Wednesday, March 6, 2013
Jonesy: Small Steps are Big Steps
Jonesy is a beautiful, soulful dog who is extremely fearful. Underneath his fear is an affectionate, sweet, and truly loving being.
Jonesy's people, Kate and Griffin, adopted him about a year and a half ago (he is now 2) from the ASPCA upstate - he had come from a shelter down south.
New York City is an extremely stressful environment for any animal or human, but with a dog who is as sensitive and fearful as Jonesy is, it is absolutely terrifying to walk on the streets. Looking at it from his point of view, everywhere you turn is another unfamiliar sound or sight and it all seems very threatening and hostile. Jonesy is comfortable when he is at his people's place upstate, but trying to walk him in NYC is very difficult for him and for his people. Jonesy is so scared that he shakes and just wants to turn around and go back home. He is not aggressive at all, he just wants to get away from whatever is scaring him.
Jonesy's people have been doing whatever they can to help him feel comfortable and safe, given the situation, and I started working with Jonesy last week.
In our first appointment, I wanted to really come in with a neutral attitude, and let Jonesy know that I am there to help him. Before I entered the apartment, I made sure to quiet my energy. When I entered the apartment, I lowered my body position, kneeling on the floor sideways to where he was. I told him in a quiet voice that I was there to help him, and did not move towards him.
Then we did a wonderful exercise, the "chair exercise", that was developed by one of my TTouch teachers, Kathy Cascade (http://sanedogtraining.com/), whose specialty is fearful, reactive dogs, and from whom I always get great advice. Her techniques, in combination with the TTouches, are so helpful -- really life-changing -- for these dogs, as well as for their people. And now she has an online course so you can learn from her no matter where you live. Please have a look at her website to check this out. And of course if you can take a class with her in person, do it!
So now to the "chair exercise". I sat in a chair with a neutral attitude and very quiet energy. Kate had Jonesy on a leash and harness and walked him up to me. I dropped a treat on the ground for Jonesy, then she walked him away again. We did this a couple of times, and Jonesy was comfortable enough to take the treat from my hand, so we did that a few times. Each time she walked him away again after he got the treat, so it is a brief event and he knows he is not being forced to stay there, that he gets to go away again. After a couple of times of him taking the treat from my hand, he was more at ease, so I did a few TTouches with the back of my hand on his back around his shoulder area. As touching him was a new thing, I just did the few TTouches and then she walked him away again.
Then I gave him a break, and showed Kate a number of TTouches on a small stuffed dog sothat she will be able to do them on him. Then I had her do a few of the TTouches on Jonesy. I explained to her that it is very beneficial to take a few deep breaths and calm ourselves before starting to work on the animal, as the animal will pick up on our energy.
Kate picked up the TTouches very well, and Jonesy's body began to relax almost immediately. After that, since Jonesy was more at ease, I was able to work with him a bit. Then we gave him another break, and I showed Kate how to do a TTouch half wrap (see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N83oXBZy0KM&list=UUwClW-vMPW6i_UFDkXXayEA&index=33 for demo). When Kate called to Jonesy so we could do the wrap, he came right to where we were and came towards me as if for more TTouch. So I did a bit more on him. I really did just a few TTouches at a time, but each time after a break he seemed ready for more. He was a little nervous at first with the wrap on but it did seem to take him down a notch after a few minutes. He went to lay down with it on while we talked some more. Even though I had only worked with him a little bit at a time, I could tell he was tired and it was time to stop with him.
I do Reiki with people as well as animals, and I offer "combo sessions" in which I do a Touch/Reiki session with the animal, followed by a Reiki session for the person. This works out well because most people who call me are very stressed about what their pets are experiencing. Relating to that, one of the nice things about doing TTouch is that it not only relaxes the pet but the person doing the TTouches as well!
Part two of this session was a Reiki session with Kate. And since Reiki not only treats the person I am treating but affects the atmostphere of the whole household, this turned out to be relaxing for both Kate and Jonesy. Jonesy came much closer to where we were during the course of the session and curled up for a nap.
Today was our second session. Kate told me that she had already seen subtle changes in Jonesy's behavior in general, that he was starting to get a bit better outside, and that overall he seemed to be calmer. She said that he was getting used to her routine with him with the TTouches, and that he would come to the spot where they do them with anticipation. So this is great progress.
I advised her (after speaking to Kathy Cascade) that in addition to taking him out for the usual walks, she should take him out for short periods of time (literally just a few minutes), just to let him stand there, have a treat, then go back inside. Similar concept to the chair exercise, in that it helps the dog to feel that he is always going to be able to go back to where he is comfortable.
Today after giving Jonesy a few treats to get him a bit more at ease being near me, I showed Kate a few more TTouches to try with Jonesy. One of them is the Zigzag TTouch (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fF-0QNCw8GM&list=UUwClW-vMPW6i_UFDkXXayEA&index=31). This is a great TTouch for helping the animal to feel connection from the front of the body to the back of the body, and to help bring a scared animal back into its body. I did this very slowly and with a very light touch. Though his mind seemed to be processing it, he was a bit concerned, perhaps as this was a new feeling, and as he began to yawn a few times, I did only a couple of times and then gave him a break for treats.
He seemed more comfortable around me in general though today. And I found that giving him frequent breaks so he could process what I just did was a good strategy, as each time he seemed more comfortable with me trying something else. And he kept coming to me, as if to see what was going to happen next.
I also did some belly lifts (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uRDUdMh49CE&list=UUwClW-vMPW6i_UFDkXXayEA)
on Jones, which did seem to help calm him. The belly lifts can help the digestive system, as well as helping to relax the abdominal muscles so that the animal is breathing more fully. So with a very nervous dog, these can be very beneficial.
At some point while I was doing the TTouches with him, Jonesy even gave me a kiss today, awww!! That touched my heart so much, and it was a joy in general to see his demeanor so much calmer and at ease around me than in the first session.
Next we tried a different harness, the Freedom Harness, which is very well-made, and also comes with a double-ended leash which can be connected to the back of the harness as well as the front, so that there can be two points of contact, which is a much more balanced way to walk the dog. The person walking the dog walks to the side of the dog, holding the leash in both hands.
The next step we did was walking through a labyrinth, which is part of the TTouch training. It helps a dog to develop focus. I put together a simple labyrinth which I made from six dowels, in the following configuration:
I had Kate walk Jonesy towards the labyrinth, but he was frightened and did not want to go in.
At this point I knew we had to give him a break and then think of what to do next. We let him sit down, gave him some treats and I did some TTouches with him.
Then what I did was dismantle the labyrinth and configure what looked like a narrow path, using four of the dowels (two on each side of the path). as in the following:
Though Jonesy was still somewhat reluctant to go through the path, he did go through once, lured with treats. Then we stopped for a minute, and went back the other way, again lured with treats and stopping on the other side. Then she was able to walk him all the way through the path more easily, giving a treat at the end, then back the same way. It got easier each time. We then gave him another break with TTouches and treats.
Then I reconstructed the original labyrinth, to see if he would walk in. This time, Kate was able to lead him into the labyrinth with no hesitation, which was wonderful to see. At each turn in the labyrinth, I had her pause with him and give him a treat, so it wouldn't feel like too much at one time. We did this several times, and each time Jonesy seemed more comfortable with it. Amazing to see this whole transformation, from him being scared to enter the labyrinth to being very comfortable with it. This whole section of the session with the labyrinth had only taken about fifteen minutes, yet so much had taken place. Once again it brought home to me the concept that one needs to let the dog have a choice, and to break tasks down into smaller tasks if they are resistant to what you are asking them to try.
Again, we ended the session with a Reiki session for Kate, which left the apartment with a very calm atmosphere, and Jonesy was curled up and cozy on his bed.
Thank you Jonesy and Kate, it is such a pleasure to work with you and Jonesy, I am still feeling you giving me a kiss. What an honor that was! Look forward to seeing you soon, and to seeing what can happen next....