When I first published my book, Tails of a Healer: Animals, Reiki and Shamanism, I wrote a humorous article entitled Inviting a Tiger Home to Play: Unleashing a Shamanic Book which contained stories that clearly showed that the book had a mind, and a spirit, all its own. Several of those stories revolved around dogs and cats who seemed to find the book’s energy irresistible.
After announcing one of my events/classes that bring people to the zoo for spiritual encounters with animals I received an email response from one of my readers. She wanted to know why an animal lover such as myself would bring groups to a zoo. And I realized that I am so caught up in my work with the animals that I have never publicly stated clearly why I do what I do.
Thank you, dear reader, for taking the time to write and share your concerns with me, and for offering me this opportunity to explain.
From my reader:
“I was surprised to see this event at the zoo and knowing your deep love and respect of animals, am hoping you can share with me what I might not be aware of. It has seemed to me that zoos perpetuate the mindsets that humans are the superior species and that it is normal to put animals in cages to look at for entertainment. I know Woodland Park promotes conservation messages, tries to create enriching habitats, and that zoos sometimes breed endangered species, but that has felt to me like being punched on the arm and then having the person doing the punching offer me an ice pack. I’ve been contemplating starting a movement to convert all zoos to sanctuaries in the hopes that it would put an end to breeding in captivity except in the case of endangered species, and promote the message that wild animals deserve to live in the wild as a priority over our entertainment.
“I like to learn and expand my outlook, and so I’m curious how you are ‘okay’ with the Woodland Park Zoo and doing an event there, and what I might be missing? I’ve met animal ambassadors at Earthfire Institute and elsewhere, but also the orangutans at Woodland Park who resented being stared at and seemed angry at their situation.”
As a child I was as passionate about animals as I am today. My mother told me that when she would take me to the Philadelphia Zoo I insisted that we visit each and every one of the animals, and that I knew where to find them all.
As an adult I continued to visit, spurred on by a hunger that could only be satisfied in the presence of my zoo animal friends. Eventually I became a Reiki practitioner, and my awareness of energy and the animals began to evolve.
On one visit to the Philadelphia Zoo I had a pivotal experience with Rain, the jaguar in residence at the time—an experience that began to give shape and focus to my work with the animals. As a result of our encounter I began my studies in shamanism, and learned how to conduct ceremonies.
With the guidance of the animals I witnessed firsthand the potential that ceremonies offered for healing on a major scale—healing that the animals and our planet desperately needed.
In 1999 I moved to Seattle and began visiting the animals at the Woodland Park Zoo. And the animals there became my guides and teachers.
Today most of the animals who live in zoos were born in captivity. Nowadays few, if any, are taken from the wild. Over the years, with the patient guidance of the animals, I learned that most of them had chosen to be born into captive situations so that they could function as ambassadors for their wild brethren. It was their hope that by doing so they could help raise awareness and create shifts in how people perceived and interacted with animals.
In the sixty-odd years that I have been visiting zoos I have seen a tremendously positive shift in how captive animals are treated. In addition to supporting the physical needs and health of the animals, the zoos of today invest time, money and energy on enrichment practices to keep the animals mentally stimulated and emotionally content. But that approach is inherently flawed since it is solely based on what has been discovered through scientific studies—it does not take into account the wholeness of being.
With the assistance of the animals and my spirit guides I have learned that animals are spiritual and energetic beings as well. Needs that are not currently met by any zoo that I am aware of since they are not needs recognized nor understood by the discipline of scientific analysis nor the general public whose level of awareness is largely dependent on the educational efforts of the zoo.
I personally understand why people who care deeply about animals may find going into captive situations difficult. In doing my own work around this (which is ongoing) I have found that clearing my emotional triggers enables me to be a clearer channel for the energy and enhances communication with the animals.
Every animal is a wonderful and complex being with an individual personality, and as such has likes and dislikes. They are as varied in their desires and motivations as people, and have preferences for how they wish to serve and what they like to do, just as we do. And among the various species are unique individuals with the drive and capabilities to be teachers and healers.
Now, imagine that you had all that latent talent and desire to serve, wanted to be more, to be greater than the limited options that are available—that you have chosen to enter this world to help create a new paradigm—and then imagine that the only beings who came to visit or that cared for you were unable to see beneath the surface of the physical vessel that you currently inhabited. Wouldn’t you yearn to engage with beings who saw you as more and who wanted to partner with you for positive change?
When I visit the zoo, with or without students, I visit with intention. I ask how I can support them. I share in their joy and listen to their needs. When appropriate, and with permission, I offer energy healing. And I bring like-minded people to visit, to listen, and to do ceremony with them, as the animals have requested.
Over time, despite the thousands of people who pass in front of them, the animals have grown to recognize my energy and that of my students. And sometimes that means we get special attention. There is a pair of toucans that reside in the Asian exhibit, and they get excited when we visit. They particularly loved one person in particular, and often came right up to her. I have not witnessed them respond this way with anyone else, which validates that how we walk in this world is appreciated. In the photo I could not get back far enough to get Debbie in the photo with the toucans, but she could have reached out and touched them.
The zoo Animal Ambassadors have chosen to assist us in healing and restoring balance to a world which is perilously teetering on the edge—an imbalance created by how we walk in this world and one that can only be healed by the efforts of people—the animals cannot do it alone. Together we can rebuild the bridge that connects people and animals. Together we can remove the mental, emotional, spiritual and physical barriers that that have kept us separate for far too long. And one day, if we all work together, there will no longer be a need to preserve animals through captivity, nor desire to keep them for entertainment.
In the meantime they need our support. I am proud to serve the Animal Ambassadors—as long as there is breath in my body I will answer their call, but I cannot do this work alone. I bring the people to the zoo animals because these animals cannot come to the people, and because this is what the animals have asked me to do.
Postscript: See what happened the first time students met with the Zoo Animal Ambassadors at Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium: Photo Documentary: Listening to Zoo Animal Ambassadors.
Top photo: Lion Xerxes greets us at Listening to Zoo Animal Ambassadors at Woodland Park Zoo. ©Rose De Dan. All Rights Reserved.
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A WILD WAY TO HEAL
Rose De Dan, Wild Reiki and Shamanic Healing LLC, is an animal communicator, Reiki Master Teacher, shamanic energy healer, and author. Her classes, sessions and ceremonial work are inspired by wild and domestic animals who have issued a call to action for personal and global healing.
Her book Tails of a Healer: Animals, Reiki and Shamanism features heartwarming stories about animals and their role in her evolution as an energy worker and shamanic healer.