The earthy scent is mild and pleasant upon entering what resembles a living room. There are hints of cypress and sage in the air, and the interior is warm: a white sofa, accent chair and an area rug. There’s a dog bed on the floor and pet photos line the walls. Natural light filters in through large windows. It’s the kind of inviting environment that evokes a therapist’s office, but in this case the therapists – Cheryl Beller, a holistic phyto-aromatherapist, and Adrienne Herman, a pet therapist – tend to animals, not humans.
The two became partners in 2018, sharing a location for their two distinct lines of services: Beller specializes in aromatherapy while Herman is an animal communicator and alternative healer.
“Part of it is just listening to what the four-leggeds have to say,” Herman says. “Just like with people, often times being heard is enough to change lives.”
Herman, who grew up on a ranch with goats, cattle and rabbits, says she’s always had an aptitude for understanding animals’ emotional and mental energy, and was surprised to learn, around age 50, that other people didn’t share the ability. “I think all of us have that ability to some degree, if we wish to acknowledge it,” she adds.
Herman starts by observing behaviors she says most people are able to pick up on (such as a tail between the legs). Then she moves from observing to listening. Many clients are rescues who were abused, and Herman says their communication to her is like a hologram of moving images that gives the story of what happened before they were adopted.
She then recommends a treatment plan, which sometimes means simple changes for an owner: walking a dog to a specific destination, or taking a horse out on the trails with only certain other horses. She might suggest homeopathy or supplements. And there’s aromatherapy, a type of therapy that makes use of scents, often derived from plants.
“Aromatherapy is so effective that I recommend it to almost every client with behavioral or emotional imbalances and many with medical issues,” Herman says of her referrals to Beller. “This probably amounts to about 75 to 80 percent of my clients.”
Those clients include horses with behavioral issues, aggressive dogs, cats who refuse to eat if anyone else is around. Beller and Herman have treated rabbits, goats, domestic rats. One male rat was so skittish he wouldn’t let his owner touch him. “Cheryl created a blend for him to be more friendly toward his person,” Herman says.
Beller makes blends with different properties, for use by both pet and human. (All are meant for topical application, not ingestion.) Some popular blends have names like “accepting dog,” “calm dog,” “confident dog,” “dogs and cats together,” and “thunder and fireworks,” in addition to custom blends. She uses a dropper to apply the scent to her fingertips, then rubs behind a client’s ears and on the top of its head.
“The individual oils each have their own personality, probably 20 attributes each for physical, mental and emotional issues,” Beller says. “When you start mixing them is where you start getting the synergy. Depending on proportions, you create something new. It’s an art and a science.”
Sweet basil is popular for dogs to create a sense of belonging to a community, she says. “Calm dog” is floral with marjoram, chamomile and geranium. The valerian root in “accepting dog” is potent and less pleasing to people, but horses don’t mind it. Beller applies just one drop to her 13-pound poodle bichon mix, Mikki; he and Henry both get “traveling dog” before car trips.
The duo knows their approach sounds pretty out there, and it often requires winning over humans to start. (And it can be more costly than a vet consultation; Herman’s hourly rate is $120. Beller’s is $100, but she also sells blends for $30-$35.)
“I’m usually a last resort for behavioral and physical issues,” Herman says. “Sometimes people will come to me because the vet can’t figure out what’s wrong. Oftentimes there’s a couple, and one is more open to alternative therapies and one is really skeptical and thinks this is crazy woo-woo stuff. The proof’s in the pudding: If it works, they tend to change their tune.”
Herman recalls Flash, a black cat at Animal Friends Rescue Project, who refused to come out from under a blanket in the crate.
“That cat was never going to get adopted because nobody was even going to see Flash,” Herman says. “Cheryl made a blend that was absolutely magical. On my next visit, a week and a half later, that cat was walking around outside the cage, rubbing against people’s legs.” Soon after, Flash was adopted.