Friday, 6 March 2015

Having an extra pair of hands – or maybe paws

I’ve been happily busy over the past couple of weeks with lots of new dogs to meet and help plus my regulars. There has been a wide variety of issues, sizes and problems to treat. But yesterday, when I had two extremely differing dogs, I realised how, whatever the breed, size or issue, I inevitably get some extra help - from the dog itself. It is like I am getting an extra pair of hands, or paws, to help me. And it happens very quickly. It doesn’t necessarily take several sessions before the dog decides that they know better than I do. It can happen on the first occasion. 

Yesterday I went to my regular surgery at Paws, Play & Stay Dog Hotel to see, amongst others, the wee Milly and big Unni. I had seen and treated Milly once before whereas Onni was new to me. 

Little Milly
Milly has three big brothers, all gorgeous Huskies. Their owner, Gary, takes them all out on runs – not short runs, but real runs. He hosts CaniCross at the Dog Hotel. Although Milly is small, she can keep up with her bigger brothers. Because of this she has extremely well developed leg muscles. The other day, like all small dogs do, she was keeping the bigger chaps in their place and jumped a bit too far. This felt her with a slight soreness and limp in her front left leg. I was asked if I could help to ease out the tension. 

Milly giving me a helping paw
As before, the therapy session was done with Milly sitting/lying in my lap on the sofa. I remembered from the first time that she loved her neck massage so started there to get her relaxed and ready for the rest of her treatment session. But this time, she decided to lay on her tummy and stretch out her left leg – the one she was limping on – as though to say “And it also hurts here Dr Les….so I’ll give you a hand (paw)”. Who was I to ignore the advice of the dog? So, I massaged that area and around her chest muscles as requested by Milly. 

I worked on the rest of her too just in case there were areas of compensatory injury so she did eventually turn over for me. At the end of the session she chased one of her brothers who had come to watch, around the surgery without any sign of limping or discomfort. Thanks for the help Milly. 

Then it was the turn of big Onni – a 70 kg Pyrenean Mastiff. As well as being big, Onni only spoke Finnish which is not a language I have any knowledge of. Fortunately his owner translated everything for me. Onni displayed a rather raised hunch on his back towards his tail and walked rather stiffly particularly at the back end. Initial palpation of that area revealed very tight muscles, which could well be because of his size. His owner said that he had recently been pulling with his front legs when walking rather than pushing from the rear legs, which fits with this stiffness. Now how to massage a dog as big as a small pony? Certainly not by sitting them in my lap on the sofa. He was not too happy about lying on the floor (despite me giving him two massage mats to fit) so Unni started to receive his treatment standing up. 

Onni nice and straight again after his therapy
However, after about 15 minutes of warming, exploratory moves, Onni decided that he wanted to sit down backing into me. This gave me total access to his back muscles which seemed to be the cause of his mobility issues. He was helping me again – even though he didn’t understand a word I was saying. By sitting down with his back towards me, I was able to really get into those tight muscles without them being extended by him standing up as they were not supporting his weight. It didn’t take long for him to get the idea that I was there to help but that, clearly, I was not quite reaching the areas without assistance. Again, who was I ignore his advice? And by the end of the hour session he got up and walked around the surgery wiggling his bottom as though to say “Look Mum…look what I can do”. His owner sent me a message later that day saying “Thank you so much for today - when we walked home Onni had a right spring in his step and moved beautifully, can't wait for his next session, until then I will keep maintaining his muscles and working on the tight back at home”. 

It never fails to make me smile how quickly you can gain the trust of a dog and how they know to help – without being told to. Looking back through many of the pictures of the dogs I have treated over the past years, I now notice that they often have legs in the air for me, or are using parts of me as a stretching tool so they can really extend their legs – like Bodhi, the Husky, giving me his paw or even little three-legged Ollie balancing on his remaining front leg, rather than lying down which I would have thought would be more comfortable, so that we can work on his achy back.   Sometimes I even get double help such as when I was treating Buzz, the collie/lurcher.  His owner was sitting down with me and we BOTH got a stretched leg, hers was the front leg and I got a rear leg.  It was like massaging Superman in full flight with his arms stretched out.

Bodhi giving me a stretch

Ollie balancing on his one front leg so we could reach his back

And it is not just me that seems to get the “No…this bit please” treatment. Once the dogs have realised the benefits of massage therapy and their owners have been given their homework by me, their dogs start demanding bits that they want massaged. Gary was telling me that their Huskies now push their back ends into him after a run demanding that he work specifically on that bit. And even senior Hugo who had quite bad arthritis in his wrists and toes now allows his owner to perform some gentle movements on them because he knows it helps. She wrote to me…..“Update on Hugo, just given him a lovely massage- even let me touch his toes! Sleeping & snoring slightly - happy boy!”

Thanks to all the dogs that help me – I continue to learn with all your assistance.

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