Holistic animal behavior therapist, Coach, Author and Presentator and Founder of Toscanzahoeve and Therapy Animal vzw
What do you believe in?
I was brought up as a Catholic, but have always been very interested in the natural world. Many things can be rationally and scientifically explained, but not everything. I am referring to the hidden aspects of reality, not the sensory aspects of life. Not everything can be explained logically but still there is much we accept and believe. Every week there are new scientific discoveries and this is one reason why I chose to be aware, open minded and respectful in my daily life. This not being woolly minded but being open to new and sometimes even illogical things, and with respect for all forms of life.
I am very interested in esotericism, herbalism, druïsme and shamanism, but that doesn’t mean that I cannot be very businesslike and rational in my day to day life. It is a matter of balance between feelings, emotions and common sense.
I am kept extremely busy, coping with everything and I am certainly no push over.
Talk to us about love.
I’m lucky because every day the animals in my life allow me to share their unconditional love. I have my loving parents, Lucienne and Jos and a much loved younger sister Ella, we support each other through thick and thin and my mother is my ‘right hand man,’ my mainstay.
I am one of the lucky ones, having and, having had, wonderful people in my life, (friendships and relationships) all with their own qualities and I learned a lot from each and every one.
What makes you really angry?
Waste, fraud, slander and animal abuse!
What’s really important, essential for you?
Nature and animals are essential in my life, and certainly Raico and Beijo now.
As a highly sensitive person I sometimes need to step away, to create a cocoon for myself, taking and savouring moments of rest and silence. This is vital not only for me but for my family.
Freedom is very important.
What would you most like to share with others?
My knowledge, my energy, my “out-of-the-box thinking, my holistic vision, my respect and esteem. I try not to judge and always look at others with compassion. However beware, I am not to be trifled with. Do not mess with me.
What is ‘quality of life?’
Quality of life is all about balance between work and your private life; your ambitions, your goals, realising your mission in life, being decisive, being able to relax and enjoy yourself and also to be open to new experiences, to be able to slow down and enjoy the quiet. It is about Ying and Yang or in North American cultures, this is also known as the blue and red path.
Which achievement are you most proud of?
Toscanzahoeve. The name is derived from Tosca (the dog) and farm (parental home).
Toscanzahoeve came into being after my dog,Tosca, was brutally killed. Our former neighbor did not want him in “his street” he was unable to understand my dog’s behavior so he killed him. I then swore I would do my best to educate people so that this would not happen again, I want to help bring people closer to a better understanding of their animals. The sharing of knowledge, coaching people so that they understand their animals and also so that they understand the importance of the link between humans and animals is still an important motivation.
I do what I love to do, that gives me inspiration. I have made my hobby my profession. Moreover, I like independent freedom in creativity, choosing my own working hours, etc… I do my own thing and do not have to rely on taking from others.
Having my first book published was a great feeling. It was the birth of my first child ;-).
What gives you energy?
Doing the things I like to do
Enjoying a hug from a loved one
Doing something physical that I enjoy
Going for a walk in nature
A new creative idea
Travel and other culture!
What is your concept of time?
I was taught that time is about priorities…
Time is precious, it should not be squandered.
Despite accepting the influence of my past and keeping my eyes on the future, I try to focus more on the here and now, in the way that animals do, but it isn’t easy!
Have you ever doubted about an important decision?
Life consists of constant decisions because life is not stationary but full of changes. Change and evolve, the natural flow and cycle of things … It is not always easy, sometimes I just want things to stay as they are. But I have learned that I at all times have the freedom to make a new choice.
We create our own reality from our dreams and consequent actions. Sometimes I’m too stubborn and I get knocked back, I can’t have everything I want…
What was a major turning point in your life?
They say that your life and your body reach turning points every so often, mostly every seven years. I sometimes feel as though I am the fast lane on a highway rather than on an ordinary road. Things happen in quick succession, and everything has its impact.
The death of my grandparents was certainly an important event. Winning a nomination contest, going to study in the university of Antwerp, the accidental death of my friend Wendy, my bad car accident, resulting in serious injury, the killing of my dog Tosca, starting my own business Toscanzahoeve, having a place of my own, Raico being diagnosed with cancer, the birth of my three godchildren, accepting the fact that I am highly sensitive and the diagnosis of ME, my first book, …
They are certainly all important events and in consequence turning points in my life. I am not a victim but believe that these events are a force for healing, learning and so on. Each crisis and change provides an opportunity and life brings you beautiful gifts. I have no control over what happens but I can decide how I deal with what happens.
What is your biggest fear?
Previously I would have said “being alone”, but I learn to deal with it and I can even enjoy it. The darkness is less scary than during my childhood. Perhaps death and the loss of loved ones? They always say that clinging on to something gives a false sense of security. Letting go is definitely a theme in my life. A life without animals would really be my biggest fear!
What is your happiest memory?
Seeing and caring for newborn animals on the farm of my parents as a child.
What important things have your relationships with animals and men taught you?
That men like dogs are trainable, but only to a certain extent because the genetic material also plays a big role! Being able to accept things as they are is certainly applicable to both. The big difference is that men take care of themselves and that for animals we must take responsibility.
In general, animals and people are not so different from each other. Desmond Morris wrote that people are naked apes. Many of the original behaviors of monkeys are still in our make up. We react in the same way to fear: flight, freeze or fight. Also in terms of emotions and consciousness we humans do not differ much from our pets. This is something we need to deal with, especially when I think of themes such as factory farming, animal testing, eating meat, animal welfare etc..
How do you keep healthy?
I am very conscious of the need to be and remain healthy. I use herbs instead of medication if possible, I do not eat meat, I try to exercise, I do not smoke and I enjoy the occasional glass of wine or a lager.
I try to meditate regularly. That does not have to be a complicated ritual, breathing exercises are sufficient. It calms my body and mind.
Are you easily satisfied with what you have?
Although I love beautiful things and taking care of myself, I can enjoy and be satisfied with small things. A rainbow in the sky, a butterfly on a flower, a pat on the shoulder from a friend, a hug from my beloved, a cozy small house, a walk in the woods, a good book … I can enjoy all of these simple things. However I am also ambitious and energetic and love to give free rein to my imagination: to write, to present things, to make new discoveries and travel. Sometimes I don’t take the time to savour what I have achieved and I am already rushing off to start something new. I can be very strict with myself. Luckily who I am is not the same as what I do.
Which animal would you compare yourself to?
With a tiger. Sensual and feminine but powerful. Independent.
You need to put gloves on to handle me.
I am a woman with many abilities and what you see is what you get.
How is it that animals become sick or have behavioral problems?
I employ the method of the Animal Mirror ®. I believe and indeed experience daily that pets will assume and thereby mirror an owner’s emotions or illness.
Hence I work with animals and their owners, training, coaching, educating and supporting both. I believe in a supportive way of working, not in being judgmental or reprimanding.
When people are hungry, do not feed them fish, teach them how to catch fish.
I myself learn from the animals I encounter on my path.
Positive and negative qualities?
I believe in the power of words and thoughts. So I prefer not to think of any of my characteristics as negative. Positive and negative are in any case subjective experiences …
A less positive trait is being rather serious. I take myself and the things often (too) seriously and would like to be able to lighten up. I do not like sarcasm, I do not see sarcasm as being humorous. I think this is because i have a very real sense of responsibility.
A positive feature is definitely my care and sensitivity. I can easily empathize with people and situations.
Can you easily forget and forgive?
I referred once before to people and events in my childhood. I realize that this is definitely one point I might need to work. I’m only human … Animals are much better!
Are people sometimes critical of you?
Of course. You can not please everyone, no matter how much you may want to. However I am only accountable to myself. I have a certain vision of things and often do pioneering work. I can not insist that everyone has the same vision or even hope that they are ready to share this vision at the same time that I do. I’m open to others or their opinions. It also gives me the opportunity to learn from others and this can only help me to grow.
What are your hopes for the future?
I hope for an ever deepening connection between humans, animals and nature.