Animal lover connects human and animal compassion in her TEDx talk

Elizabeth Johnson has worked with the health and wellness of small, large and exotic animals and wildlife for 35 years.  

Elizabeth Johnson with three dogs
Elizabeth Johnson

The Whidbey Island resident will share her views on animals and human compassion in a TEDxSnoIsleLibraries talk, 4 Life Lessons from Our Old Dogs, scheduled for 7 p.m. Aug. 26 in a Zoom-based event that requires registrationThe event will also be shared live on Facebook and YouTube. Event host Phil Klein and Johnson will introduce the pre-recorded TEDx talk followed by a live question-and-answer session. It is scheduled for one hour. 

All TEDxSnoIsleLibraries talks are archived at sno-isle.org/TEDx. 

Johnson started caring for animals as a veterinary technician. She’s spent the past 27 years doing equine and canine bodywork and rehabilitation on competitive, service, military, police, and companion animals. She works from a point of deep clinical understanding, empathy, and compassion for the animal. 

As a practitioner, Johnson sees that each animal’s needs, priorities and personalities, as well as their humans, are different and evaluates this to promote well-being in both the physical and emotional realm of all involved and to find the “health” of each animal. 

She lives on Whidbey Island with her husband, Mark Johnson, DVM, and they enjoy kayaking, hiking, organic gardening and sustainable living practices with their community. 

Why did you want to present a TEDx talk? 

Johnson believes she has a unique perspective and message on aging that could help others navigate a common and often difficult challenge. 

On a Sunday morning as I looked through my local paperI zoomed in on the SnoIsle Libraries ad (for TEDxSnoIsleLibraries speaker proposalsand the world literally shook around me,” she saidI was absolutely compelled to spend that entire day creating my video to send in. It was like a deep purpose and will inside me said, ‘You have to do this thing!’  

What inspired your TEDx talk topic? 

In the process of researching and writing my book The Tao of Old Dogs,’ which speaks to the parallels of aging dogs and aging human compassion and how to navigate the emotionally charged and complicated processes for both, I shared the premise with many people to test its merits,” Johnson saidThere was an amazing amount of people sharing their similar personal stories and wanting to learn more about my message and share it with others. 

I had heard these same stories from clients with aging dogs and aging parents for many years and having been through it myself, had a deep personal understanding of how challenging and hard on the heart it can be,” she said. 

What expectations do you have with your talk? 

I created this from my lifelong purpose of bringing messages from the teachings of the animals to heal and benefit human hearts and minds and ultimately make the world a better, more harmonious place,” Johnson saidI hope that the messages from our old wise dogs will be heard and expand across the globe to bring more patience, acceptance, compassion, and kindness into our daily interactions with others. 

What have you learned from this experience? 

Johnson was helping treat a friend’s horse with severe colic on March 7 when the horse kicked her in the face, resulting in a traumatic brain injury and spinalcord trauma.  

As I lay on the ground, the first thing I did was wiggle my toes and thank God, and my second thought was, ‘Oh (crap), my Ted talk! I knew in that shocky moment, how deeply important it was for me to relay this message to the world,” Johnson said. 

Working on my talk message, script, and videos was a pivotal part of my brain and speech healing and I am so grateful to my wonderful coaches, Brian Trendler, Phil Klein, and Tom Stenzel of TEDx Bozeman, and my husband Mark for their patience, compassion, and unwavering faith in my process,” she said.  

I also learned that with our careful choosing of message, words, and delivery, we can help others heal and think outside of the box, even during this time of distancing and turmoil.