“I am the rug beneath your feet that buffers you from all the harshness of life.” – Dog
I have had the gift of four dogs, a cat and two horses in my life. I fed them, groomed them and loved them. I cared for them in a multitude of ways, going to great lengths to make sure they were healthy, and I worried when they were not. Perhaps I cared so much for my pets because they cared so much for me. My pets have been my close companions, providing me with love, warmth, happiness, laughter and friendship. They have taught me unconditional love, to be more patient with life and to enjoy the simple moments.
A lot has been written about the benefits of having a pet, but there’s more to that relationship than many of us realize. A lot of pet lovers surely will appreciate the results of an experiment that Institute of HeartMath Director of Research Dr. Rollin McCraty conducted with his 14-year-old son and 15-year-old dog.
Institute of HeartMath had already found that heart-rhythm entrainment, or synchronization, occurs between people when they are feeling love and care for each other. Rollin wanted to see if the same thing happened between people and their pets. So he put electrodes on his son Josh and his dog Mabel.
“We used two Holter (electrocardiogram) recorders, one fitted on Mabel and the other on Josh,” Rollin wrote in his paper, The Energetic Heart: Bioelectromagnetic Interactions Within and Between People. “We synchronized the recorders and placed Mabel in one of our labs. Josh then entered the room where Mabel was waiting, sat down and proceeded to consciously feel feelings of love towards Mabel.”
You can see what happened in the graph.
As Josh sent feelings of love and care towards his pet, Josh’s heart rhythms became more ordered and coherent, and this change appears to have influenced Mabel’s heart rhythms, which then also became more coherent and in sync with Josh’s heart rhythms.
If you’ve ever wondered what goes on in your dog’s mind, or heart, when you leave home, this may help: When Josh left the room, Mabel’s heart rhythms became much more chaotic and incoherent, suggesting initial separation anxiety, as you can see in the graph.
Excited by these results, Rollin decided to try the same experiment with Ellen and her horse Tonopah.
Rollin’s conclusion: “Although more research needs to be done, it appears that there is a type of communication occurring between people [and pets] above and beyond body language or verbal communication. I believe we’ll see in future research studies that we are affecting each other’s moods and attitudes, both positively and negatively by the electromagnetic fields we radiate from our hearts….In our work with pets and their owners, we’re seeing that a pet owner can create what we call a heart-filled environment when practicing heart-focused techniques. The pets respond by becoming more affectionate, more animated and more connected with the pet owner.”
With my last dog Cort, I often used the basic steps of a very simple and fun technique we at the Institute of HeartMath teach young children called the Shift
and Shine® Technique to create a heart-filled environment. I chose this simple technique because my relationship with Cort often was so simple.
- Heart Attention: Begin by putting your attention on the area around your heart or the center of your chest.
- Heart Breathing: Now pretend to breathe in and out of your heart.
- Heart Feeling: Think of someone or something that makes you feel happy and then shine that feeling.
Feel the warm feeling in your heart when you feel love or care for someone. It’s kind of like the warmth from the sun. When we feel love, appreciation or care for someone or something special, it’s like the warmth from the sun shining in our hearts. Shine that warm feeling into the environment with love and care for your pet.
(Adapted from the Shift and Shine Technique)
Using this technique at any time would deepen our connection. Using it when either Cort or I was agitated, worried or stressed would de-stress both Cort and me. Try it with your pet and comment on your experience.