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==== ==== Gestalt Discovery's article about stress in humans and its affect on pets. We will continue to research ways to help all members of your household in future articles. ==== ====

(PTSD) is an anxiety disorder that can develop after exposure to one or more terrifying events in which grave physical harm occurred or was threatened. It is a severe and ongoing emotional reaction to an extreme psychological trauma. This stressor may involve someone's actual death or a threat to the patient's or someone else's life, serious physical injury, or threat to physical and/or psychological integrity, to a degree that usual psychological defenses are incapable of coping. In some cases it can also be from profound psychological and emotional trauma, apart from any actual physical harm. Often, however, the two are combined. PTSD is a condition distinct from traumatic stress, which is of less intensity and duration. Animals experience traumatic stress, as do humans. In working with traumatized animals there is a fine line to walk between honoring what they went through, and enabling them in keeping alive the experience. Traumatic stress shapes whom they become. Extended stress shapes their behavior. No other being can fully understand what another has lived through. We can only offer compassion, support, and the gift of seeing beyond the trauma to the being. In seeing them only through their eyes, we get caught up in their beliefs about themselves. Healing from trauma encompasses the entire being. After addressing the animals physical needs, it benefits the animal if we address the mental and emotion levels as well. If the latter are not acknowledged, in whatever way they know how to tell us, the resulting emotions go deeper inside. I first met Wylie, a Black Lab and Hurricane Katrina survivor, when I stopped at an animal shelter near my home in Montana. I had gone to the shelter in search of a cat to add to my family. After having been chosen by a precocious feline named Q, I sat down to fill out the required paper work. It was then that I first noticed, curled under the table, a very withdrawn and traumatized dog. I asked the volunteer who was helping me, who this dog was. She told me his name was Wylie and he lived with her now, then began to tell me his story. Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in August of 2005 after which many animals were being placed in shelters around the country. Wylie came to Montana. With the open hearts of many humans who adopted these wonderful animals, many let go of their experience, and many did not. Wylie was one of those that did not. He clung tightly to the devastation and death he experienced. He had gone into survival mode, running on adrenaline, trying to flee his own death. He had lost his spirit, along with his will to live. His world was limited, dictated by fear and abandonment. He had lost his humans and the world he knew. He was alone. The stresses of severe trauma to his survival and security had set in, Wylie now experienced the world through a filter of fear. . In healing work with any being, we can only meet them half way. For if we try to "fix what is wrong" we add to their feelings of being powerless over their world. I acknowledged the wisdom of Wylie's

choices to survive. After having his world torn apart, it was up to him to embrace the work we would begin doing. He had to want to care enough to try. All the emotions, Wylie experienced, shaped his world. He slid deeper into depression, not wanting to feel the trauma he lived with inside of himself. He had not grieved his losses. He did not want to live. He died in the only way he knew how, inside. Slowly offering Wylie the possibility of change and seeing him as a dog of courage, gave him the opportunity to see himself differently through the eyes of those around him. It would be up to him to decide to embrace what he saw reflected, and make it his own. Wylie began to change. Slowly. When dealing with sustained trauma in an animal, there are guidelines, not rules to follow. The way to help these animals trust, and find self-empowerment again, is as individual as the animal. Shifting our focus away from the trauma to seeing from our heart into theirs, begins to feed the animal, not the experience. Wylie, as well as any animal that has sustained trauma, will do the best they can. Our love and support for animals, who has suffered trauma, is not short term or conditional. Our truth and love, unconditionally, are gifts, given to us both.

Karen Elise Nowak is a TelepathicHealer/Communicator for animals and their human companions. Karen offers private sessions in healing and communication for animals and humans. Karen can be reached at 406-326-2192, 406-321-2786,, and

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==== ==== Gestalt Discovery's article about stress in humans and its affect on pets. We will continue to research ways to help all members of your household in future articles. ==== ====

Post traumatic stress and animals