Cristi Eckert, owner of Natural Pet Wellness is a trained Reiki Master and energy therapist whose love and passion for animals has helped people and their pets live happier healthier lives. In this interview she discusses her inspiring work and journey in working with animals.
Could you tell us about your background and how you started your journey working with animals?
Since I was young, I have always been around animals and felt a connection to them. I would walk neighbor’s dogs and pet sit for them, I would work at the local shelter and help clean cages. So, at a very young age, I was always involved in doing something with animals. When I got older, I worked at a vet clinic, all through high school and part of college. I even got my degree in Animal Science. By that time, I realized I did not want to be a veterinarian, but I was trying to understand my path of how to work with animals if it is not working in a medical setting or in a science field. It was always a struggle trying to understand what my path to work with animals was supposed to be. I went into other pathways, working in retail, management, marketing and sales but even while I was doing these other career paths, I remained working with animals in some capacity at local animal shelters or various animal groups in my community, I sat on different boards and worked at animal events. I always had my foot in the animal community in some capacity.
Of course I always lived with a variety of animals like dogs, cats and alpacas. When two of my dogs started to get older, I would take them to the vet and even though it was great to do checkups and make sure that their health was good and stable physically, some of the medications and things that doctors would prescribe had side effects for my animals that I wasn’t comfortable with them having. I felt there had to be a better way to help them age more gracefully and I started researching different alternative medicine options for them. I found essential oils to be really helpful and also found Healing Touch for Animals® (HTA). I started taking the first course, then I took a second course and it really made a difference in my animals comfort level. They were all rescue dogs so they had anxieties and a past that we didn’t know about and just being able to give them some comfort and stress relief, as well as pain relief, using energy work and to see that difference was really helpful for my own pets.
I continued to take these courses, there are six levels of this coursework for HTA which was like going to school all over again and is expensive. I questioned why I wasn’t doing this as a job-working with animals all the time- as this is something that I am drawn to, that I am good at and that I enjoy – and the animals need and want this work too.
I then went part time with my sales job at the time and during COVID, I got laid off from that job and decided to go ahead and go full time with this business. Instead of it being just something I use on my own pets or friends and families’ pets, I am now working my own business full time doing energy work on animals. It has been a good journey.
For anyone who has had a close relationship with an animal it would be clear that animals have recognition, memory, decision-making abilities, intelligence and a wide range of emotions. Could you tell us a bit about your own experience of this and how you connect with animals?
Animals completely experience and feel life much like we do. They have an amazing gift to live in the moment and provide unconditional love but just because they can be in that moment doesn’t mean that they don’t have a past or remember past situations or moments in in their life. They are very intelligent.
Anybody who’s lived with a dog, cat or any animal in close proximity knows that intelligence. My favorite story is we had a Blue Heeler Australian Shepherd mix named Freddy who was very smart. We lived on five acres, with an interior fence. As a puppy Freddy would find a way to escape every time, he would open door latches, he would dig under, he would remove boards and he would climb over. Each time as we repaired the fence, Freddy would watch to see how to do the reverse of what we were doing.
We would come home and every evening Freddy would be sitting on the front porch. Our neighbors had horses so he would go roll in the horse poop and then sit on our porch when we got home like he’d just had the best day. He was so smart to be able to work through situations to escape every time. He was never in any harm and always stayed home but would just go say hi to the neighbors and such, he needed an outlet for that intelligence. We got him into Agility and Rally, which is similar to Agility with commands and being able to do that mental stimulation for him was so important, it helped him focus and calm down. He stopped running away, because he had another job and was tired mentally from all the thinking in his exercises.
I hear stories like that from people all the time of how smart their dog is, or how smart their cat is. Freddy then became blind at an early age, he lost his vision at around three years old but whenever we would go somewhere new he would memorize the layout of where we were. Where we lived, he memorized every single tree and every single piece of furniture in the house and he walked like he could see, people didn’t know he was completely blind. We would take him to the river and throw a stick and he’d hear where the stick would fall in the river, jump in and swim to grab it then bring it back to our voice. He was so smart and could problem solve. We learned a lot from Freddy.
For emotions, animals do feel, they love, they’re happy, they’re sad, they can get confused, they get excited and often their emotions are very tied to the people and the situations that they live in. Animals are often a mirror of ourselves. If you are having some type of issue with your pets, it helps to look at yourself, what is going on with you, or in your household that may be disrupting those emotions and feelings of your pet, causing them to act out in behaviors that maybe you’re not comfortable with them doing in your home. It is helpful to reevaluate what your pet is experiencing around them. A lot of times, our biggest mistake is not letting our animals know what’s going on. It sounds funny to say you talk to your animals and even though a lot of people do talk to their animals all the time, to actually communicate with them about the changes that are happening.
Something I deal with a lot are situations where people have moved and their animals are anxious and just not the same in the new home. I’ll do an energy session with communication and explain to this animal, it’s your new home, your people are here, you’re safe, you’re cared for and their animal goes completely back to their old selves. They just needed to have that understanding and communication. They needed to feel balanced because their energy field was very erratic if their human’s energy fields were very erratic from moving and being unsettled. If you can just talk with them, it makes a really big difference. If you have personal stuff going on, let’s say you have a job you are not happy with and you are bringing home that stress from work every day, your animal may start showing physical signs of stress, maybe they don’t eat, have an upset stomach, or they’re having a behavior that is inappropriate. They’re taking on your stress and you just need to let them know that it’s not their job to do that. Their job is not to worry about paying the bills and going to work-their job is to love and support you. Having those conversations are where I can help facilitate for people and their animals to communicate..
What are the more popular aspects that your clients seek guidance on?
I help clients with a lot of health issues with their pets. I have several clients whose animals have illnesses, a seizure disorder or autoimmune disorder, who have taken their animal to the veterinarian that has been unable to determine what is wrong and the owners, panicked or upset by this point know something is wrong, but don’t know exactly what. They want to help them and want them to feel better.
For general old age, aches and pains and arthritis, energy work is very healing.
As animals age, us as their caregivers face those decisions of end of life and the transition process. I work with a lot of clients as their pets are going through that process, helping them and their pets through communication so they can understand that it is okay to move on and that their humans will be okay. A lot of times pets have anxiety about leaving, because their humans or are so upset about it, so one on one communication with the owner and the pet really helps everybody have some peace around the situation.
The other thing that I see a lot is dogs that have high anxiety. For example, with COVID, people being home a lot more and then not home as much and this causes a lot of uncertainty. Dogs definitely pick up on that and experience anxiety around changing schedules as people go back to work or as situations change. Behavior issues can develop because of those anxieties.
What other key services do you offer?
Aside from energy work I do animal communication as well. I am able to provide a balanced energy field and help them be in a state of calm. I can then have conversations with them. I ask the owner specifically what questions they have for their pet or what they want their pet to understand as sometimes people don’t necessarily have questions, they just want their pet to know something. Once we’ve balanced that energy field, I am able to do that communication.
I also use essential oils and teach owners how to use these as it is different using essential oils on an animal versus a person.
I offer sound and vibration therapy. Vibrational therapy is helpful especially for arthritis or pain and then I offer space clearings and also pet sitting for pets that have a little more specific needs than the average pet out there.
Lastly, what has been the most inspiring or memorable moment for you in your profession?
I am inspired every time I work with an animal. It is amazing to see the shift that happens as their energy field comes into balance. They become very calm and relaxed, a lot of the times they are intently listening and looking at me trying to integrate and understand what this change in their body is, that feels good to them. Countless times I arrive in a new client’s home where I’ve never met the animal before and they will walk up to me, lay down at my feet and they’re ready – ready to go to work. That is very humbling and inspiring to me that they are allowing me to be part of their space, it is really special for me.
One of my most memorable clients I worked on was when a cat saw his owner take his own life and the cat was then in a foster home. The foster lady knew the cat before the owner had passed away so she knew the cat’s personality. The cat was no longer friendly or meowing or like it used to be, talkative and playful. It would just sit down on a couch with its back turned and not listen and ignore and it didn’t have a very good appetite. The foster wanted to try something before this cat moved on to his next home, because he was completely different and thought he had real trauma from what he witnessed. I arrived, the cat got off his couch, walked over to me and laid down right in front of me, starting to purr and stretch out and I did my energy work with him. We communicated about what he experienced and how it wasn’t his fault and the next steps. He communicated back with me and was able to tell me how angry he was. He hadn’t actually had any trauma, he was just very angry at being left, he thought he had found his forever home, because he was adopted not too long before this happened. He was just upset that this person would leave him and so to explain to this cat, why those things happen and how humans work a little differently, they think a little differently than animals do – It’s not as clear cut for all of us sometimes. I explained his new role coming up in the new home that he was headed to with a timeline. That evening, the foster took a picture of him rubbing against her, he was eating and completely back to the cat she used to know. Two weeks later, she sent me a video and the cat was just so happy like night and day. To hear those success stories and to hear people be able to see those shifts in their animals for the positive is memorable for me. That is very inspiring and keeps me going every day to do this.