The past few months have been very challenging due to a major overhaul of the foundation and cellar of the duplex that I call home.
Routinely mountains of excavated dirt appear in my view and vanish days later with the help of a small Bobcat (and I don’t mean the wild furry kind that I prefer).
Plywood forms go up, and cement is poured into various practical structures. The sound of pounding and heavy equipment has become part the regular tempo of my daily work life. The cats and I manage to block most of it out, but occasionally something happens that takes us by surprise like the day that the whole house shook from roots to crown. Apparently the Bobcat had just taken a swipe at the house—accidentally, of course.
And then there came a day that shall live long in my memory, and perhaps that of my cat Manitou’s as well.
I was finishing up a distance session for a client, and noticed that Manitou had let himself into the house (he has found an area of the catio screen that is not fastened—thankfully Sand has not figured out that she can use that same section to let herself out!).
Manitou’s odd behavior caught my attention a few minutes later. He would sit down, and start licking his foot like something was bothering him. Then he would get up and walk a few steps making an odd kind of motion with one rear foot, sit down and start washing the same rear foot.
I picked him up and tried feeling his foot to see if he had some kind of injury. When I took my hand away there were black streaks smeared on it. I had this horrible feeling that I knew what it was, and when I sniffed my fingers my fear was confirmed. The contractor had waterproofed the basement that day. What Manitou had on his foot was creosote, otherwise known as tar.
I tried to go in several different directions at once. A quick internet search confirmed that tar was as toxic to animals as antifreeze. I had visions of Manitou dying horribly due to liver failure. I called my landlady to tell her what had happened and she leapt into action, calling an after-hours vet (because of course the most awful things happen after your regular vet closes on a Saturday afternoon) to find out what the best course of action was.
While she did that, I put an e-collar on Manitou so that he could not continue to ingest the tar (how I remembered I even had one from years ago is beyond me). Oddly he did not object to the e-collar. However, he definitely wanted to go back outside with it on which was simply not happening.
Next I went outside to see if I could discover HOW Manitou had gotten the tar on his foot in the first place. He had never shown any interest in exploring the cellar, and the only place that I had seen the tar was painted on the outside walls.
I did not have to look far. I discovered two good-sized pools of it on the front lawn as well as two open cans with about an inch remaining in the bottom. Apparently one of the workers had not cleaned up the site. Manitou had innocently walked across the grass and stepped where he shouldn’t have.
With the very kind help of the after-hours veterinary hospital in Shoreline it was determined that one paw pad of tar versus total size of cat was not enough to require me to rush him in. However, the only way to remove it was by bathing the affected area with Dawn dishwashing liquid. Apparently this event was the equivalent of a toxic oil spill for wildlife.
I didn’t have any Dawn in the house since I tend toward more eco-friendly products, and I didn’t dare leave Manitou who I was sure could figure a way around the e-collar at any moment and ingest more tar. What to do? Bless her, my landlady offered not only to bring some, but to also help me bathe Manitou!
When she arrived with dishwashing soap in hand I realized that Manitou and I had an adventure ahead of us. He arrived in my backyard as an adult cat—dumped, starving and abused. He’s lived with me for two years, but there were still likes and dislikes that remained unexplored. Bathing was definitely uncharted territory. How was he going to respond? Could we do this?
I decided that it was time to send Reiki to myself, to Manitou and to the situation. We all needed to stay calm.
Keeping the Reiki energy flowing I picked Manitou up and placed him in the sink, explaining that we had to get that icky stuff off his foot or it would make him sick. He was fairly chill, even as I began to spray his hind feet with water. So far, so good.
Next I poured some soap into both hands so that I could scrub his foot. At that moment Manitou decided he did not want to be in the sink, and tried to leave. In preventing him from doing so I grabbed him firmly with both hands on either side of his body. To my consternation I realized that I had just covered him in soap, and now I was going to have to get him completely wet in order to get it off!
Manitou was amazingly well-behaved for the rest of his unplanned bath. He did not cry, he did not swat, he did not try to bite me. He did turn around one time and try to cling to me which left me dripping wet—but that only seemed fair.
Throughout the entire bath I told him how incredible he was, how brave, how handsome—I poured it on. I let him feel how much I loved him, and how proud I was that he was helping by being calm.
When I finally got to the tarred foot that had started it all, I let Manitou know that I needed to scrub it thoroughly all over and between his toes to be sure to remove every speck of the tar, and he rose to the occasion. As I lifted his foot he spread his toes wide—he was helping! I felt deeply touched by his trust and humbled by the beauty of our connection under less than ideal circumstances—it felt as though I had received a huge gift.
As I rinsed him off with warm water I caught a hint that he was actually enjoying the adoring attention, massage and Reiki, lol.
When I had finally removed all the soap and tar I wrapped Manitou in a big towel, gave him a few good rubs to help him dry off, and set him down on the floor.
I fully expected him to dash off, but instead he sat there calmly and groomed himself fastidiously while I combed and dried what I could. It felt like I was offering him a spa treatment.
And later I discovered that I had worried needlessly about whether Manitou would forgive me for the indignity of getting him all wet. For the rest of the evening on into morning he slept sprawled out on top of me with his cheek pressed to mine. Occasionally he would wake and stretch his paw to touch my face. We were both worn out, but dealing with the Construction Zone catastrophe had apparently brought us closer together—thanks to Reiki and animal communication!
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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.
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