Just over a year ago we adopted a rescue dog that had been abandoned on a roadside in Tennessee with a broken leg. She was gathered up by Safe Haven, a Chicago area dog adoption organization and fostered by our friend Karah Osterberg.
The leg required an operation to place in a rod for support. The surgery scar is somewhat raised and she licks at it because there appears to be some scar tissue putting pressure on the joint just below the patellar tendon.
That’s right, much of a dog’s anatomy has parallels in the human body. It’s easy to forget that they have tendons and muscles just like us. These can turn into areas of tension or result in compensatory habits if left to become imbalances. In that respect, dogs are much like human beings as well.
That is why we called on a specialist in dog massage to give Lucy some attention where she needed it. That leg scar has caused her some trouble over the last year. At one point she licked it so much the flesh opened up and a small staph infection occurred. That required antibiotics to cure.
We all know what it’s like to have an injury that won’t heal.
Runners develop overuse injuries that can last for months, even years. Sore achilles. Stress fractures. Knee pain. Shin splints.
Cyclists similarly can develop problems with the hip joint or knees from pedaling with the wrong angle or pressure on the bike.
Swimmers are famous for shoulder problems due to repetitive stress injuries.
And triathletes can develop problems from all three sports! That’s a doggone shame when that happens.
So for Lucy’s sake, we’re looking to reduce that irritation under the skin where the scar tissue is impinging on the joint function. The dog massage therapist first relaxed her without pressure and gently built trust with our pup by petting and rubbing her body and face. Then she calmly worked on the larger muscle groups, working blood flow into the depth of the muscle as our dog laid down her head and began to relax into that zone where the massage offers the most benefit.
I hope you’ve been there too. If you’ve never been to a sports massage therapist, it is highly recommended not just for injury treatment or prevention, but to experience letting go of control.
That’s tough for some people, and dogs, to do. Allowing someone to take control of your body without tensing up at first takes some practice. Many people have sensitive areas of their body even outside the erogenous zones, which professional massage therapists avoid anyway. Learning to relax when a touch to the lower body causes you to cringe is part of the collaborative experience.
On occasion, Lucy would raise her head to look at Sue sitting on the floor next to her while the massage therapist applied gentle pressure and taught us the art of supporting joints and limbs while applying massage. Then we learned how to apply mini-massage techniques to the sensitive area around her scar. That involved light grasping of the skin to loosen fascia and bring blood flow to the area.
A few years ago following an unfortunate incident on my bike, my lower back developed serious scar tissue after a collision. It hurt like a bit of fire inside the body and did not dissipate on its own. So when I visited a chiropractor she suggested using a scraper to apply pressure on the affected tissue and break it up. It hurt like heck, but it worked. The trauma was reduced considerably.
That’s true for much physical therapy as well. We all tighten up with age and hard work and often it takes compensatory strengthening to build balance back in the body.
This morning Lucy came bounding up the stairs as usual after coming out of her crate. We fed and walked her, then I started trotting with her on the bike path behind our house. We ran a quarter mile together with Lucy running easily beside me. We’re building that kind of trust too. It’s a wonderful feeling to have a companion like that who enjoys the feeling of movement as well.
I’ve always massaged Lucy since we got her. I think about the trauma she went through as a puppy. Those harsh experiences can have lifelong effects if they aren’t addressed with love and attention. I’ve worked through my own share of issues over these many years, and have particular compassion for this dog and the Schnoodle mixed-breed pup that my son rescued off the streets of Chicago twelve years ago. That dog’s name is Chuck, and he still lives with my daughter nearby. I saw him recently on a visit. His energy is still good and I rubbed his little leg muscles as I always used to do.
This year, my son out in Venice, California also adopted a Corgi-Chihuahua mix named Luke Skybarker. He’s the rescue papa to two of the sweetest dogs in the world.
To complete the picture, Sue and I also have a rescue cat named Bennie, an orange and white kitty who was a stray that crawled up in a car engine for warmth and got burnt along with a broken leg when the engine was started. Our vet friend Jeff Palmer treated the cat and my wife saw his photo on Facebook and he’s been with us now for five years. All of these creatures make our lives better. The gratitude goes both ways in this world if you let it.
But we all have different energies and approaches to life. It can take a little patience and forgiveness on all our parts to heal our souls and come together. Rub it out, people. Rub it out.