Friday, 26 April 2019

Directing the session

Many dogs that we work with are ‘back seat drivers’ – telling us which bits they need help with that day. Sometimes the communication is vocal with sighs and purrs. Sometimes it is by a look with their eyes. And sometimes it is by body positioning – shifting their body into just that right way so we can get to the issue. 

Roo the Golden Doodle Tripawd is the master at this. He spends a lot of his hour massage adjusting his position so that Chris can fully work on his compensatory tight chest and shoulder muscles. Then he’ll give a long stretch so Chris can work along his spinal muscles. And even lifts up his hind legs so we can work inside his adductors. But every now and again, he looks up to make sure Chris has ‘got the spot’. 

Thanks Roo…we’ve got you! 

Wednesday, 10 April 2019

Thinking outside the box - Canine Partner Bentley

Handsome Bentley is a Canine Partner dog – he assists his Mum with lots of household tasks. Things like getting the washing out of the machine, clearing up the laundry, taking socks off, opening doors and other remarkable things. We delivered a massage training session last year to 12 of the Canine Partner instructors and their dogs. 

Bentley is 2 in May this year – the same day as my birthday (except I’m not 2) so I had fallen in love with him already. 

His aftercare instructor at Canine Partners felt he was showing signs of muscular discomfort. He was very body sensitive, and avoidant of touch in certain areas. She asked if I could go and visit. When I spoke to his Mum beforehand, she explained a bit more. She said he is hit and miss with pressing the lift button and road crossing buttons. Both these movements involve him stretching or jumping up and hitting the button with either his paw or nose. But is fine with the lower light buttons. Clues? 
He also mainly walks to the left of his Mum when they are out and spends a lot of that working time looking forward or up at her. More clues? 

He has been a Partner since the end of last year and has already endeared himself to his Mum. She said that when he arrived, she had a strict not-on-the-bed policy. But now when she wakes up, she invariably finds him snuggling next to her and before they get up, he demands his morning cuddle. 

Despite his amazing abilities (at one stage I dropped my phone case on the floor – he immediately went and picked it up for me and Mum says he often clears up the discarded clothes left behind in shop changing rooms) he is still young and playful. 

It was evident something was causing him to react when his back was touched. He was fine with his neck, chest and shoulders but uncomfortable mid back. Just as I was feeling it, his Mum said that she had felt a hot spot right where my hands went which is exactly what I was finding. Clever Mum. Put this palpation together with the clues and it would suggest he may have over-pulled or over-stretched at some stage which has led to a stiff back. Imagine your shoulder is sore and you’re being asked to reach up to press a button. You’re going to think a bit about it – hit and miss. 

As well as massage for him, which Mum can do on the bed or sofa, his Mum and I had to do some Out of the Box thinking on how to help him stretch his back. We couldn’t do any floor work. Luckily Bentley loves treats – he is a Labrador after all. To get him to stand and stretch, we raised the treat while he was standing up to her lap in the chair, and Bentley’s nose followed – which pulled his whole body upwards creating space in his back. We couldn’t do Figure of Eight walking to get him turning but we could play a newly invented exercise game - the Round the Wheelchair game. Mum held the treat out and moved it round one side of the chair then swapped hands and moved it the other side – Bentley followed like his nose was glued to the treat. Worked a treat, you could see his back becoming more mobile. 

We’re going to add him to our maintenance programme to keep that handsome young body supple and healthy.

Monday, 8 April 2019

Scheduling maintenance therapy - the benefits

Edie is one of our 3 monthly girls. She’ll be 12 shortly but apart from some silver in her beautiful face and a slight rear leg issue, she is moving well. And this time she felt awesome. No stresses or tension in her back which is her usual problem. 

We had to postpone her appointment a few weeks ago as she decided to eat something quite unsavoury which must have been yummy and went down well, but came back out the next day. Definitely not the ideal health state for manual therapy. 

She is on a low dose of Gabapentin and also Rimadyl plus monthly acupuncture with vet Guy from Coastway. That plus the regular physical therapy is doing the trick and keeping her mobile. She even has a 2 year Rottweiler puppy as her new best friend. He clearly sees her gorgeousness too. 

She has a walk in the morning when she decides whether that is ‘her for the day’ or she might decide she wants a short walk as well in the evening. But it is Edie who chooses what is best – as it should be. 

She is an ‘up and down’ girl too. Massage is in 5 to 10 minute bursts with lots of goofing Labradorness in between. That’s fine.  She should be allowed to choose how much she can take or needs. 

Typically though, just as the session reaches 60 minutes, she decides that it’s time for snoozes and settles down. You can see from the pictures that she is barely keeping her eyes open. 

Even a single session, scheduled regularly, can release muscle & fascial tension and maintain mobility. Consider these sessions as “tune-ups”. They can be scheduled like Edie, or arranged when necessary – before an event, before/after a holiday, before/after surgery or even when a new dog is coming into the house like Charlie & Ziggy. 

Don’t worry about contacting us for a therapy session if there doesn’t seem anything wrong at the moment – we don’t make you sign up for a series, many benefits can be achieved from a single session.

Wednesday, 3 April 2019

Working as a team - canine carers and therapist

It’s always encouraging when a difference in a dog is so evident after just one treatment session. These improvements are even more pronounced when the carer takes everything on board that we demonstrate and talk about. In the first session, we don’t just perform appropriate therapy but also demonstrate what to do to help in between sessions, suitable exercise, how to recognise muscle tone, gait, stance and therefore, monitor change and progression. All in the same session. Plus, this is all followed up with a personalised workbook for revision and homework. 

Roo and her carers were a perfect example of this co-operation. I first visited 8 year old rescue collie Roo a few weeks ago. Previous to rescue, she had a rear leg operation but no rehabilitation. Her new carers wanted to put an appropriate plan in place now. 

At that time, Roo was anxious and very clear on which bits were the OK bits to touch and which were off limits. 

This time – a new girl. Straight into massage pose. Sitting with her Mum - confident, assured and trusting. I didn’t need to ask whether they’d been doing their homework – Roo was showing me they had. 

Mum said that she now has daily massage in bursts – Roo doesn’t sit still for a full 15 minutes. But when she is still, her Mum switches on Therapist Mode and “consciously thinks about touch rather than petting”. The other day there was a big success. Now, this sound minor to some of you who can touch their dogs where you like, but Roo had to learn about trust and that touch could be helpful. But, as her Mum said, “She actually gave me her rear end to me to work on……I can’t remember her ever giving me that before”. Roo clearly felt confident in doing so and trusting that Mum now knows what to do. And at the end of the session this time, she was rolling on her back, exposing her belly, making soppy noises in, what her Mum called a “sexy sassy look” 

Her walks are longer now, although she can be a little stiff the next day after a very long one. It’s still a balance of her being an unstoppable collie and keeping to sensible distances during this rehabilitation stage. But that is progressive learning. 

Her muscles felt like a new dog too. She really was a totally different girl. This is where a care plan involving therapist carer and dog can make so much difference. Her Mum said “…. Thanks for showing us how to love her in better way. ❤️” 

An added benefit is that Roo’s Mum said that she now finds herself looking at friends dogs and thinking (aloud) “Oh…that muscle is less well developed than that one – have you noticed?” Keep spreading the word! 

And keep on trusting your Mum and Dad Roo, you should be so proud of them. I know I am.