Ella and Monkey

The Catnip and Carrots waiting room is like Cheers for our rabbit rescue family.  Anytime you walk through those doors and sit on those benches, you are bound to meet someone who knows your name, even if it’s just from interaction in our incredibly supportive online community.

An afternoon in July of 2014, I sat on one of those benches.  Two women, a mother and a daughter, sat on an adjacent bench.  In their carrier was their elderly guinea pig.  From careful eavesdropping (teacher-hearing comes in handy outside of the classroom too), I learned that they take this beloved guinea pig to the vet weekly—sometimes several times in a week.  Considering that most guinea pigs don’t get any medical care, I judged this family to be super pet parents.  I was right.

The daughter looked at her phone and started to read an email to her mother.  The email was an apology for a delayed response.  I heard her mention a big rescue case in Mastic that was the excuse for the delayed response.  I realized that I wrote that email.  These are people that we are screening for adoption!

I’m not shy.  I said, “Excuse me.  That email is from me.  I’m Denise.”  They introduced themselves and we conducted the step in the screening process that is usually a phone interview, live in the waiting room.  Each answer confirmed the judgment I already made about them—these women are part of an exceptional pet family.  Home visit… adoption day… they brought their adorable Monkey Bun to “speed date” with several of our adoptable rabbits.  Monkey chose Elke on July 20, 2014.  Elke was renamed Ella.  They never bonded—it happens.  They live side-by-side in happiness now.

Ella is estimated to be around 10 years old… maybe 8… maybe 12.  With age often comes some health and mobility issues.  I was honored to visit Ella and Monkey this past week and share some Reiki with them.  In connecting with Ella’s energy, I felt a beautiful sense of patience.  Before I entered their pens, I poured several drops of Frankincense essential oil into my palms and called on our guides and angels to support and heal all who are open to the energy.  I stepped into Ella’s pen first.  She spent most of our session together in her cardboard hut.  She has a green light surrounding her metaphysically.  She “told” me that she doesn’t feel old, which put a big smile on her family’s faces in our post-session conversation.  When working on Ella’s chest area and heart chakra zone, I felt a big shift, like an obstruction began to dissolve.  She feels blocked physically so we “worked” on that through most of our session.  She “showed” me the numbers 10 and 11 and that she prays with the family, so whoever is praying or doing some spiritual work, keep it up!  Ella is working with you!

Ella

I hopped over to Monkey Bun’s pen next.  He’s much more curious than Ella is so we did more hands-on work together.  He “showed” me the number 3.  We worked to soften his heart chakra.  He “told” me that he knows he’s a little boy but he’s NOT the baby of the family!  He is solid and healthy.  His solar plexus chakra is very guarded (common in prey animals) and he “shared” a turtle shell energy with me, a hard exterior for protection.  Where Ella is blocked physically, Monkey is guarded or blocked emotionally.  They are in great balance of each other.  Although they never officially bonded, there’s a lot of love in that bunny room, just like there’s a lot of love in that entire house.

Monkey Bun

From our chance meeting in the waiting room at the vet’s office… Ella’s adopter has become one of our most dependable volunteers, which is not surprising.  They are a family of compassion and dedication.  They show that in the way they cared for their ailing guinea pig, the way they opened their home to Ella, who was a bit older when they adopted her, and the continued care every animal (and person, from what I gather) in that family receives.  It is my true honor to share Reiki with Ella and Monkey and to be around such a wonderful family.  Much love.

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What it takes… and gives.

Two more wake-ups until I return to the day job so you’d think my mind would be there… but in my endless quest to be present and be mindful, I’m just here now.  In deciding what to share with you all today, I was searching for some sort of “Summer’s over…” moment, but I don’t actually feel like anything is ending.  I’m not feeling a loss, per se, and that’s probably because I gained a lot this summer.  Everything I gained came from Rescue life.

Yes, I had something like nine weeks of vacation (I didn’t count the days) but there was not one day where I did nothing.  It’s not in my DNA to do nothing, as much as I’ve tried to force it.  Don’t get me wrong—I can relax with the best of them.  I took a juicy 3 hour nap today.  I’ve felt tortured in my past, without an outlet for the energies swirling.  So freakin’ lucky that Rescue has given me purpose, with tangible tasks as well as spiritual fulfillment.

To run this show, it takes patience, compassion and determination.  It takes a strong memory and compulsive organization.  It takes some moments of shutting off the emotions (otherwise, some of the cases would crush—Rescue is not for the faint of heart).  It takes an absurd amount of time—communicating, transporting, cleaning, and the list goes on.  But above all that, it takes a stellar team.  The moments that Rescue feels insurmountable are only the moments when I feel team-less.  When the Squad is present, we make magic happen.  Jack Welch in his best-seller Winning states, “Leaders relentlessly upgrade their teams,” and sometimes it feels like a full-time job to manage this team.  It takes a lot, but it sure does give a lot.

Rescue gives… and not just to the rabbits we save.  Rescue has given me a support system of like-minded angels.  Rescue has given me some of the strongest relationships in my life right now.  Rescue gives me a platform to use my talents and powers.  Rescue gives me heartwarming moments of awe, like when adopters and supporters donate their hard-earned money and devote their treasured time to helping clean or fundraise or spread the good word about what we do.  This summer, Rescue took me into the offices of powerful local politicians as an advocate for abandoned, abused and neglected domestic rabbits—some groundbreaking stuff coming in that arena!  None of this would be possible without that aforementioned glorious team.

So, it takes a lot… for me, it’s mostly time and spiritual effort.  But it gives so much value.  My heart is warm just thinking about it.  Who would have ever thought that cleaning litter boxes would be a part of my life’s purpose?!  I have gained so much through this work, far more than I feel I could ever give.  Here’s to boundless hoppiness.

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Betsy’s Battle

Betsy has a battle ahead of her.  The story of her rescue and subsequent cancer diagnosis will appear in the next issue of “Thump” so you’ll get all the details there.  Betsy is living at our foster home for special needs and sanctuary rabbits, where I volunteer weekly.  A few days after she settled in there, into her “hospice foster home,” I gave Betsy a Reiki treatment.

Betsy stayed inside her hideout box while I did my typical chores, tending to the rabbits of varying needs and speeds.  After chores were done, I cleansed the space with my Thieves spray, anointed my third-eye chakra with a drop of lavender oil and rubbed a few drops of lavender oil between my palms.  I sat in front of Betsy’s enclosure– she lives in a multi-level condo.  Her upstairs neighbor is the legendary Maurice, a big white bunny boy who has more personality than most humans you encounter on the daily.

I began our healing session with the door to her enclosure open, my hands outstretched but still outside, calling upon my guides, Betsy’s guides and welcoming all energies of healing and comfort.  Almost immediately, Betsy bounded from her hideout and started eating pellets from the crock in her enclosure.  She ate for the duration of our session, even when I transitioned to hands-on healing.  She ate with an even pace, not gobbling too fast but not quite taking breaks either.  One pellet at a time, taking in the nutrition as a sign for me that she was also allowing the healing energies to flow.

Betsy shared some gems with me while we worked together.  She described the veterinarian who operated on her, Dr. George, as gentle and said that she knew Dr. George helped her.  Betsy shared that her foster mom is “cool” and they have a sisterly bond.  Betsy likes where she is.  She is receptive to and grateful for all the care she’s receiving.  She reported no current pain beyond the typical pain or discomfort that she feels—she’s used to how she feels now.  Betsy also told me that her neighbor Maurice is funny.  Maurice snorted in acknowledgement (I don’t think I ever heard him snort before!).

Maurice

As we closed the session, I called on Daphne II, a LIRRG-alum who has crossed over, to help heal Betsy.  Daphne II lived in the same foster home for the final months of her time in this dimension.  She and Betsy share a similar aesthetic so I found it fitting to link the two.  As soon as I closed out our session, Betsy retreated to her hideout box.

Betsy might be with us for a few years… but more than likely her time will be less than that.  Speaking of time, this is the perfect moment to remind myself that when I visit her foster home tomorrow to cover my weekly shift of chores that I must take some extra special time with her, with all of the darling rabbits.  Because we have all the time we need, no matter what perceptions we have of time or confines we force upon it.  Sending Betsy an abundance of love and light as she hops her battle.

Dear Mom…

My mother never let me have pets other than Betta fish.  My Betta Bonus lived 5 or 6 years and traveled back and forth from Connecticut to home on every college break.  I was never much of an animal person anyway.  After college, but still living home, I asked if I could get a rabbit.  For no known reason, I decided I wanted one.  Mom said no.  She said, when you have your own house, you can have whatever you want.

I never, and I mean never, have wanted human children.  When certain people hear that, they flick back with trite retorts like, “You will someday” and “You’ll change your mind when you’re with the right person.”  Mmm hmmmm.  Socrates said, “Know thyself” and I always have when it comes to this topic.  And I know human children are not for me.  When I met my “right person,” it was maybe our second or third date when the topic of pet rabbits came up.  We both wanted one yet never had one.  So, in my own way I guess, I did become a mother when I met the right person.

To me, being a mom or serving in any loving role is about spiritual connection.  The labels of mother, father, grandchild, uncle, what-have-you are all human constructs.  On the level of the soul, in our truth, the labels don’t exist.  Love is love.  Care is care.  Compassion is compassion.  Connection is connection.

Judge all you want, but my love for my boys Peanut and Tater Tot and the love I see my fellow bunny moms, dads and volunteers give to these four-legged angels is the truth.  If you need to label it, the connection is as maternal or paternal as a human-human relationship.  Just like I don’t have the desire for human children, not everyone with a pet wants or will reach or can reach the connection.  Those are the people who indiscriminately or circumstantially give up their pets.  But that’s a topic for another day.

So Mom, thank you for not letting me have a rabbit when I wasn’t ready.  You are a phenomenal mother (obviously, look at what you made!) and you knew yourself and knew me enough to know that pet-parenting was not appropriate at that time.  When the time was right and I became a bunny-mom, you embraced your grandbunnies more than I even expected, since you aren’t necessarily an animal person.  But I know you admire and respect the love I have for my boys and the compassion I channel for all of Long Island’s domestic rabbits through rescue work.

Happy Mother’s Day, whether your children hop, bark, talk… whether they live with you, live with another family, live in a rescue or shelter… they are your children, if you feel the love and connection in your soul.

Special shout out to the foster moms out there—you are love.

Hop the Hop

I advise everyone, yes everyone, who asks for coaching, mentorship or just plain advice from me to meditate.  And yet, my practice of meditation is less than consistent!  Since I was on vacation from my “day job” this week, I took the opportunity to talk the talk AND walk the walk… or should we say hop the hop!

My meditation coach and treasured friend Debbie describes meditation and mindfulness as “paying attention on purpose in the present moment non-judgmentally” using the body and all sensory systems.  Start as simply as her directive of “Just Sit.”  That’s where the magic happens.  Believe in the potential or not… you know it’s worth a try!

Debbie trained at The University of Massachusetts Medical School Center for Mindfulness under the direct guidance of the incredible Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, so there’s plenty of legit science behind all of this spiritual practice.  Accompanied by fellow Rabbit Rescue volunteer Nicole, I attended a talk Debbie gave this week at Turn of the Corkscrew in Rockville Centre.  Armed with my notebook and my renewed commitment to my own practice, I soaked in all of the goodies from Debbie’s wise words and guided meditations.

Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction and its approach to a mediation practice fits well into my human experience.  It’s not the type of practice where you have to run off into the woods with no shoes on and clear you mind completely for hours to reap benefits—quite the opposite.  Debbie reminded the attendees throughout her talk that mindfulness meditation is an exercise to strengthen our brain.  And just like any other muscle or body system, the brain needs work to see progress or change.  You aren’t going to lose weight by eating differently for one day.  You aren’t going to get sick abs by exercising for one week.  It’s all a practice.  In this case, it’s a practice of “lifting emotional weights.”

And this practice is one that helps us to “respond skillfully rather than react,” which is an invaluable skill for me in both my day job and in Rescue.  I receive emails, many of which seem or are urgent, and calls about cases that are literally life or death situations for abandoned rabbits.  If I react, I’m in an ineffective panic.  When I remember to breathe, then respond skillfully, cases are appropriately prioritized and more lives get saved.

Toward the end of her talk, Debbie said, “It’s not about getting rid of stress—it’s developing a new relationship to it.”  And that’s a refreshing truth that I think will resonate with a lot of you reading this.  No matter what passion and path you are hopping, walking, trotting, whatever, stressors are real.  Obstacles appear and sometimes persist.  A meditation practice, even 2 minutes a day, can be the key to surmounting those stressors.  And since I advocate so heavily for the practice, I will hop the hop with you.  Just sit.  And as Debbie says, “Trust in the wisdom.”

“Like” Debbie’s page on Facebook, please.

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Tater Tot meditates too!

Somewhere Over the Rainbow

The celebrity world isn’t the only one rocked by loss in 2016.  This weekend alone, 2 beautiful bunny girls made their journey over the Rainbow Bridge (the favored euphemism for passing away… another euphemism, just more common), 2 very different girls, both fitting of a tribute here as they taught me to believe in bunnies and magic within.

Olivia

You may remember Olivia from some of my previous Reiki tales.  Olivia hopped from this mortal coil on Friday evening.  While still sweet as pure sugar and a sponge for snuggles and love, Olivia lost her ability to move over the preceding week.  She even lost the ability to urinate on her own.  She spent her last few days with her adoring mother gobbling treats and sharing gentle moments.  Olivia lived at least 12 years, maybe 13 (we often don’t know exact ages, due to the nature of rescue cases).  She’s the third senior citiz-bun/special needs bun from the LIRRG roster to journey over the Bridge in 2016.  She joins feisty Belle and kissy Wednesday.  These three angels allowed me to bring Reiki into their lives and I believe they have joined my Reiki guides.  In our time together, Belle taught me to believe in building trust.  Wednesday embodied my belief in unconditional love.  And Olivia helps me to believe that we can all grow old gracefully.  Despite her mobility issues in her last few weeks, Olivia never grumped, nipped or fussed.  I thank Olivia’s mom deeply for sharing the love.

Olivia 416

Suzy

I covered a shift of “bunny chores” at our main foster home today.  When I checked my phone after chores were done, I had a message from my dear friend Renee.  The message simply said “Suzy” followed by 3 broken heart emojis.  I responded simply “No.”  But, yes, Suzy made her journey over the Bridge this afternoon.  Far too young.  Suzy was born with the most unique case of splayed legs anyone in my rabbit realm has ever seen.  She ran, flopped, played, binkied like the happiest little seal-bunny.  Suzy is a celeb-bunny, the legacy of the Different is Beautiful movement.  Suzy’s pictures and videos exude pure love of life and love of family.  Becoming acquainted with Suzy reminded me to believe in myself and those around me with complete faith.  Suzy didn’t let her physical differences negatively affect her life for one second—from her, I believe that no perceived obstacle in insurmountable.

Suzy

Binky free, sweet angels.

Run Bun

Invoking my encyclopedic memory to tell you the beginning of this story…

2013:

A normal night at one of our main foster homes.  Owner of said foster home completed her own evening routine and shut the lights to head to bed.  Then the doorbell rang.  With trepidation, she opened the door.  On the porch, a small plastic carrier and a note.  Inside the carrier, two small rabbits, one black and white, one brown and white.  As our addresses are not made public in any capacity, this was no coincidental abandonment.

These two rabbits were aptly named Ring (black and white) and Run (brown and white).  Both small and super lovable.

Later that year, Run was adopted.  Ring found his forever home in 2014.

2016:

We received a heartbreaking email from Run’s mom earlier this weekend.  Being an attentive, loving mom, she noticed that he was having some trouble with one of his paws and his balance.  She immediately brought him to his veterinarian, where he had recently been for a check-up and blood work (all was fine at that previous appointment).  X-rays and tests illuminated the shocking news—Run has developed cancer, including a large mass that is pushing on his spine, causing the mobility and balance issues.

The size and intensity of the mass leave few western medicine alternatives that are safe for dear Run.  And his family is devastated.  Without a second thought, I brought Run Bun, as his mom affectionately calls him, into my distance Reiki meditation.

Distance Reiki and the Distant Healing Symbol is used to send Reiki energy over distance and time to anyone and to anything.  This morning, before sitting down to write, I sat with a picture of Run that Debbie shared with me, put my most powerful mediation oil, Idaho Balsam Fir, on my palms and called on my angels, my guides and all healing energies to encircle Run with love, light and peace.

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I’m sharing Run’s story with you today so you can send him healing vibes too.  Send peace to his family.  Send all the health and hoppiness in the world to dear little Run Bun.