Saturday, February 20, 2016

Take A Deep Breath

“Tell me where it hurts”, the masseuse asks me, and I gladly reply without hesitation, “everywhere”. And with that said, I close my eyes, take a deep breath, relax my muscles, and let the 55 minute healing session begin.

We all have pain, back pain, neck pain, migraines, tendinitis, arthritis, and yet the list of places that it dwells seems never-ending.  And it comes as no surprise that the root cause lies within the routine activities of our everyday lives -- stress, jobs, accidents, aging, surgery -- just to name a few. We go to the doctor, we take medication, we do sports, we self-diagnose thru google, and even after all of that, when we start to feel a little bit better, we say a small prayer of thanks for the temporary relief, and then go back to holding our breath until the next joint starts to ache. But every once in a while, when the rhythm of life slows down, and we find the time to stand still for 60 minutes, we indulge in one of life’s greatest guilty pleasures, and treat ourselves to a massage at the spa.

Now, while all of this makes perfect sense to us as human beings, how often do we consider doing the same thing for our pets? Dogs don’t work from 9 to 5, cats don’t get into automobile accidents, hamsters don’t tear their ACL playing football, and parrots certainly don’t get headaches from listening to their colleagues drone on about their crazed teenagers.  Nevertheless, believe it or not, massaging and stretching your pet can have lifelong benefits on their overall health, especially since they age at a much faster rate than we do.

Nathalie Jansen, founder of Fitdog, and veterinary acupuncturist, Dr. Theresa Miceli, periodically conduct dog massage and stretching seminars, aimed at teaching people the importance and benefits of massage, as well as how to properly perform the techniques on their own. The workshop is held at their location in Steinsel, Luxmebourg, and typically last around 3 hours. Participants are encouraged to bring their well-behaved and sociable dogs so that they can practice the techniques on their own dogs, and the dogs of others. And even though the anatomy of each dog is the same, the feeling and how the technique is applied can vary dramatically from breed to breed.

A presentation is prepared for each participant as part of the course material, and distributed at the beginning of the class. The material includes an agenda, notes, essential facts, technique directions and guidance, principals, contraindications, and benefits. There were 4 massage and 3 stretching techniques, each explained in detail and then demonstrated on a dog, after which each participant has the chance to duplicate the instruction with the assistance and under the supervision of Nathalie and Theresa.

I attended the course held on February 20, 2016, partially out of curiosity, but also because my dog is approaching her senior years, and I want to be as knowledgeable as possible about the potential problems that could occur, and what I can do to prevent them or at least recognize signs of distress. To my surprise, many of the other participants were there for the same reason, even if they had a much younger dog. I can honestly say that I thoroughly enjoyed the workshop, and have come away from it with an era of confidence that I didn’t have before, and an eagerness to test out my newly developed skills as soon as I got home.

I strongly believe that Nathalie and Theresa have developed something truly unique, and hope that the word continues to spread and the interest continues to grow. It’s too often that therapy is overlooked as a complementary treatment in addition to regular medication and veterinary treatments/operations, and it’s entrepreneurial establishments like Fitdog, that strive to enlighten individuals about the multitude of options and resources available. But the bottom line is, that Nathalie and Theresa can’t do it alone. It’s up to pet owners to do the research, educate themselves, and act accordingly. And like the timeless cliché says, you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.

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