Helping a Shelter Animal: Transforming from Anxiety to Trust



A Case Study by FES Certified Practitioner Amanda Buda-Braun

Amanda's comments regarding Ruth the dog

In working with Ruth, a dog adopted from a foster home, I have seen that flower essences can be key in helping animals adopted from rescue shelters, or as strays, achieve positive destinies. We hear of dogs and cats being adopted and then brought back to the shelter soon after; their behaviours sometimes marking them as “non-adoptable.” Ruth, a middle-aged dog, had been the only friend of such a non-adoptable dog. Ruth herself had been adopted once only briefly and then was returned to the foster home before she was adopted permanently by her current caretaker. Before the foster home, Ruth had been on her own in the wild, had birthed pups at some point, and nothing about her history beyond these facts is known by her new caretaker aside from the summary given to her that Ruth had not had a nice life thus far. However, Ruth presented some behavioural challenges which we can imagine may have contributed to her being returned to the foster shelter after her first try at adoption.

Ruth had a strong fear of abandonment and was very fearful of unknown, startling phenomena, and was sensitive and overly excitable around certain people. Including Star of Bethlehem and Walnut essences in a formula along with Aspen and Cherry Plum drastically decreased her fears and tensions that had developed during her unknown history and had followed her, and she became both trustworthy and approachable to the point strangers sought to pet her – and she graciously accepted. Mariposa Lily and Bleeding Heart reduced her unbalanced attachment to her caretaker. Saint John's Wort and California Valerian soothed her anxiety so that she could relax enough to go outside and seek nourishment from the sun and outdoors; Saint John's Wort and Corn helped her transition from being an outside dog to living indoors. Being a sensitive dog, Pink Yarrow and Dill helped her tolerate being around children or crowds without growing overtired, and Indian Pink helped her to travel in the car without becoming motion sick!

Another dog I have worked with, adopted as a stray, had been a victim of violence and was helped by Star of Bethlehem, progressing to the FES Post-Trauma Stabilizer formula. His post-trauma behaviour became more manageable for both him and his caretakers and he no longer addressed every person walking by his home as a threat. Perhaps our societies will progress such that flower essence therapy is commonly offered to shelter animals, or is suggested at veterinarian clinics for newly adopted animals, so that such animals can more easily integrate into their new homes, increasing chances of adoption success and joy for all beings involved.

Fear of abandonment and sensitivity to the environment

The goals for Ruth included: stabilize, calm, relax, increase vitality

Transition to relaxation and calm

Key essences

About Amanda Buda-Braun

Ruth: Transformation from Anxiety and Sensitivity to Stability, Calm and Increased Vitality

Ruth is a middle-aged shepherd-lab cross. She was adopted by her current caretakers, Sara (who is the most present caretaker to Ruth in terms of schedule, and the female of the home) and D (Sara's spouse) from an animal rescue society foster home. Major details of Ruth's past are not known but it is known she has birthed pups and also that she had been on her own in the wild before being in the foster home. Once adopted and adjusted, Ruth grew very attached to the primarily present member of the household, Sara, especially as Sara transitioned away from working out of the home and was home much more.

Presenting symptoms included Ruth expressing anxiety when Sara was preparing to leave the house. Ruth also had a history of a shift in body language and demeanor when certain people in Sara and D's family came to visit. Sara described this behavior as heightened excitement, and when reacting like that, Ruth had nipped at the pants of a small number of specific people. Sara felt she must watch Ruth when people were over because she did not want this behavior to go any further. Along with heightened excitement around certain people, Ruth was sensitive and fearful of loud and strange noises/objects. Ruth greatly enjoyed being outside, (she lived outside in her foster home, having her own kennel for a shelter) but because of her attachment to her caretaker, she often stayed inside instead of going outside, and laid on her cushion much of the day. Sara wondered if this made Ruth bored and perhaps depressed. Overall, Ruth was quite sensitive to energies around her whether from high-energy children, storms, or triggering situations.

Ruth's visible sadness or boredom
at times when she is lying on her cushion

Fear of abandonment and sensitivity to the environment

Ruth may have had a history of hardship and/or trauma that maybe contributed to her fear of abandonment, and sensitivity to loud noises and certain people. Her challenges seemed to prevent her from living and enjoying her life fully; she grasped at security as though afraid to trust that it would not disappear from her. She displayed signs of fear of being left behind and refused to go outside if she knew Sara was leaving, even if she needed to relieve her body of waste. Sara had a difficult time leaving Ruth for an afternoon or a weekend without stressing Ruth terribly. Sara and D left Ruth at a kennel once for a weekend, and it was reported back to them that Ruth did not seem to sleep and that she barked at the people who ran the kennel (normally she was not much of a barker). However, Ruth was a dog who very much enjoyed the companionship of her caretaker, and very much enjoyed being outside, especially being in the sun. She was attached to her security in being around Sara her caretaker, yet in her attachment she lost out on other needs and enjoyments. It is as though she was pulled in many directions and this strained her, possibly to the point of boredom, depression, and anxiety. A similar strain came from her obvious affection for children, but her simultaneous sensitivity led her to feeling easily tired out from being around them.

The goals for Ruth included: stabilize, calm, relax, increase vitality

  • Stabilize and calm Ruth's sensitivity, including fears/anxieties, and to reduce or eliminate concern that she would react overly playfully or somewhat aggressively with certain people who may be a trigger for Ruth.
  • Be able to relax when anyone who is welcome/invited to come in to the house/onto the property approaches Ruth, but specifically Sara wanted Ruth to relax around the people who had previously triggered her, since they are extended family members. In terms of sensitivity. Sara wanted to be able to take Ruth for a walk without Ruth becoming fearful and paralyzed.
  • Increase or renew Ruth's vitality. She spent much of the day on her cushion and Sara wanted to see Ruth going outside more into the yard.
  • Be able to leave Ruth for a few hours with familiar people, perhaps building this time up to the length of a weekend, without Ruth becoming stressed, and to restore a sense in Ruth that she would not be abandoned.

The notion of increasing Ruth's sense of vitality transitioned to a more specific goal of helping Ruth feel less mopey, bored, and sad/depressed - this trait has shown some real indication of healthy progress as revealed in Ruth wanting to play more, seeming less mopey, and feeling free to go outside even when faced with her caretaker leaving. This tendency toward depression seems linked with her fear of abandonment and anxiety about being left behind by Sara, which causes Ruth to hold back from experiencing life more fully.

Goals transitioned to helping Ruth's heart to heal and to soothe her anxiety and depression, for her to feel more comfortable and free to make choices to keep herself content.

Transition to relaxation and calm

Ruth has, over the course of treatment, become substantially more relaxed in terms of loud sounds/phenomenon such as noises emitted by large trucks. She also has completely let go of the heightened excitement behavior through which she would nip at the pants of particular people. Ruth's positive qualities have become refined and heightened; she has become very calm around people, especially strangers, and will approach people, including children, very calmly for interaction, whereas before there were times she would have fear-based reactions to people, such as barking. People are also drawn to her, often seeking to pet her. During a vacation in the latter half of the case study, Ruth was on a family vacation including children (four extra people in total) and was able to enjoy this extended time with family without being overtired from lots of activity, the continuous presence of children, and many strange people being interested in her. In fact, Ruth seemed interested in calmly greeting anyone who paid attention to her.

Ruth's gentleness around children and all people when she is feeling secure and stable
Ruth's love of being outside
with her primary caretaker

Ruth's fear of abandonment has overall reduced from stress to resignation, with some promising moments of actual relaxation, which I hope will continue to develop and increase beyond the case study. She has twice now wanted to remain in the sun outside even when she knew Sara was preparing to leave, when normally she would be displaying anxiety, tension or resignation over Sara 's impending departure. Also, Ruth has been able to go to Sara's daughter's house and enter it calmly, greeting people, (the same people with whom she was on vacation) without displaying signs of anxiety. This is especially noteworthy because Sara returned to her vehicle without Ruth to fetch something and Ruth could have interpreted this as Sara leaving her behind. Sara has reported that Ruth seems to want to instigate play more and is less mopey.

Stabilizing Ruth's sensitivity was met by addressing fears and also using essences for sensitivity. Being comfortable withbeing left at a close relative's home was evident a short time after the end of this case study, when Ruth was tested by being brought over to Sara's daughter's house, and she remained calm even while Sara returned to her car for an item.

Key essences

Indian Pink - a tremendous help for Ruth in traveling. Normally car sick, she did not become car sick at all during travels; this essence in a combination focused partially on sensitivity - her nervous system remained centered despite the constant motion of the vehicle. During this vacation, Ruth also did not tire as usual from the increased activity of being around children. I believe the previous car-sickness and also her sensitivity to the busy and faster-moving energies of children indicates Indian Pink as a good essence for her to take, at least during these types of demands.

Walnut - for Ruth to be able to live in the present without linking events/triggers to the past and therefore reacting to those triggers

Cherry Plum - for desperate or destructive impulses (nipping, for example) formed possibly out of the trauma/memory of having been in kennels, and of having had to survive in the wild on her own - two scenarios of being out of control

Aspen - for trust in meeting the unknown (such as loud sounds made by trucks, strange people)

Bleeding Heart - for cultivating love in her heart instead of neediness and heartbreak

Star of Bethlehem - for soothing trauma from the past and connecting to comfort

Mariposa Lily - for feeling connected to a sense of being nurtured, possibly enhancing her ability to act nurturing

Corn - for feeling connected to the outdoors even while inside and reinforcing the healthy need to go outside

Saint John's Wort - for the longing for light and the depression from lack of light that prevents Ruth from having a more fulfilling life

California Valerian - to soothe Ruth's nervous system and remind her that everything will be continue to be ok even if her caretaker leaves or there are loud sounds, or the like

A key formula: Saint John's Wort, Corn, Mariposa Lily, Bleeding Heart, California Valerian:

Through the case study the specific sources of Ruth's sadness and boredom became quite clear: she wants to be with her caretaker (Mariposa Lily & Bleeding Heart), outside (Corn), in the sun (Saint John's Wort) - this is the scenario in which she is most happy. These essences used together with California Valerian, for feeling calm, helped her begin to make choices for one or two of her needs at a time.

Essences that were not necessarily long-term solutions but important in the process of "peeling back the layers of the onion": Borage, Wild Rose. These helped to clear away a general sense of weight (Borage) and apathy (Wild Rose) to then zoom in on the actual root causes of these emotions.

Dill and possibly Pink Yarrow were helpful in terms of sensitivity, especially during a vacation/extra exposure to people.

About Amanda Buda-Braun

Amanda took the FES Professional Course in 2015 after eight years of personal passion for learning about and experiencing flower essences - especially of the FES product lines. Amanda is an aspiring novelist and is drawn to understanding archetypes and the expressions of them through souls, creation, and the stories that unfold through the interactions of these forces. Amanda looks forward to continuing to share flower essences, and their ability to heal stories, with beings of the earth.


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