what has helped. There are also online referral sites such as IVAS and Animal Wellness Network and many sites with reviews of clinics, such as Yelp.
  • 2. If you are exploring the internet for products online check out the forums, such as, catster, and dogster, for suggestions. The companies selling the products will always give you glowing reviews. It is safer to listen to people who have actually used the product. A good veterinarian will also be able to help you determine if a product will help and if it is dangerous for your animal. Always check the safety of a product, especially if your animal is old, sick, or on other medication before using it.
  • 3. Only try one thing at a time and stick with it for at least a month. It is better to do one thing consistently then to jump around. Most natural therapies take time to work. Sometimes If your animal is extremely sick or has cancer you will need to make many changes at once. If you need to do this then working with a veterinary practitioner is highly recommended.
  • Because I practice acupuncture I often recommend it to start because I have seen how well it can work. Often times people start with a therapy for their animal that they have tried themselves and know to work. This is a good place to start. If something works for you, it probably will for your animal also.

    A good practitioner of any sort will be able to tell you how long to try something and when to decide if it is working or not. Most practitioners don’t want to go on treating with a method which is not working. With acupuncture I usually recommend three treatments to see if there is any improvement before recommending animals continue. Some therapies such as hydrotherapy will take a little longer. Always get this information before starting a therapy. And just because you try one thing and it doesn’t work, don’t give up. There are many incredible options out there for helping our animal friends.

    The danger of compact fluorescent lighting

    Saturday, February 21st, 2009

    When I travel these days I always pack a four pack of incandescent light bulbs with me. Occasionally I will forget and then my first stop is always to the nearest Safeway or drug store to buy a pack. The more I hear about the possibility of a ban on these types of bulbs the more I worry. Should I start a stockpile of them in my basement now? Or have faith that LEDs will become more widespread before the ban or perhaps some new alternative will be developed.

    So why does this worry me?

    Yes there is the concern about the mercury in CFLs, a known toxic substance. But what concerns me the most is that CFLs or compact fluorescent lighting makes me sick. I can be under it for a short period of time, say an hour or two, but that’s it. If I spend a day under CFLs (or in my case also the classic tube fluorescence lights), it usually takes me a day to get back to normal. My head hurts, I feel dizzy, I can’t hold thoughts, I feel drained yet I can’t sleep that evening, and I feel irritated and depressed.

    I know I’m not the only one. I’ve talked to others who have similar problems and there have been some reports about CFLs increasing migrants, depression, and worsening symptoms in diseases such as Lupus. Traditionally healers, such as Barbara Ann Brennan, have long advised to never do healing work under fluorescence lighting of any kind to avoid making yourself ill. These lights drain our energy and especially for us in a healing profession this can be very dangerous.

    Studies have also show that children do much better under normal lighting. From Earthwatch – Compact Fluorescents vs. Full Spectrum Bulbs

    Elementary school Principal William Titoff, in his Ph.D. dissertation, found that “there was a statistically significant difference between students who worked under old-style fluorescent lights and those who worked under full-spectrum, visually-efficient lighting.” His study also found that depression was reduced among those students who studied under full spectrum lights and that it increased among fourth graders who sat under fluorescents.

    A similar study, conducted in Florida in 1973 by light pioneer Dr. John Ott, found that students under fluorescents were more likely to be irritable, hyperactive, fatigued and have trouble paying attention. The students under full spectrum lights were better behaved and performed better academically within one month of the lights’ installation.

    Here is another interesting letter to the editor about CFLs from Dr. Magda Havas, B.Sc. Ph.D a researcher in electromagnetic pollution from Trent University which explains part of the problem.

    As Dr. Havas states –
    Compact fluorescent lights (CFL) produce radio wave frequencies. These frequencies radiate directly from the bulbs and go on the electrical wiring in the home or school causing poor power quality or dirty electricity. The closer you sit to the bulb the greater your exposure. Because the high frequencies travel along the wire you can be exposed in other rooms of your home as well as the room that contains the CFL.

    So why do I bring this up on an animal site?

    I worry as more and more people replace their traditional bulbs with CFLs that these new bulbs will affect the health of not just the people in the house, but also the animals. I am lucky enough to be able to tell that CFLs make me sick and do something about it, but how will you be able to tell if CFLs are making your animal sick? They cannot tell us if they are having headaches or just feeling bad.

    Also new research has come to light that indicates that CFLs emit a high humming sound that is not in our range of hearing but is in the range of hearing of cats and dogs. Can you image hearing a high pitched humming sound all day long. It would be enough to drive you nuts! Many pet owners report that their cats or dogs do not want to be in rooms with CFL bulbs on and will become anxious if they are forced to be.

    See the articles Don’t like CFLs? Ask your pet and CFL Bulbs: Save the Plant Make Your Pets Insane.

    I ask you to consider alternatives to CFLs. In a few years the technology for LED lighting should be better and LEDs should be available for about the price of a normal bulb. LED bulbs last possibly forever (at least ten years or more) and use much less energy than CFLs. Most importantly they are safe! In the mean time keep your normal incandescent light bulbs. Even without taking the health effects of CFLs into consideration, we are going to have an environmental nightmare from the mercury in these light bulbs in a few years.

    Also remember that if you break these light bulbs you need to be very cautious about how you go about cleaning up. You don’t need a full haz-mat team but some precautions are needed and make sure to get your animals and children out of the room immediately. Here’s the article on what you do and don’t need to do.

    1/30/12 I have now began replacing some of my bulbs with LEDs. The prices are starting to come down and the quality is getting better. The light quality is still not what it is with the incandescent light bulbs but much better than the CFLs in my opinion. Spending $80 on three light bulbs today I felt a little silly but they are supposed to last over twenty years and use about $1.00 of electricity a year, so overall I think it is a win. Plus since there are many places in our home that require ladders to reach I am excited that this may be the last time up on a ladder for a long time. Happy light bulb hunting!

    11/16/13 LEDs have now come down in price and there are even better options like this $10 light bulb Lighting EVER 7W A19 LED Bulb. They even now make LEDs that can replace traditional fluorescent tubes like this one, LEDwholesalers Brightest LED Tube Fluorescent Tube Replacement. I hope that we reach a day when CFLs are no longer made.

    You are what you think

    Wednesday, February 18th, 2009

    We have all heard the saying , “you are what you eat”, but most people haven’t heard, “you are what you think.”

    Intention has an amazing role in healing and medicine. Even in Western medicine the power of intention and the placebo effect has been scientifically proven to exist.

    Because of the placebo effect drug trials in people have to be double blinded, meaning that both the patient and the doctor administering the drug are not told if they have the real drug or the placebo.

    Did you know that drug trials in animals also have to be double blinded? Obviously the animal doesn’t know if they are being given the real drug or not but the doctor or researcher also needs to have no knowledge of this. They have found that if the person administering the drug knows if it is the real drug or the placebo, then the results will be influenced by this knowledge.

    Yes there is a placebo effect in healing for animals but it is created through us! That’s pretty amazing when you think about it.

    So how can can we use this power of intention in helping our animal friends heal?

    Primarily we can believe that they can heal. If we have confidence that our animal companion can heal they can sense this and it will help them also believe in their own healing. When we think positive thoughts we release certain chemicals in our body which affect our nervous system in a positive way. This enhances our immune system and helps direct our body back to homeostasis.

    Because our animals are deeply connected to us they are also calmer when we are positive and get the same positive immune and nervous system response. While we can often share disease with our animal friends, we can also share health.

    Many studies have been done on the power of intention. One of the most well know was a study done on reducing crime by meditation and positive thought in Washington DC in the summer of 1993. Though meditation alone the rate of crime was dropped by almost 25%. A National Demonstration Project of Transcendental Meditation. Other studies have also been performed with similar results.

    Here’s some simple exercises you can do to help your animal if they are sick

  • 1. Take five minutes each evening and morning to picture your animal in health. Picture their body healing and imagine them happy and pain free. Sometimes it helps to visualize them in an activity that makes them happy such as running through a field, playing at the beach, or chasing butterflies.
  • 2. Take some time to calm yourself either through meditation or some other activity that relaxes you. Meditation is a simple practice that can be done for as little as five minutes a day. Most cities have groups which ofter free meditation classes and there are many CDs and books available which will guild you through how to practice. Other activities that can help are things such as running, yoga, tai chi, qi gong, or just taking a few moments to stop and breath deeply. Do whatever is right for you! By taking care of yourself you are helping your animal friend.
  • 3. If you find yourself starting to worry about your animal’s health, acknowledge it, and then try to think positive. Don’t push your worries away or try to suppress them. Often times just saying the words, “I’m worrying, ” will help. “I’m worrying but now I am going to think about what it would feel like to have my friend feel better and how that would make me feel.”
  • It is amazing to see how the little things we do can help our animal companions!

    Here are links to three very good books and audio tracks on meditation
    A Path with Heart: A Guide Through the Perils and Promises of Spiritual Life
    Meditation for Beginners
    How to Meditate with Pema Chodron: A Practical Guide to Making Friends with Your Mind

    Healing as a family

    Wednesday, February 11th, 2009

    Did you know that we often share the same diseases and health conditions with our animal companions?

    I can not count the times that I have been in a treatment room with someone and declared that their cat or dog had say asthma to have them comment, “that’s odd I also am asthmatic.”

    Many times it goes beyond just two creatures. I remember telling one woman that I thought her cat had inflammatory bowel disease.

    “That’s so strange, “ she said, “because my husband is in the hospital with IBD and has been for the past week and the whole time he has been in there my stomach has been bothering me also.”

    Many families may not share specific diseases but related ones. I have found that people with fibromyalgia and lupus tend to have animals with inflammatory bowel disease, asthma, and muscle or tendon pain (especially in the back). In Chinese medicine IBD, asthma and back tendon pain are one condition called liver qi constant. This is a disease that gets worse with stress like fibromyalgia and lupus.

    When I first see an animal, I often ask their person if they have sensitivities to certain drugs or herbs because it is often the case that if the person is sensitive to something that their animal will be also. People that have strong reactions to acupuncture will often have animals with strong reactions to acupuncture. When people cannot tolerate a certain drug it is often the same for their animal.

    So what is going on here?

    The first response I usually get is, “Oh no! Did I make my animal sick?”

    I don’t think that is the case.

    And let me just add that not all people and animals share illness. Just because you had a dog die of cancer doesn’t mean you will and just because you have diabetes doesn’t mean that your cat will become diabetic.

    I have definitely given this some thought over the years and have a couple theories on this strange phenomenon. These are from my own experience and I would be interested to hear other people’s ideas.

    I think that we tend to attract into our lives people and animals who are like us. Because of this we also attract in animals who share the qualities that make them more prone to specific illnesses.

    “But I picked my animal out, “you may say.

    Did you really?

    How many times was there just something about that one who caught your eye?

    “He was just reaching through the bars of his cage, I couldn’t leave him there.”

    “There was this one puppy who just wouldn’t leave my side.”

    I think they often do as much of the choosing as we do.

    I also believe that some animals choose to come to this plane of existence to help us with our experience. What I mean is that they are like our guardian angels in animal form. They come to help us work with our own health and healing and to teach us about grace and love. When an animal shares a disease condition with us they are helping us work with our own illness. In seeing how they work with disease we are able to bear the burden of ours better.

    I’ve gotten in arguments with people over this idea because I’ve had people think that I was implying that animals are our servants. I believe the opposite, that they are more enlightened creatures than us and have chosen to help us.

    I want to add one more important thought. Sometimes there is an environmental reason why we share disease. By all means if everyone in the house has lung conditions please make sure there isn’t a mold or toxin problems. Everyone knows about using the parakeets in the coal mines. Don’t ignore warnings that there is something wrong with your home.

    When we share disease often curing ourselves helps our animals and helping our animals helps ourselves. When I began to work with my own anxiety my dog Jake became less anxious. When I am not taking good care of myself my cat Rudy will stop eating. All I have to do is look at Rudy or Jake to see where my own health is.

    Often times we need to work towards healing ourselves to help our animal companions. Healing is not a journey to undertake alone. How amazing that we have these teachers and guilds right in our own homes!

    By your side, we look out together

    Tuesday, December 23rd, 2008

    When I first started my career treating animals, I would greet them and say, “I want to take away your pain and suffering. I will pull it out of your body and then you will be free of it.” I remember towards the beginning of my career I met a dog, who was boarding at the clinic, who couldn’t walk and was very painful. It was a slow day and so I decided to do about an hour of energy work. After that hour to the amazement of the technician, who jumped up like she had seen a ghost and shouted,” Fred’s walking,” he stood up and walked out the door. However he only continued to walk for about two days and when I worked with him again he only ended up with about a day of relief. I remember being so frustrated that I had tried so hard only to have him get worse again. But I was just removing pain, not helping him to work with it himself. I don’t know, if I had know what I know now, if I would have been able to help him get better or not, but the approach I was using then did not work. The relief I gave him clearly did not last. In addition it took a large toll on my body to work this way and I would physically hurt and weaken myself to take the pain away. I would also have animals who would get upset and not let me work with them; anytime I would try they would pull away. Their pain was part of them and I was acting like that part of them was bad and that they were not whole. They wanted to learn how to live with their pain and work with it, not for me to magically remove it. I was also invading their personal space without their permission.

    I have since realized that what animals want is compassion and acceptance. Isn’t this what we all want after all? They want help but also they want to be involved in the process of healing their illness. They have their own wisdom that needs to be respected and listened to. I have learned to approach animals I am working with and say,” I will sit with you and be here for you; together we will look out from the same place (and not me staring at you like there is something wrong). From this place of togetherness, we will explore how I can help you work with your illness/pain and see if there is a way that I can help you to heal yourself.” Not only have I found that this works best in the long run and I don’t hurt my own health but animals are much more open to working with me.

    Like us all, animals have an amazing ability to heal themselves and to deny them the opportunity is stealing from them an amazing experience for growth. Through their own path of healing they grow stronger. Through this strength they are able to show us what it means to fully live with illness and heal from illness.

    Christmas Lilies and Cats

    Saturday, December 20th, 2008

    Christmas lilies are extremely beautiful but also deadly to cats. Every year cats die from nibbling on lilies and once they become sick it is too late. Just a couple bites of lily will destroy the kidneys of a cat and send them into renal failure. Usually they die within 24 to 72 hours. Please do not bring lilies into your home if you have cats even if you think they will not eat them. It is heartbreaking to have to tell a cat’s person that there is nothing you can do. If your cat does eat a lily call your veterinary clinic or emergency hospital immediately and get instructions to induce vomiting.

    Rooney’s wisdom

    Tuesday, December 16th, 2008

    In my dream, she approached me with that sparkle she always had in her eyes. “Come to me and lay beside me and I will take away your fears,” she seemed to say. I lay down with my head against her soft golden fur and pressed deeply into her side feeling protected and safe. I could feel her love and warmth, hear her heart beating, feel how alive she was, yet I knew in the dream that she was ready to become a dog of the stars. I woke up knowing that Rooney had decided it was time to leave this world. Her beloved human companions called me soon after to tell me they thought it was time to let her go.

    While I felt drowning in sorrow, I knew it was the end of a wonderful, miraculous life. Rooney had decided that she could not stay here any longer, this was her choice. Two and a half years earlier she had been diagnosed with bladder cancer and was given at most three months to live. Her human companions had done all they could for her, putting in a port to drain urine out of her body because she could no longer pee through the normal opening, starting her on chemotherapy, and waiting for the day soon that they would have to let her go. Rooney, however, had no intention to follow the prognosis she was given.

    When I first met Rooney she had already been living with cancer for six months. As I approached the house, I saw two happy dogs peering out the window, two dog tails wagging. Syd was the first to greet me, jumping up and down and trying to inhale my arm – I must taste you! Rooney stood back and watched waiting patiently for her dog sister to find her mind again. A beautiful dog, she was part Chow, with long golden hair, a thick mane, and deep brown eyes which if you looked into showed her complex soul.

    Rooney was unique in that she really wasn’t sick. Yes, after her monthly chemo she would feel a little off for a day or two but besides that she was really quite good. She wasn’t dying even though she had a fatal disease, in fact she would get quite upset if you talked about her dying or even about her being sick. I would come to give her acupuncture and we would start to talk about some little problem she was having and she would get up and leave – walk right out of the room and find somewhere else to be. She seemed to say, “Hey, I’m just fine please don’t dwell on my problems. I’m here, I’m me, and I’m not my illness. Love me for who I am today, at this moment. Will you please stop acting like there is something to be sad about here?”

    When Rooney was diagnosed with terminal cancer, she became more free to live. We often said that Rooney had complete control over her cancer: not only did she live every day fully, enjoying her walks and the great love she received from her people, but everyone she touched lived more fully because of her. Every day with her became a gift and we took nothing for granted. When I made my weekly visit to treat Rooney, I never stopped being amazed at the grace of how she lived with her illness, and the joy that she gave to each moment. It was impossible to walk away from Rooney and not feel more present in my own existence.rooneyphotosmall

    Towards the end of her illness, Rooney reached a point where we knew she was dying. She once again lost the ability to urinate on her own, which she had regained shortly after staring her chemo, but to our amazement she started to be more like a puppy, regrowing her hair with a soft downy coat that she had only had when she was young and eating better than she had in a long time. I think Rooney finally accepted she was dying, knowing it before any of us did. It had been important to her to see the new twin children who were born to her people shortly before her death. They had arrived and she was free to go, she had lived over thirteen years, a good age for even a dog without cancer.

    Even though Rooney was completely dependent on her people to drain her urine every 6 hours the last months of her illness, she was happy because she was among her family and at home. She was loved, well cared for but most importantly valued for her wisdom and what she gave to those who loved her. I think a large part of why Rooney was able to work with her illness with such grace and live so much longer than anyone expected was that her human companions did not see her care as a burden but as a gift given to a much-loved friend. In exchange she gave us all unconditional love and the gift of living each moment present and aware, feeling joy, feeling sorrow, seeing the movement of time as something to coast along on and not to fear.

    The phone rang again and it was my best friend Cheryln calling to tell me that her labor had began. I remember eight months earlier finding out that Cheryln was pregnant and offering to be at the birth. For the past month I had been waiting with excitement for this call and now I wanted everything to wait. “Don’t worry the contractions are still far apart,” she told me, “no need to leave yet.” I was conflicted over my promise to her to be present at this birth and my need to be with Rooney at the end, neither could wait and Cheryln was a three hour drive from me. I silently hoped that I would be able to be present with them both and was also astonished that both would come on the same day.

    Somehow it seemed more than coincidence that Rooney would pick the time to pass away to be the same day as the birth of a new life that I was also so involved with. She seemed to want to point out that death is not an end but just another step in the cycle of life we are all a part of. I think this was also why she waited for the twins to be born before choosing to depart.

    Cheryln’s labor did wait, and I was able to be present with Rooney and her family when she passed away. Her death was very peaceful, and she passed away surrounded by her whole family of people and animals – those she loved most and who loved her most – by her side, in her home. While her passing was full of sorrow and left us with a hole in the space that she had filled for so long, there was something about being present when such a wise being leaves this existence, after living life so fully, that inspires us all to live our lives with more joy.

    After returning home from Rooney’s passing, the phone rang again, and it was Cheryln asking me to began my drive down to Portland. I jumped in the car with our other friend, Jenn, who was also to help with the birth. I was overwhelmed with the sorrow I felt about Rooney and the joy and anticipation of a new life about to began. Lilliana’s birth was beautiful and amazing and she came into the world with a good set of lungs, at home surrounded by people who loved her family, the cat and three compassionate naturopaths who helped with the birth. I spend most of the labor holding Mr. Moo, their cat, so he could watch what was happening. He was very fascinated with the whole experience. Mixed with my sorrow there was great joy with the birth of this little perfect being. Ten fingers, ten toes and one very long and active tongue.rooneyphotothree

    I will never forget how it felt to experience the sorrow of the passing of such a wise friend and teacher, who had lived her life how all of us wish we could, and the joy of the perfect birth of a baby who has just began in this world, all within a day. Through my work I have had many great animal teachers who do not speak with words but who guild us through the way they live, love, and accept. Rooney was one of these teachers and I hope that her wisdom on how to live can inspire us all.

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