I once saw a cartoon depicting two terriers strolling down a lane, one saying to the other, “Why is it always ‘Sit,’ ‘Fetch,’ ‘Roll over,’ and never ‘Think,’ ‘Discriminate,’ ‘Be yourself’?” Our animal friends, clever and entertaining in their own ways, deserve our loving care and support. When we remove them from their natural habitats in the wild and domesticate them as pets, it becomes our responsibility to provide them with the best care possible. In return, they enhance our lives. Studies have shown that pet owners live happier, healthier, and even longer lives than non–pet owners. Our job in caring for our animal friends may be great, but our rewards are indeed many.

Flower essences-herbal tinctures for strength and balance-are a wonderful means of natural pet care. They address a wide range of psychological and emotional issues for animals and people alike. Subtle, yes; weak, no. In gentle, non-invasive ways, they provide a “taste of nature” in a language at once familiar and accessible to animals. Since its inception in 1977, my company, Spirit-in-Nature Essences, has been the recipient of testimonials from pet owners and animal lovers worldwide. Flower essences have enriched not only their pets’ lives but their own as well.

I would like to propose a new meaning for the word pet to replace the standard dictionary definition, “an animal kept for amusement or companionship.” Although animals can entertain us endlessly, this definition diminishes their stature and subtly implies that they exist primarily for our own sport. Based on a secondary dictionary definition-“one especially cherished or indulged”-I suggest the following: “A pet is an animal whom we domesticate in exchange for providing the highest possible quality of care.” In this sense, it is we who are subservient, we who are the servants.

As for the word owner in this context, to imply that pets belong to us is an accurate statement, but to think that we possess them because we have paid for them as though they were property does not do justice to our role. Here, too, I propose a new definition for the word owner as it applies to animals and pets: that we own the responsibility for their care, with a lifetime commitment. And through their dearness and innocence, is it not they who own us?

Now we come to the somewhat awkward grammatical issue of gender: Is a pet a he, a she, or an it? Referring to a pet as an “it” is, to me, unthinkable. Though I by no means consider myself a chauvinist, I will refer to a singular pet, animal, and occasional person by the commonly used masculine pronoun, he, for the sake of simplicity. Also, I will use the relative pronoun who rather than that. In addition, I will use the masculine pronouns he and his for pet owners for the sake of clarity rather than switching back and forth from masculine to feminine, which can be somewhat confusing. I sincerely hope that the reader will not take offense at this usage of the English language.

It is common these days to find veterinarians who work with herbs or homeopathy. Flower essences, too, are making their way into mainstream pet care. Oftentimes immediately, animals respond to them. Some of our most enthusiastic customers are gift, health, and pet stores that cater to the needs of pet owners and animal lovers. Well over half the households in America now have pets. An estimated 59 million cats and 54 million dogs, plus 12 million fish and over 7 million reptiles, inhabit homes in the United States. Our office receives regular testimonials about cats, dogs, horses, rabbits, ferrets, fish, and birds, as well as other animals both domesticated and in the wild, whose lives are significantly improved through flower essences. In fact, many animals whose behaviors or health problems were so severe that they were destined for euthanasia have been helped and enabled to live out their lives. Although this book offers many stories about cats and dogs, the twenty essences described herein apply to any species or breed. Fear, loneliness, and trauma are common experiences for all animals, including humans. From ants to antelopes and emus to elephants, we’re all basically the same when it comes to common shared experiences and emotional states. We will, however, experience them to varying degrees according to our level of consciousness, as I discuss in chapter 1.

Healing with flowers is not new. Throughout time, fine-tuned survival instincts have led animals to graze on plants for their restorative properties. Animals know when to abstain from food to cleanse and restore their digestive systems; they understand when it is time to withdraw, lay low, and sleep to regenerate their bodies; and they sense when to walk off into the woods to die. Flower essences parallel and support their ancient wisdom.

Indeed, it is we who have sacrificed balanced living at the feet of our own self-created stress and lack of connection with natural living and Mother Nature, carrying domesticated animals along in our wake. Through their nobility and purity, abundantly given in their unconditional friendships with us, we may re-establish a healthy communion with all living things. Flower Essences for Animals is offered to help us, as custodians of our animal friends, to provide them with the most sensitive and effective care possible through the practical application of flower essences.