My dogs are not just my pets, they are my familiars. They are four-legged mentors who teach me how to love myself, how to listen to myself, and how to protect myself from the overwhelming feels of being HSP/Empath.
1. Dogs Are More Than Pets
A Dog is a Familiar
As empaths, we are naturally drawn to animals, and our pets are more than just pets. They are family members. But they are even more than that. They are familiars. Like Salem is to Sabrina the Teenage Witch,
Dogs Teach Self-Love
For me, I look to my dogs for more than just companionship. They help me know what I need for myself, especially when I am too dense to listen. Their behavior mimics my feelings and needs. In taking care of them, I am taking care of myself. How I love them is indicative of how I love myself. For example, when they are extra needy and cuddly, it means I need to slow down and be still. When they are extra agitated and aggressive, it means that I need exercise and/or focus. If I really pay attention, they are always telling me what I need for myself.
2. Names (and words) Matter
I've raised three dogs from puppy in my adult life: Spirit, Sukha, and Tosha. All three of them have fully embodied their names, so much so that I'm really careful what I name my pets now.
Spirit was definitely spirited. A little too spirited if you know what I mean. At the time, I was too. She (and I) had too much spunk. It was overwhelming for most people, and there was no training it out of her.
Sukha got her name from the Sanskrit word that means surrender. She could be sound asleep and snoring, and I could pick her up to move her onto my chest, and she would happily surrender to her new circumstance. She's taught me to surrender to all the big life changes (divorce, homelessness, bankruptcy, closing a business, death/grief of grandmother, and many more) for 14+ years.
Tosha is short for the Sanskrit word santosha which means "always content." If Spirit and Sukha had a baby, it would be Tosha. She is joyful, happy, abundantly exuberant about life, but also calm, surrendered, peaceful, and cozy. She came into my life during the pandemic and has helped me stay content (and spiritedly joyful) with all situations and circumstances and changes.
3. Exercise & Movement Can Make Anything Feel Better
All three of my dogs have forced me to get out and walk every day. If I don't they don't behave. It took me nearly 20 years of owning a dog before I realized that if I don't get a walk, I don't behave right either. Also, all three of my dogs preferred nature hikes to city street walks. They like the ambling wooded paths where they can explore different terrains surrounded by the quiet peace of trees and shrubs and naturally flowing water. I'm the same way. My empath nature needs the movement to work the excess "stuff" I absorb out, and I need the peaceful nature to remind me of the essence of authenticity after being in the world of humans where lies, masks, and untruths are prevalent.
4. Shake It Off
When Sukha was about seven years old, I once spent a day watching her shake, paying close attention to when and how often and for how long she shook each time.
Dogs shake their whole bodies many times a day, and not just because they got wet. My dogs shake after the stretch after a nap. It's like they do it to wake up their nerves. They shake when they sense a change in energies. It's like they need to shake their nerves into place to be ready for whatever is coming. They shake when they finish doing something stressful and want to go play. It's like they are shaking off the stress so that they can be fully present in play. And, they shake when they get wet, to get rid of the excess.
What was miraculous was the day I decided to try it for myself. I figured that if she is my familiar and she absorbs energies like I do, it could only help. I shook like Sukha did, and I added a breath and a mental intention of "shaking off the excess" each time I did it, and it works! Really well.
5. Boundaries & Intuition
All dogs growl, and then snap, and then finally (if provoked enough) they will bite. But if possible, they will always LEAVE before they have to bite. Usually the biting happens when someone has not given them the opportunity to leave. It's their language for healthy boundaries. While I've seen some very patient dogs put up with A LOT, there always comes a time when they offer a growl. While people (or other dogs) may ignore that growl, the message and intention of it is very clear. Growls are rarely misunderstood. Their initial "NO" is very assertive. NO MEANS NO. And when someone ignores that no, another louder growl comes, and often with a snap.
My dogs, especially Sukha, taught me how to say NO. And I'm not just saying that I said no to them, but to other people who were pushing my boundaries. I learned to say NO very clearly, the first time. And if my no was ignored, I leave. If they chase me, I growl louder. I've found that since I started growling clearly in my first NO, I don't ever have to get to the point of biting.
Are you an Empath with dog-like abilities to sense and respond to moods? In Mindfulness Mentoring I can offer you more tips to pay attention to what your pet is telling you about being an empath.