Referring to my previous post: 2020lifeisnotarace, this is the message I put out on social media explaining my reasons for closing my business, if you have any questions you would like to ask, please do not hesitate to contact me:
“It feels like yesterday when I left therapy, without a job or plan for the future. However, it’s been just over 2 years, and in that time I approached The Princes Trust and participated in their Enterprise Programme, leading to the launch of my very own business!
At the time I didn’t know where I was going as the path had no signs… I was on an exciting adventure, almost blindfolded by the way. Of course, I had some idea that what I wanted was to work with animals in some way, seeing as I had found so much strength from them during my time in the therapeutic community. This led to me to researching and finally studying animal-assisted therapy. I had a drive to do this, and I felt as though it was exactly what I wanted to do.
Today, I have a business which has been going steady and proudly been raising awareness of the benefits of AAT. It may sound great, but I found myself stuck. I was trying to find other directions in which the business could go, because I found myself doing the same thing in each session, despite my primary aim of engaging in therapeutic interventions to support others. Though, this does not undermine any of the work we have been doing, as it has always been a joy and wonderful experience with enlightening memories and moments – It was just not meeting my personal expectations of what I wanted from my own business.
So, after a bit of deliberation and a push in the right direction, I enrolled onto a university course, as many of you know. I struggled to adapt to a massive change, and this, alongside running a business was bound to have its shortfalls. However, I seemed to just about manage, albeit cutting down the days I would work.
Now, being a student, I seem to be in a position of “finding myself” again. A sense of identity, something I have always struggled with, and something which was approached multiple times during therapy. I don’t mind saying this, because I know that many people find themselves in these shoes.
I’ve done really well at university – I’m not just saying that, I really have! I’ve been engaging and getting involved in as many things as I possibly can to give me the experience, I need to better myself as an individual, (For example: I’ve signed up and trained to be a Peer Mentor and Peer Assisted Learning leader!) and despite the stress and anxiety of getting work done, I’ve excelled beyond my own expectations, that the pressure is on to keep the hard work up for the duration of the course.
Now, it’s not all about me here, because when it comes to running a business which works with animals as the main driving force – There is the responsibility in ensuring that animal welfare is top priority. In fact, it is the reason I am really writing this.
I’ve been keeping a very close eye on Robbie for a while now. I know his mannerisms, and can see when there’s a behavioural change. A behavioural change can be for a number of reasons, including ill-health, depression and even anxiety. It was easy to see the signs when Dylan was unhappy being a therapy bunny anymore as she become agitated and anxious when being handled – Her back legs would tremble, and she began to have similar digestive issues to her mother, which have caused her to be dirty, with us needing to clean her up as much as possible. But with Robbie, he loved his cuddles, and he loved his hopping about time, and as rabbits do, he was munching on food and drinking like a trooper.
When he’s in sessions he was kind and gentle with everyone he greeted. He would tell me when he’d had enough by “scratching/digging” at the pet bed he was in, and I would allow him his chill out time. Robbie was provided with food and water on many occasions, but he would not eat or drink. This is a concern, because rabbits need to graze throughout the day not just to keep their teeth nice and trim, but to keep their sensitive gut moving. With our sessions being short and most being in a very local and short mile radius, Robbie would eat before we would leave, and have access to food whilst he was out, and then be rewarded with special ‘treat’ food we know he loves (basically posh hay, herbs and flowers!), when he gets home to ensure he eats straight away.
We’d do our best to keep the bunnies in the right temperature, which is extremely difficult to do when there’s a heatwave, or it’s freezing cold. The sudden change in temperature can cause rabbits to go into shock, so we ensured there was comfort when needed, and that the car was adequate to the temperature which was familiar with their home setting. It is very difficult to gauge the temperature when visiting a different site. Care homes in particular are known to be very warm, as the slightest breeze could be too cold for a vulnerable resident! Despite a cool mat and fan, there were signs of stress and we would do our utmost to keep them cool, and if it was too hot for a cuddle, he would be observed from his pushchair or pop-up pen.
Now, these things all seem to have a solution to help maintain the well-being of Robbie. However, there is one thing we unfortunately cannot control, and it is something which has become an issue for Robbie for a while… He just does not like the travelling in the carrier. You may think it’d be simple for me to have him on the seat, but it’s not that simple. That’d be against the law for starters, and also be putting him at risk of injury.
Robbie recognises the “signs” of “going to work”. Like humans, when we don’t want to go to work, we can kick up a fuss, particularly if it’s been a late night and maybe you’re hungover, or that you have school kids and stroppy teenagers who just don’t like getting up in the morning to go to school… And this has become Robbie’s problem. He just knows.
There is a difference between me being at home, opening up the pen for them to run about, or for us to feed them or fill up the water bottle, and even clean them out, to me getting my shoes and coat on and grabbing the pet carrier… Which sees Robbie throwing a bunny-strop and hopping away from me and hiding. This is NOT Robbie. It is causing him stress knowing he is needing to go in the carrier to get from A to B. Every journey I will engage with Robbie and reassure him, but when we arrive at the destination, I can see Robbie’s breathing has increased, and that the journey has put him under stress.
Now, as you can see – There are a couple of animal welfare issues which have alarmed us, and that is why we have been doing some serious thinking.
There were several ways of looking at this:
- We find another suitable animal to adopt, who can assist in therapy
- We run the business from home so people can visit for 1-1 or small group sessions
- Robbie stops working
I hope that you can see that two of these just aren’t an option. There’s no room at the inn, so to speak, as we certainly cannot adopt any more animals (as much as we’d love to!!), as we simply do not have the space, and we’re legally not allowed to run the business from home, because not only are they the rules, but it would also be an invasion of privacy and pushing boundaries. Which leaves us with the final point – Robbie stops working.
Ah. Yes. Now I sense shock and disappointment, and you’d be right to feel that way. Why? Because we do too.
Although in my heart I knew what the decision had to be, it was my mind I needed to contend with. I needed to face the reality that when you decide to work with animals, you just never know what could happen.
I couldn’t predict that we would reach this point, especially so soon into the business… But also it makes me realise that sometimes these kinds of experiences and realisations are ones to learn from. After all, I was already starting to make a slight change by heading back to university!
I wanted to go to university and educate people on what Animal Assisted Therapy is, and explain the significant differences between AAT animals and wellbeing animals (which are what many people associate as therapy animals… They are not. They are wellbeing animals). I even wrote my last assignment on several AAT journals and the research about animals in psychiatric settings. It was some interesting reading (if ever you want to find out more, do send me a message!)
I feel as though I reached my decision on what to do, just over a week ago, and that I just needed the courage to put those thoughts into action. Of course, with many sessions booked for the next 6 months (!!!), it was going to be hard to say goodbye.
It would be contradictory of me to continue these sessions, so after a discussion with my business mentor, I have decided that these sessions will no longer go ahead. I must stress that the reasons are because I cannot, and I will not put Robbie through any unnecessary stress, as he doesn’t choose to go. I choose to take him. What he does in the space is be Robbie and we let him do what he freely wants to do as a rabbit.
If I could, I would have my own Animal Sanctuary and AAT Centre, but at the moment this just isn’t feasible and will remain a dream of mine for years to come. It is potentially an achievable goal, so it’s something I will endeavour to fulfil…
These dreams also include new ambitions. I may have only been studying for a few months, but I am beginning to sense new career aspirations, and I’m listening to all those people who have told me over many, many years that I “must do something art-related”. I feel guided towards another Eco-Therapy, and I feel excited at the thought and prospect, and I really hope that you will support my dream and continue to follow my journey, as I aspire to work in the field of Art Therapy.
In regards to Trinity Rose AAT, I am so eternally grateful for the opportunities I have had, and the people I’ve met. I’m grateful to the Prince’s Trust for the help and support, I’m grateful to everyone who has believed in me and supported in me, and I’m grateful for being the luckiest bunny-owner in the world, to have worked with the best bunnies, Robbie and Dylan over our short business run. It’s been an incredible adventure and I endeavour to do it all again, but without a fluffy employee… At least until my sanctuary dream comes true, eh?!
Trinity Rose Animal Assisted Therapy close of business: 20th January 2020.
Social media pages remain open, renamed.
This will be as the journey continues.
Erica and Robbie (and not forgetting Dilly!) “