Showing posts from 2017

break the mould, lose the system and go with the flow

In our quest to do right by the animals we adore, we stuff up so regularly.  One of the main things we do wrong - is try to be right...Confidence comes - not from always being right, but from not fearing being wrong.  We can google how to back a horse, or train a dog to heel. And the information will no doubt be helpful. The question then is – will we be able to carry out the recipe and ensure that we are respecting the angel before us.  That is more important than the recipe... Of course - understanding behaviour and motivation and definitions assists us to achieve amazing feats with the incredible animals in our lives.  We can problem solve concerns, logically see things from the animal's point of view using all the behaviour theory.  The fundamentals to relationship can however be summed up in one statement – “do what you do with respect, and own your actions”.  In other words, don't blame the animal, the situation or anyone or anything – Rather - see what is right befo…

PS. it is all about control

I may sound like a stuck record.  If the sound is annoying you, I implore you, look at the annoyance.  Look to see if you are really affording control and choice in relationship with animals.

Thankfully I have a stuck record of my own in Sage. She is crazy about succeeding.  It keeps her level headed and adds to her enthusiastic nature.  She loves to please.   Sometimes she gets so excited that she cannot even think straight.  Like when I arrive home from work, her greeting is to jump up and - oops - this is when it becomes difficult.  She knows she may not jump up.  She may even have someone yell at her when she puts those muddy paws on the designer label t-shirt.  Then she is no longer succeeding.  She is failing.  She becomes anxious because she is not pleasing us, and her behavior becomes more and more erratic and anxious.

I travelled away from home on two occasions.  Left reams and reams of notes on how to take care of the menagerie.  When I returned after the first trip, Sage wa…

Part of something bigger

My current favourite past time in the uShaka Sea World aquarium is to watch a small school of anchovies Plus 1. The Plus 1 is a yet unidentified fish who is finding sanctuary with the band of anchovies. He is bigger than them. But fully accepted into the ranks.
I watched them for some time yesterday. Fascinating behaviour patterns began to emerge. Because he is easy to recognise it was easy to see his behaviour relative to the group. Anchovies usually swim too fast and erratically for me to be able to monitor one I individual. Plus 1 on the other hand is a stand out dude with his own look. So easy to follow.
Anchovies swim constantly and school.  When threatened they tighten their ranks.  Large schools look like symphonies when they behave this way. Dancing in a manner that inspired Disney's Fantasia and more. Why. Because there is safety in numbers.
Makes sense why Plus 1 would join the merry dancers. It is safer to hang with the gang. Makes for a large picture for predators to enco…

when the student is ready an animal appears

I feel so liberated at times - and other times I am still a reactive bitch - but the feeling of liberation is growing - thanks to animals

I notice - as a result of how much they steal my heart - what gets my hackles up.  I have practised noticing while with animals.  I have practised looking at their reactions and working on being clearer so I don't get their hackles up.  It is the funnest thing to do.
Thank you to an endless list of critters for being the best teachers ever - and the lessons continue.

So, what does this have to do with anything - yesterday I was accused of being passively annoying.  "You have changed," they said.  "You used to shout for what you wanted.  You used to fight."  And I giggled in a tumultuous roar of appreciation.  This face and heart and soul is anything but passive.  What I have learned - from the beasts in my life - is that a fight is not a loud and fist pumping one.  It is loving, rational, fearless and fun.  This is how this i…

Czech book - launch gratitude

Thank you again to my Czech friends and colleagues for making this possible.  I am again, so grateful for the wonderful opportunity to learn from all of you, and contribute towards our greater perspective in relationship with animals. I am truly amazed.  I have been considering the lessons I have learned, personally, on my journey through the world of animal relationship with human kind, and furthermore, how the behaviour management and animal welfare industry have grown.  We are considering and doing things now that were completely foreign concepts just 10 years ago.  We have changed our attitudes towards animals almost 360 degrees in the last 100 years.  We are looking at how we can provide more choice and control.  We are scientifically investigating empathy between animal and human.  We are looking and seeing things from the animal's point of view.  We are focussing on partnerships and psychological well-being.  And so much more I look forward to more lessons.  I look forwar…


I wrote this post as a guest post for Zoospenseful. 

Animal trainers?Behaviourists?Zookeepers We debate what to call people who work with and train animals.It may be more pertinent to call us Animal Behaviour Managers.Here is why. Anyone can train a trick.It is basic conditioning 101 that enables our ability to do this.Ensuring the welfare of animal’s in our care is greatly enhanced because we can train tricks.Examples of tricks that are good for welfare of animals in human care: -Easeful medical behaviours that enable proactive animal care -Fun engaging mental stimulation in the process of ‘talking to animals’ -Animal’s exercising in the game of training Is training ‘tricks’ enough?The best animal care specialists out there say no.In the larger scheme of things, we need to take full responsibility for the psychological welfare of the animals in our care. To illustrate, let us look at our family pet – Scruffy the Labrador.He has some trick training in his day.He knows how to do a few things …

one thing at a time - really really - only one thing at a time

I am guilty – woman-can-multitask label that I have worn as a 'compliment' too often.  It does not work!!!  Especially when I project my stuff onto animals while trying to communicate with them.  Not only am I guilty of multi-tasking, I have another confession.  I communicate with humans by expecting them to read my mind. Those that are still around in friendship with me have become really good at reading me and making up what they think I mean. Animal behaviour management is a fun game in self reflection. It has taught me to STOP!  And focus – and see one thing at a time.  Sometimes... It has taken years for me to learn to break behaviours into simple understandable steps. You may think this is fundamental. I would like to challenge you to reconsider.  I learned from some really good people last week. While watching I realised that an animal's attitude to a behaviour is a part of the learning process. At some level I knew this, but I had never considered attitude to be a par…

Learn More Dog Training workshop

Learn More Dog Training Workshops present:Animal Training Communication and Problem SolvingA short workshop on ethical communication with animals given by author Gabby Harris of uShaka Sea World.Date: 
Saturday 2 September 2017

10h00 - 15h00

R150 (includes light lunch, tea & coffee)

207 Market Street, Fairland About Gabby

Gabby's passion is ethical communication with animals.

She has been working professionally with animals since 1990 and is currently in charge of behaviour management and welfare at uShaka Sea World. She also worked for Horse Gentlers International in part time, working with the police horses. Gabby has consulted for zoos and aquariums around the world on behaviour management, and in the last few years this has extended to the domestic animal market - dogs and horses.

Gabby's book "Touching Animal Souls - life lessons from the Animal world" is available on Amazon and her second book, "Animal Grace" which is a w

Crazy arrogance

Dogs are wise.  They have nothing to prove.  This is Freya.  She is grey in her face.  She does not dye out the grey.  She has no need to impress anyone. 

She does not step on people to prove a point. She does not shout to be heard.  She is always up for a cuddle, and I cannot do anything but smile when she does her little hop and bark to get my attention.  She has the world all worked out, and she never set out to do that.  She just goes with the flow.

Me on the other hand - not so much... I have had to learn that in order to create common ground, where I can be heard, and where I can hear, I need to be quiet.  Listen, and watch to see when the most effective time is for me to speak.  I have also had to learn that while what I have to say is very important to me - it is not so important to others.

 My greatest commitment is to ethical communication in relationship with animals.  It is more important than proving anything to deaf ears.  With this in mind,  I have a new mentor - Fre…

Negative Reinforcement can be Positive Reinforcement

It is all about control and choice.  Imagine the feeling when we are asked to do something.  Perhaps wash a load of dishes for a family member.  We comply, with some feeling.  Avoiding the argument if we say no.  And perhaps with the hope for a free moment where there are no expectations for our services to that family member.  We wash.  In the washing, we are 'doing'.  The moment the washing is done, we sit down, feel the load of the work done, sigh and in that moment, we are 'being'. 

So.  The argument has been avoided.  The training theory calls this - negative reinforcement.  However, there is something more fundamental going on.  In our sitting and relaxing, we have our choice and control back.  Being victim to the expectations of that family member are a thing of the past.  We are the master of the sit and sigh once more.  In achieving choice and control, we have been afforded something.  In training theory, when we receive something, it is positive.

Choice and…

confessions of a plasticholic

The challenge was presented, and I tentatively said:  "I am up for it."  With good intentions.  This is what I learned.

WHAT DOES THIS HAVE TO DO WITH ANIMALS?  A few things.  Indulge me.

IN GENERAL:  If you know me, you will know that I am constantly playing mind games.  The game I am currently playing is getting to know my habits and belief systems to see how they may be limiting my relationships with the animals in my life.  I thought that going plastic free would be easy.  I thought I knew what my relationship with plastic was all about.   Well.  I was wrong...


Plastic is an environmental threat.  Not just litter that could be swallowed, or toxins in its creation or disposal that are pollutants, or the fact that it probably never breaks down, but also from a climate change point of view.  I know you all know the stories of the big bad P word and all it has done...  So I will not bring more heaviness to your guilt.  But...  Let me sh…

all in a moment

Perhaps - every moment we have is engrained on our souls.  Like lines on an old LP record.  They stick there and create the joy, or sadness, or fear or hope that becomes us.  Sometimes we find ourselves in situations where the LP record become stuck.  Because there is a scratch in our experience.  Playing a feeling over and over.  Waiting for someone to come and lift the diamond tip into the next groove. 
Question - do we need to be rescued?
Answer - No.  Our diamond tips are perfectly capable of moving if we are able to recognise that scratch.
All that is really required, is to shake it off. 
Put the words and stories down, and simply hear the music. 

A moment today where I felt very scratchy.  Till I looked into the eyes of a loved few - animals and people.  Cried tears of scratchiness.  Then jumped, grew quiet, and felt some music again.
All in a moment.

writing from love

Being inspired to share thoughts on ethical animal care is now entrenchedSo many beautiful souls have been a part of my journey…  and the journey continues…I have been quiet on this blog for a while.  Busy writing a new book.  On this note I am very happy to report my  EXCITING WEEK…The book is being published by Kima Global in EnglishANDBy Pavel Jerabek in CzechAnd the cherry on the topKima Global are publishing Touching Animal Souls in German.Champagne time!!!

Liberated insight

Stepping back
When we look.  truly look, so much is visible. Learning to paint has helped me to look more closely at so much.  Not just the canvas.  What I find so interesting, is that when I am painting up close, I often doubt that what I am doing is going to work.  Then I step back and see the shadows and highlights and am amazed at how it all come together.

The same is to be said about any relationship.  With people or animals.  When in the thick of it, you either have faith, or doubt.  Is either of these misguided? 
When we step back, we can see what is truly going on.  With whom are we truly in a fulfilling relationship ?  Who are we trying to please?  Who do we find enthusiastic?  Who is a taker? Who is a giver?  Does the animal truly wish to be with us?  Does the person really care about us? 

Liberated insight.
And then we can proceed without attachment.  And truly be in relationship for relationship sake.

Light on the rainbow bridge

Dear JulaIt has been 2 years since you left this realm.
Lessons since you parted
                Broken hearts do not mend – their pain simply colours a new perspective                As the days pass, I don’t miss you any less – simply put more conscious energy into the time spent with loved ones                Your inspired 100% - is hard to live up to in the moments of missing you.  So you are misssed with 100% energy                There is no limit to the amount of tears one can shed                 Gratitude for the time we had – and so wish it could be moreYou are so missed gentle soul.  Warriors do not have to fight.  They need to be.When we ‘be’, we will inspire.When we fight, we have reactive forces that displace truth.Thank you for the ‘being’ that is still you…Have loved you forever.  Will love you forever!

see you soon

Been quiet – eagerly writing a new book.  The manuscript will be done in a couple of weeks.  Then I need to decide what to do with it.  Mmmmm.
Thank you feedspot for recognising this blog.  Much appreciated.

Penguin adoption - Promises - South America Update

Dear PenguinPromises

The chicks have now left the colony and have set off on their winter
migration to sunny Brazil, leaving Promises at home in the colony. The
adults are not able to follow the chicks yet because they still have things
to do before following the chicks to Brazil. I attach a photo showing
chicks, juveniles and adults all gathering together on the beach, prior to
leaving the colony, each to their different destinations.

The chicks have never been to sea before, so they need time to build up the
strength in their flipper muscles. Flipper exercises on land are no
substitute for time spent out at sea, because flipper flapping requires a
lot more strength under water than on land. Until the chicks have spent many
weeks out at sea building up their strength and stamina, they lack the speed
necessary to catch fish. So after leaving the colony the youngsters hang
around the kelp beds feeding on shrimps and other slow moving creatures in
order to survive.

Kelp is the typical b…

Andy Seliverstoff - Great work on - What makes people kinder?

Andy Seliverstoff is a 58-year-old professional photographer from St. Petersburg, Russia.Andy Seliverstoff / Via facebook.comA few years ago some of Seliverstoff's friends asked him to take photos of their daughter Alice in a park. They had their gigantic Great Dane, Sean, with them, so they decided to incorporate him into the photos. After seeing the results, he knew he was on to something special.Andy Seliverstoff / Via revodanapublishing.comSeliverstoff did another shoot with a child featuring big dogs, and told BuzzFeed News that he was "deeply touched" by the work. That was four years ago and he's been a dog photographer ever since.Andy Seliverstoff / Via revodanapublishing.comThe project has become his passion, which he chronicles in a book called "Little Kids and Their Big Dogs."Andy Seliverstoff / Viarevodanapublishing.comAll of the photos are taken in St. Petersburg. Its extensive parks and colder climate help create some spectacular shots.Andy Sel…