Darby case study


An FES Certification Program case study presented by practitioner
Kamrin MacKnight

Goals: maintain focus and concentration, bolstering self-confidence and calm

The essences selected for Darby

Centered, focused and working as a team

Second round of therapy with Darby

Goals: healthy interaction and communication with family, focus and concentration

Essences chosen for round two of therapy

An outstanding student, feeling more joy, comfort with other family members and
exhibiting strength and stability to his family


Editor’s note: This is a most intriguing case, showing how the hyper energetic behavior of this Golden Retriever is embedded within a whole constellation of other simultaneous family issues involving the caretaker, the loss of her mother, the loss of another dog, Sophia, and the involvement of three other cats.

The specific issues for Darby involve the need to find his own center, and his own authentic identity – especially after Sophia, the older lead dog in the family constellation has passed. Madia, Wild Oat, Indian Pink, Rabbitbrush, Mountain Pennyroyal, and Golden Yarrow are very important from this respect. Coupled with this is the fact that Darby is, by constitution, a more dreamy Clematis archetype, yet his caretaker wants him to take up the role Sophia had played. This puts a real psychic pressure on Darby that needs to be healed in two directions: the intensity of the caretaker, Betsy; and Darby who needs to ground into his own identity and find his own authentic responses to the changing family dynamic.

Kamrin found this case so complex in terms of its healing challenges that she also treated and documented partial case histories for the other convergent realities surrounding Darby’s case: Sophia, the dying and then excarnated dog long beloved by all; Betsy, the human caretaker who had recently lost her mother, then her dog, Sophia, and is also suffering various health challenges of her own; Max, the cat who is heartbroken by Sophia’s passing; Adrian, the new intense kitten who needs to learn to integrate with this complex family dynamic; and Ollie, the third cat who needs to learn to come more into his heart and register the over-riding reality of the family.

Thus, Darby’s case is significant in its own healing story – showing how Darby becomes more centered and confident and joyous as he comes into his own authentic identity. But it also shows that his healing is not only vertical but “horizontal” involving the changing dynamics of the other members of his family constellation.

Darby is a very rambunctious 4.5 year-old Golden Retriever. He has a very difficult time remaining focused in classes and training. He has a tremendous amount of energy that he does not seem to know how to deal with, which leads to training and behavioral issues. He has been fairly healthy, but did have an embedded right testicle removed at 7 months of age (when he was neutered), and had some episodes of itching that were thought to have been food allergy-related. He gets at least two daily, off-leash, long runs/walks in the park. The major issues were addressed by flower essence therapy and his mom (Betsy) was very pleased with his progress over the six months that we worked with the essences.

The second round of treatment began again after Betsy contacted me to get help dealing with major issues between the cats in the family, as well as between Darby and the cats (actually, all of the family members). This round of treatment was initiated to help the family deal with the tremendous, overwhelming grief that some of them were still feeling after the passing of Sophia, as well as the changes brought about by the introduction of a new kitten, Adrian, into the family. Darby’s treatment plan was initiated this time to help him deal with the changes in the family and learn how to best interact with the cats. This round of essence therapy helped Darby understand and learn how to play and interact with the cats. He has more self-confidence and is calmer, which is a tremendous help to his mom. He is less reactive and happier. He is also more able to focus during training sessions, which has greatly helped Darby and Betsy develop into a training team. When they’re on their game, it is a joy to watch them work! Betsy also reports that Darby is not feeling as responsible for assuming Sophia’s leadership role. He is leading with more of a team approach and is trying to understand the cats’ signals.

Darby shares his home with two people, two cats (Max—11.5 years old, and Ollie-6 years old), as well as with an older (13.5 years old) German Shepherd mix (Sophia). Sophia had been chronically ill, but this did not seem to affect Darby too greatly (it did greatly affect Betsy). Unfortunately, eventually Sophia passed away due to renal failure. Sophia’s illness took its toll on family members, but Darby dealt fairly well with the challenges. However, he was still a bit anxious in new settings and seemed to lack confidence. His mom says that he’s emotional—like she is.

Darby’s family is very animal-centered. He is given good quality food and excellent veterinary care. Her family is truly dedicated to their animals, are very involved with their lives, and the animals are rarely left alone for extended periods of time (very rarely more than 4 hours). 

Goals: maintain focus and concentration, bolstering self-confidence and calm

With Darby and his family, I thought that working with Darby, his mom, and Sophia (while she still lived) would be the best approach. Darby was getting a lot of exercise and his Mom was diligently working with him, but would become very frustrated with him because he tended to be out of control during classes, etc.

Short-term goals for Darby included incrementally increasing the length of time that he could maintain his focus and concentration during training. Mid-range goals included bolstering his self-confidence and maintaining calm, even when things were overly stimulating around him. Long-term goals included having Darby focus and remain concentrated on his work, even in the presence of distractions and other stimuli. We would like Darby to be able to work together with his mom as a team for an entire dance (2-3 minutes). This was not possible at the beginning of therapy. Darby could maintain his focus for very short periods, but could not maintain it for very long and often needed aids like treats or a session of ball-playing before he could gather himself together to work again. In addition, new environments tended to stress Darby to an extreme, such as the environment in which freestyle competitions are held. Darby cannot handle the stresses associated with the building itself, as well as the effects that being in the stressful situation of a competition have on everyone in the room (dogs, handlers, judges, and even spectators). Although Darby may never be completely comfortable in this setting, we wanted to do what we could to minimize the stress and help him maintain his focus on his mom and training/performing.
During the second round of treatment, Darby’s treatment plan was initiated to help him deal with the changes in the family and learn how to best interact with Adrian and the other cats. In addition, we wanted to continue working on his focus and attention during training.

The essences selected for Darby

A number of essences, including Cosmos, Indian Pink, Wild Oat, Madia, and Clematis were selected for Darby. This selection was maintained throughout the approximately 6 months that Darby was first on an essence program. I also gave Betsy copies of the cards and affirmations for each of these essences.  She would read the affirmations to Darby and took them to heart.

Cosmos was included in order to help bring order to chaos. It was thought that it would help Darby become focused, help him with being too overwhelmed by the environment and new situations, and help his communication with his mom. Darby seemed to be frustrated and overwhelmed by his environment and unable to process everything. This essence would help him harmonize his thinking with his actions, and help him with his self-control issues.

Indian Pink
Indian Pink seemed to be an essential part of Darby’s treatment to help him remain centered and focused, even under stresses. The ability to manage and coordinate dancing/training in new situations and environments was important for him and his mom. Darby is very energetic and his mom is very small. It is difficult for her to handle him when he goes “over the top” and loses his mind (when he runs around the room like a crazy dog). This essence would help him maintain his inner center and be able to stay focused during times of intense activity. Darby’s agitation and response to external stimuli were exaggerated and he was definitely unhappy when he was being pressured to perform. He seemed to lack the ability to center and anchor himself in the present, so this essence was believed to be a good choice for him. 

Wild Oat
Wild Oat also seemed to be key to Darby’s treatment, as he often seemed confused/bewildered by the environment, what he was doing, etc. He would run off and try to get attention from people in the room, focus on something on the floor, outside, or anywhere other than working with his mom in class. He seemed to be restless, scattered and not sure of what he’s doing, despite training and attention from his mom. Providing this remedy would help him organize his thoughts and allow him to focus. This remedy would help him realize just how much he really enjoys freestyle and working as a team with his mom. Everyone could see the potential there, but it needed to come out and be expressed.

The Madia was used to help Darby focus, think, and concentrate on the tasks at hand, such as freestyle. It was thought that it would help him stay focused on his mom and not be distracted by other people in class, other dogs in the room, etc. It was very difficult at the beginning for his mom to keep Darby’s attention for much longer than 10 seconds, without help from a toy or food. It was thought that Madia would help give Darby the focus to maintain his concentration on his mom and their dance for their entire routine.

Clematis was used to help awaken Darby to the present and help him focus on the task at hand. He has something of a dreamy quality to him that makes it easy for him to jump from one thing to another and lose focus on what he’s doing. He was definitely scattered when he started essences and this would help center him in his training and relationships with his mom.

Centered, focused and working as a team

Over time, it was apparent that Darby was becoming more centered and able to work within himself, rather than spinning out of control. This was a huge step, as it meant that he and his mom could work together on their freestyle routines as a team. At the end of the treatment program, Darby was able to maintain his focus for most of the time during 10 minute freestyle sessions. He might have a couple of losses of focus, but his mom was easily able to regain his attention and continue with their routine. One night, they were definitely in the “zone” together, working like a team of dancers who had danced together for years. It was amazing and gratifying to watch, given the history of this team. We had seen little sparkles of this, but it took the essences, as well as training and dedication on the part of Darby and his mom to get to this point. Near the end of the freestyle classes, things became more consistent between Darby and his mom. While a lot of it was due to Darby’s treatment, a large measure was also contributed by Darby’s mom, given that she was also taking her own flower essence therapy.

Here are a couple of “before” pictures, showing Darby’s loss of focus towards his mom.  In one, she is trying to get his attention with a treat.  Although Darby is not running around the room, like he tended to, it shows his lack of focus on his Mom and what they were doing. 

Second round of therapy with Darby

When communicating with Darby and the other animals in his family (Max, Ollie, Adrian, and Sophia), it was learned that Darby was just trying to keep his head above water and stay on an even keel. He felt the disruption in the house and greatly misses Sophia, too. He was a bit confused about things and was trying to figure everything out; he was having a rough time, though. He was easily distracted and got a bit “airy,” so needed some help along those lines. He had been having a difficult time focusing on what he was being asked to do in classes and had a hard time filtering out all of the stimuli from the environment, which made it hard for him to pay attention. He was similar to an ADD kid who is too sensitive to the outside world and can’t filter out things that are not relevant to what they’re doing at a point in time. He was very understanding and patient with the cats, although he was not exactly sure how he should interact with them. Darby also seemed to reflect a lot of his mom’s issues and tried to take on some of her burden. This was also confusing him, as he saw that she still had issues, in spite of his best efforts. He wasn’t resolving them for her, which confused and frustrated him and added to his feeling of being at a loss.

One of the issues that came up was more related to Darby’s mom than Darby himself. She tends to be very impatient and emotional, which also is reflected in Darby’s behavior. Plus, her expectations are very high, both for herself and Darby. This puts additional pressure on Darby, making it even more of a challenge for him to keep his head together and work. 

Goals: healthy interaction and communication with family; focus and concentration

The goals included helping Darby deal with the issues in his family, including the passing of Sophia and the introduction of Adrian, as well as the changing dynamics between the family members that were upsetting to everyone (e.g., the cats fighting). The goal was also to have him learn how to appropriately interact and communicate with all of the cats, in particular, Adrian. In addition, although he was better in classes, he had lost some of the ground that had been gained using the first round of essences in his training. We wanted to work on getting Darby to be able to concentrate, focus, not be distracted by the outside environment, and be able to work as a team member with Betsy.
Essences chosen for round two of therapy

Rabbitbrush was chosen in order to help Darby be active and lively, but still be flexible and be able to cope with details and demanding situations. It would help him focus in distracting locations, where multiple inputs could cause him to overload and go into his old pattern of frenzied behavior. It would help him learn and retain the learning longer/better, as well as help him not feel so scattered. In addition, the ability to integrate simultaneous details (e.g., commands from Betsy) while maintaining an awareness of the overall situation would be very beneficial for Darby, if they decide to compete in a sport such as agility, where there is a lot of fast-paced movement and attention to detail (e.g., taking the correct obstacle at the correct time) is required. In addition, there is usually a lot of activity at agility events and Darby/Betsy will need to focus on each other and the task at hand, without letting outside stimuli distract them.

Mountain Pennyroyal
Mountain Pennyroyal was chosen to help Darby stay positive, avoid negative thoughts of others, and be clear mentally. It was believed that this essence was needed by everyone as there was negative energy circulating between the family members that needed to be cleared. It was also chosen to help with any negative feelings held by Darby towards any family members.  It was doubtful that he had many negative feelings, as he’s not that type of dog, but there may have been some residual negativity from the loss of Sophia. Plus, the introduction of Adrian into the family had been a bit disruptive, so there may have been some underlying negativity there.

Golden Yarrow
Golden Yarrow was chosen in order to help Darby remain open to others while still feeling that he is protected. He is part of a very active/dynamic environment within his home, outside the home (e.g., on hikes, at the dog park), and in training. He needs to be able to focus on the tasks asked of him and not be distracted by the environment. It would be also helpful for him in demonstrations, exhibitions, etc., by helping him feel safe and protected, yet “out there” in the world for people to watch. He is very sensitive to the environment around him and has problems performing in certain facilities and locations. Golden Yarrow would help with his focus and attention and filter out the outside distractions in the environment.
Lemon was included in order to help Darby learn and provide mental clarity. It was hoped that it would help with more readily integrating the information provided to Darby within his nervous system, so that he can focus and retain the information given to him during training, as well as by his family members (e.g., the signals the cats use to communicate between themselves, Darby, Betsy, and Han).

Bleeding Heart
Bleeding Heart was chosen to help Darby begin to re-form his relationships with all of the cats. This would help him learn to be his own dog, particularly now that the matriarch (Sophia) has crossed over. It would help him feel that he is part of a family full of unconditional love for everyone.

While Darby doesn’t have any obvious physical issues that deplete his vitality, this essence was included in his formula to help provide him upright strength in the face of any level/type of adversity. This essence would help him stand strong and learn to be who he truly is. It may be related to encouraging maturity, yet also allow for and encourage creativity and play.

An outstanding student, feeling more joy, comfort with other family members and exhibiting strength and stability to his family

We continued into the second chapter of Darby’s development, as well as that of Betsy and the three cats in their household. Rabbitbrush, Golden Yarrow and Lemon have been key in his development to become an outstanding “student.” His new ability to focus, process information, keep his mind together, and make appropriate decisions is wonderful to watch.

In this next round of therapy, a different set of essences were used to help Darby, as there were different issues and goals addressed—

The Mountain Pennyroyal, Redwood and Bleeding Heart were important in helping Darby in his family situation:

The Redwood helped him be his own dog and not try to fill Sophia’s place in the family. He knows he’s not Sophia and does not operate the same way that she did. He knows that he can be “Darby” and fulfill his role in his family perfectly. He is also now more comfortable in his role as the only dog in the family. Before, he always had Sophia to lean on as more of the lead canine in the family. When she passed, in addition to the turmoil that Darby was feeling, he felt a bit lost without her physical support. He is now much more comfortable and not as panicked about things.

Mountain Pennyroyal
has likely stepped in to help keep things positive and not let any negative situations overwhelm the great progress that Darby is making at home and out in his education.

The Bleeding Heart was helpful too, as Darby established good relationships with the cats, is attentive to Betsy and Han, and is just a wonderful family member. He is now bringing more strength and stability to his family, as he now knows how to interact with the cats appropriately and is actually enjoying them. He is also now enjoying his work in classes much more, as he is able to focus and actually absorb the learning that is provided in class. Previously, it was too difficult for him to really learn, as he was always so distracted by the environment and easily over-loaded with incoming stimuli, that he just would “lose it.” Now, he knows how to moderate the incoming information, use what he needs and ignore/discard the rest. It’s a lot of fun to watch him process things and make the right decisions. 

Here’s an after picture showing how strongly focused Darby can now be in class. Isn’t this a great picture of teamwork?! Before essence therapy, this was something that we basically never saw (at least not for an extended time period). Now, Darby can focus and work with Betsy for a good 5 minute time-period (or more), without becoming distracted and running around like a crazy dog. 

About Kamrin MacKnight

Kamrin MacKnight is an FES certified practitioner, as well as an animal communicator, dog trainer, Usui Reiki and Violet Flame Reiki Master, and shamanic practitioner. She routinely utilizes flower essences and other tools to assist animals and their human companions. In addition to working with wild animals, Kamrin uses flower essences and other tools to help animals and their people work through behavioral issues that cause tension between them. In addition to a Ph.D. in Microbiology (UC Berkeley) and a J.D. (Santa Clara University Law), Kamrin earned her Diploma of Advanced Canine Nutrition and Fitness, and Diploma of Canine Behavior Science and Technology, both with Distinction, from the Companion Animal Sciences Institute. While she is a practicing biotechnology patent attorney, Kamrin is also an advocate for the use of flower essences and alternative modalities for animals and humans. She is a full member of the Association of Professional Dog Trainers (APDT) and is involved with various other dog-related organizations. She promotes positive reinforcement training methods for all species, building strong bonds of empathy and understanding between people and their animals, and increasing acceptance of the use of flower essences and other healing modalities in "mainstream" animal training and pet ownership.





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