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A Deeper Connection

Animals are the bridge between us and the beauty of all that is natural.

They show us what's missing in our lives,
and how to love ourselves more completely and unconditionally.

They connect us back to who we are,

and to the purpose of why we're here.

--Trisha McCagh


Reading Time:  10 minutes


The Beginning

I did not grow up talking with animals but I did grow up watching television programs about

animals and their relationships with humans. Lassie. Gentle Ben. Flipper. Mr. Ed (a talking horse!).

Underdog. Mighty Mouse. I loved how the cartoons pictured Snow White talking with the birds

who landed on her hand and shoulder. I wanted to be just like her. Or like Timmy who had this

wonderful relationship with an amazing dog named Lassie. Sadly, this did not happen. 

I do have fond memories of animals at my grandparents’ house, though. Mugs the Boxer. Blackie

the Cat (right), Sweetie Pie the Parakeet. Bridget the German Shepherd pictured above. But my relationships with them were nothing like Timmy or Snow White. I did not have an animal of my own or a special relationship with one. I decided that was the stuff of fairy tales and TV shows.

It wasn’t until I was an adult and out on my own that my personal journey with animals began.

Cathy and Blackie the Cat.JPG


I wanted to adopt a cat but was afraid to take the plunge. It was a big responsibility. I had even moved into an apartment that allowed pets just so I could adopt. And still I drug my feet.

Then a friend decided she was tired of hearing me say I wanted a cat. Unbeknownst to me she decided to take matters into her own hands. One day she called me at work and asked when I was coming home because she and her daughter had a gift for me. I thought they were bringing me a plate of homemade cookies like they had done before. When her daughter got out of the car with a tiny Tortoiseshell kitten on her shoulder I knew the gift was not a plate of cookies! I was scared to death to care for this beautiful tiny being but she was the best thing that ever happened to me. I debated between naming her April or Angel and settled on April as her primary name but she was always my little Angel.

Then about a year later I was adopted by another cat, Miko. He picked me out when I was visiting some rescued cats that were at a local pet store. A handsome gray and white short haired cat with a wonderful meow reached his paw out to me from his cage. When I picked him up he snuggled and purred and from then on he owned my heart. There is no better feeling in the world than being adopted by a cat. 

April and Miko were my family. Our years together flew by. I have a lot of wonderful memories and some memories of things I regret and wish I could do over. I wanted our time together to last forever. Or at least for twenty years. And then at age 18 during a routine 6 month vet check up my Miko was diagnosed with heart failure. We made a trip to the specialist in March 2020, just before the pandemic began, where I learned he had about four months to live. The specialist gave me prescriptions for several medications and sent us home. It was a scary time.  

Saying Good-Bye

I’ve always been afraid of death. This was partly because I heard what were to me ‘horror stories’ of terrible diseases and accidents the medical professionals in my family had seen. And also because of what were to a young child the strange and frightening smells and sounds of hospitals and funeral homes. Although I had been taught to believe in an afterlife – heaven – that knowledge didn’t help much when faced with the actual loss of someone you loved whether they were human or animal.

Cathy and April_edited.jpg
Miko early years
April and Miko Dec 2009

Miko's death came quicker than I wanted. A blood clot to his back leg one Thursday morning. I rushed him to the emergency vet but could not be with him because of Covid precautions. I sat alone in my car in the parking lot. They emailed me a short video of him while they were waiting to see how he would respond to their treatments. He looked very sick. I cried. I prayed. I contacted friends and family and asked for prayer. I sat in my car in the parking lot and cried some more.

The Importance of a Vet You Trust

I talked on the phone with my vet and discussed what to do. I realized at that moment how important it is to have a vet you like and trust and who will be there for you in your moment of need. Miko did not have use of one of his back legs. They were able to stabilize him and give him pain meds so he was comfortable. It was possible but unlikely the clot would resolve. I wasn't ready to say good-bye today. I didn't want our last moments together to be in the sterile setting of a veterinary hospital but I didn't want him to suffer and would do what was best for him. My vet said it was reasonable to bring him home and see how he did. I will be forever grateful to Miko for giving me the the great gift of those last three days we had together at home. 

I had talked with my vet and decided I wanted to have an in-home euthanasia. Although I love my vet dearly, her small sterile exam room was not the place I wanted to say good-bye. She gave me the names of several veterinarians who would come to my home. I called and asked questions to be sure I felt comfortable with them and knew what to expect. Fortunately, they were still willing to come to my home even during Covid. I had decided on cremation because I did not want to bury him only to potentially move to another state and not be able to visit his grave. Ultimately, I want him buried with me.   

Meeting an Animal End-of-Life Doula

I met my first pet death doula the day I took Miko to be cremated. I had arranged for a 'viewing' or 'witness' cremation because I had a strong need to be with his body from the moment he died until he was cremated. It was my way of honoring him. I could not have done anything else. I brought toys and items I wanted cremated with him. Dawn, the wonderful woman who was there that day, had completed death doula training for humans and wanted to apply her training to animals and was working part-time at the crematorium while starting her business. She took such loving and respectful care of Miko and me.


Dawn listened to my stories about his life and how he adopted me. I watched while she took his paw prints and the fur clippings that she carefully tied together with a small bow. I arranged him on the shroud I brought and laid his favorite toys around him. She lovingly blessed his nose and ears and eyes and mouth and stomach and paws and tail for all they had seen and experienced and communicated during his life. She recorded a video of me talking about him and our life together and how I will miss him. We wrapped him in the shroud but it just did not feel complete. Then Dawn went outside and pulled some yellow flowers from the yard and placed them on top. Yes, now it felt right and complete. I wish I had thought to bring flowers for him but she knew what was missing.


She let me have time alone with him to say good-bye but I was not ready to let him go. It was hard for me to leave. I still felt his presence. I learned from her that I could have kept him at home with ice for several days before I brought him in for cremation. I had read of this on the internet but was hesitant to try it without talking to someone who had done this. She told me she had kept her cat at home this way and how to do it. I decided that I wanted to do that when April passed. I needed to have their bodies close to me for a time. A few hours after death was not enough. I thought about how people would sit vigil with bodies in the old days and even sometimes today. I now understood on an emotional level why they would do that. When I was finally ready to say good-bye I saw her place the shrouded body of my Miko in the retort, close the door, and press the start button. The crematorium rules would not allow me to do these things but I was there to be with him and witness it all. 

Discovering Animal Communication


Miko was the one who introduced me to pet death doulas and he was also the one who first opened the door to animal communication. I was telling a friend shortly before he had his blood clot that I wish I knew what Miko wanted and what I can do for him in our remaining time together. She suggested I reach out to Tracy Pierce, an animal communicator she knew who used to live in our town but had moved to Colorado. Animal communicator? Why had I never heard of this? I thought I was pretty plugged into the two metaphysical shops in the area and was aware of the classes they offered, the practitioners in the area and their services. Animal massage, yes. Animal Reiki, yes. Animal communication? No. 


I contacted Tracy but my appointment was scheduled for a date after Miko had died. When we met we talked with April. It was a life changing experience. Some things she told me I had already sensed. April had been holding space for us while Miko was dying. Other things she told me I did not know. April and Miko had discussed their deaths and decided that Miko would die first so April could have time alone with me. Yes, that made perfect sense to me. April was very tired and would likely live less than a year. She wanted her death to be at home like Miko's had been. That was good information to know.

A Second Good-Bye

It was about two weeks after Miko died that April was diagnosed with an oral tumor. We could have tried some heroic interventions but I knew she wouldn't want that. So I kept her as comfortable as possible with medications the vet prescribed. The estimate was four to eight weeks. She lounged on the soft cushion on the back of her favorite chair, watched birds from the window, and slept close to me at night. A friend encouraged me to offer her Reiki energy which I did. I asked friends and family for prayer. I practiced sending her messages encouraging her to eat and drink. I met with Dawn who helped me think about how April and I wanted to spend our remaining time together. April lived four months. 

Messages From the Other Side

I had registered to take an animal communication workshop with Tracy, the animal communicator my friend had recommended. It turned out to be scheduled for the day after April died. We learned how to connect with animals and paired up to practice connecting with our partner's animal. My partner connected with April. There was no sweeter message to my ears and heart than hearing those words my partner heard from April. No, it didn't take away the pain and the heartache but it brought some comfort. In the coming days I clung to that message and the messages I received directly from April whenever I was missing her.

I ran across Danielle MacKinnon as I was searching the internet for information about animal communication and connecting with animals on the other side. Her belief that animals are here to teach us Soul Lessons resonated deeply with me so I began taking animal communication classes from her. I learned that everyone has the ability to communicate with animals but most of us haven't taken the time to develop this skill. I am not quite sure how a left brain, analytical person who works in research and is afraid of death thinks she can communicate with animals but if I can learn then so can you. 

My New Journey

So how did I end up here, offering animal communication services and Reiki? I am not sure. I did not plan it. It was one step at a time. As I experienced the importance of animal communication and Reiki in my own life I wanted to learn how to share them with others. I took classes and practiced. And I am still learning and growing. I recognize the need for these services and want to help.


I am now sharing my life with these two handsome men, Benjamin (left) and Fritz (right). These two shy fellows had been living in a shelter for almost three years and overlooked by all the other people looking for animal companions until the day Benjamin called out to me. Now, with the help of animal communication, we are learning how to be a family. 


Benjamin and Fritz in carrier IMG_4946 (003)_edited.jpg

Certificates of Completion

  • Introduction to Pet Chaplaincy Certificate of Completion. November 1, 2022. Association for Veterinary Pastoral Education.

  • Companion Animal End-of-Life Doula Certificate. March 24, 2022. The University of Vermont Professional and Continuing Education.

  • Certified Soul Level Animal Communicator®. February 25, 2022. Danielle MacKinnon School. MacKinnon Media, Inc.

  • Usui/Holy Fire® III Reiki Master Teacher. January 8, 2022.

  • Pet Hospice & Death Doula Training. Pet's Point Of View. October 22-26, 2021.

  • Sustain Yourself Coach Certification. Wanless Training Institute. September 1, 2021.

  • Certified Oracle Guide™. Colette Baron-Reid's Oracle School®. June 2021.

  • Animal Reiki for Reiki Practitioners Online Certification. Shelter Animal Reiki Association. Let Animal's Lead®. December 1, 2021.

  • Advanced Reiki Training Certificate. Usui Reiki Ryoho. October 20, 2018.

  • Reiki, Second Degree. Usui Shiki Ryoho Reiki. March 25, 2018.

  • Reiki, First Degree. Usui Shiki Ryoho Reiki. March 4, 2018.

Workshops Attended

  • Cultivating the Doula Heart. Open Center. November 7, 2021.

  • The Inner Path of Dying. Open Center. October 9, 2021.

  • Loving, Dying, and Letting Go. The Death Doula Collective. March 28, 2021.

  • Art of Dying Conference. Open Center. October 31 - November 1, 2020.

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