Dog Bites, Part 2. Resolving PTSD from dog bites.
Dog bites happen. Car accidents happen too; and we don’t stop driving. We’ve got places to go. So, we get back in the drivers seat and move on.
For people practicing canine massage, a dog bite need not end the journey – and a career you’ve trained for. Your commitment to helping dogs is stronger than that. The dog bites that I’ve gotten are lessons that I learned from, grew with, and still carry with me as the experience that makes my work more effective. The memories of bites remind me to be more mindful and careful.
If you work closely with dogs and you haven’t already been bitten, you will. As I said, dog bites happen. That’s one of the reasons I encourage people to massage dogs on tables. 1.) you are removing them from the floor, which is a space they think they own; and 2.) when you are standing you can react quicker and move away to safety.
Sometimes, the bites are inconsequential; in which case they are dealt with as minor inconveniences; and we continue on our path. Sometimes, the energy associated with memory of the trauma gets stuck. It gets mired so solidly in our neural fascia that we cannot move out of it. It paralyzed us. When we are held in its grip we cannot let it go. It won’t let us go. The memory and eminent reoccurrence of the trauma impacts every thought, every relationship, every aspect of our lives.
Dog attacks leave their victims with debilitating scars, both physical and psychological. The sound of dogs barking or even venturing outdoors can provoke fear and anxiety.
This is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, PTSD. Symptoms for PTSD may include nightmares or unwanted memories of the trauma, avoidance of situations that bring back memories of the trauma, heightened reactions, anxiety, or depressed mood.
These are the symptoms dog bite victims may experience:
Behavioral: agitation, irritability, hostility, hypervigilance, self-destructive behavior, or social isolation
Psychological: flashback, fear, severe anxiety, or mistrust
Mood: loss of interest or pleasure in activities (like being with dogs), guilt (because you define yourself as a dog caregiver), or loneliness
Sleep: insomnia or nightmares
Also common: emotional detachment or unwanted thoughts
The effects Post Traumatic Stress Disorder are devastating. When unfortunate events become part of our story, we need to be able to pick up the pieces and carry on ever after.
If you are suffering from a dog bite and are tormented with continued fears, nightmares, and difficulties handling difficult situations with life, call a grief counselor for a PTSD evaluation. There are tools that can help you recover from this trauma. You can regain the capacity to deal with the difficulties stemming from this very terrifying occurrence.
I asked a canine massage teaching colleague for her suggestions. She writes, “One thought I had re: the dog bite question, is to suggest Tapping/EFT as a healing modality to help dissipate the “charge” around that memory.”
Another canine massage practitioner offers these suggestions based on how she dealt with the aftermath of a dog bite.
- She received healing through an animal chiropractor friend who does energy workas well.
- She applied castor oil packs on the bite scar to aid in tissue repair, daily over a few weeks. TY, Edgar Casey.
- She took Bach Flower Remedies(she suggests Star of Bethlehem for emotional trauma, Mimulus and Aspen for fear of a known thing and general fear itself). Other remedies may also apply to a treatment bottle, depending on the person.
I personally appreciate and have found some limited success with tapping, flower essences, and essential oils. However, and I realized that this may not sit well with true believers, for me, I find that every time I go through the ritual of treating and applying whatever, I’m validating how impactful the memory of the trauma is on my thoughts and feelings. I’m replaying the tape and experiencing my emotional response to it. Daily treatment for me did not dissipate. It had the opposite affect. It reinforced the trauma. Every time I referred to the seed of the trauma I felt like I was burying it deeper into my emotional network. That’s a monkey memory I’m not feeding with my precious energy.
One suggestion is exposure to desensitize. It is the technique I used to desensitize my Arabian horse to fireworks, flags, and scary shiny things so we could participate in parades. The application for when you are stressing when you are around a certain breed, is spend as much time as necessary with “safe” dogs of the breed, -puppies, dogs with congenial personalities- until you get to the point where, when you massage them, your heart rate stays stable and your bile stays down in your stomach.
I spoke with my son-in-law, an engineer, who had another, highly logical, and insightful approach. He suggested that the victim remember the event while looking around and seeing that they are in a safe place. Then, recall the experience of remembering while in a safe place. Repeat and repeat. The memory of the trauma is still there but it is buffered with layers and layers of safety. The victim is enabled to function and move on.
I spoke with Cindy Baker, M.Ed., DCEP, Licensed School Psychologist, and Certified Energy Psychology Practitioner, a professional counselor who works with PTSD sufferers. She finds EFT and TTT highly effective in her practice. She became an enthusiastic proponent in EFT when, with 1 session, she was able to release her phobia about public speaking!
These are some therapies that are effective for the PTSD of dog bites.
EFT. Emotion Freedom Techniques is a very effective short term therapy used in helping people be free from the intense feelings of trauma. EFT is used to dissipate the charge associated with the traumatic memory so the associated emotions of distress are no longer triggered.
It is a safe, gentle and effective technique with over 100 evidence-based studies documenting its effectiveness. This research shows that EFT significantly reduces cortisol levels associated with stress and increases brain waves associated with relaxation. The Tapping turns off the body’s alarm system (stress response) which becomes triggered by cues which remind them of past traumatic experiences. EFT is simple to learn and easy to practice at home.
EFT can be wordless, in which the bodies intuitive wisdom chooses the correction; or we can use affirmative phrases along with tapping to specifically replace the phobic tapes. I asked Cindy what affirmations she would suggest for a dog bite victim? This was her response: “The phrases used in EFT are customized based upon the client’s emotions. I would guess that the dog bite victim would be fearful that he/she would get bitten again. So perhaps…Even though I fear getting bitten by this dog, I deeply and completely love and accept myself. Even though I worry about getting bitten every time I think about touching a pitbull (specify breed if it is a certain breed that triggers fear), I love and accept myself. Even though I become anxious any time I touch a pitbull, I choose to remain calm and centered.
“The following points are important for the technique to be effective: 1. Be specific. If it is the mouth of the dog that triggers fear, then state…’Even though I become anxious every time I see the lips of the pitbull tighten, I love and accept myself.’ Say this phrase 3 times while tapping on the karate chop point on side of hand. 2. Use a reminder phrase when tapping on specific other (acupressure) points. “This anxiety.” 3. Notice what comes up after a few rounds of tapping. Has emotion shifted? Have any other memories associated with the emotion of anxiety risen up? The emotions lead the way to the next step.”
Every coin has two sides; it can be helpful, with complete issue resolution happening like Cindy’s, spontaneously, with a single treatment, or it may take several sessions to disengage from the triggers. It’s also important to remember that you are delving into your most profound unconscious vulnerabilities. So, a word of caution: this and all the following therapies are safer and more effective when they are facilitated by a trained specialist.
TTT. Trauma Tapping Technique- Tapping without words. In this clip https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SSt8JjMKhz8 the developers of TTT describe how the families of victims of the genocides in Rwanda and Congo are being helped and spread tapping skills by teaching each other. Please take a few moments to watch the video. It’s a story of hope and trust in a place and circumstance where you’d least expect it!
EMDR. Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing is used also for Military Veterans and highly successful in freeing them from the intense trauma they have endured in war and used for auto accidents, dog bites, substance abuse, addictions and more!
EDMR is a powerful counseling technique which has been very successful in helping people who suffer from trauma, anxiety, panic, disturbing memories, post traumatic stress and many other emotional problems. Until recently, these conditions were difficult and time-consuming to treat. EMDR is considered a breakthrough technique because of its simplicity and the fact that it can bring quick and lasting relief for most types of emotional distress.
EMDR uses a technique called bilateral stimulation, (using right/left eye movement, or tactile stimulation), which repeatedly activates the opposite sides of the brain, releasing emotional experiences that are “trapped” in the nervous system. This assists the neurophysiological system (the basis of the mind/body connection) to free itself of blockages and reconnect itself.
The counselor works gently with the client and asks him/her to revisit the traumatic moment or incident, recalling feelings surrounding the experience, as well as any negative thoughts, feelings and memories. They then hold their fingers or a pen about eighteen inches from the clients face and begin to move them back and forth like a windshield wiper (this can also be accomplished through hand taping or alternating auditory sounds). The client tracks the movements as if watching ping pong. The more intensely the client focuses on the memory, the easier it becomes for the memory to come to life.
As quick and vibrant images arise during the therapy session, they are processed by the eye movements, resulting in painful feelings being exchanged for more peaceful, loving and resolved feelings. EMDR is the most effective and rapid method for healing PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) as shown by extensive scientific research studies.
This therapy protocol is especially effective for emotional problems or traumatic events that have taken place within the last three months. These would be Injury, Car Accidents or Work Related Accidents & Injuries, like dog bites. It also applies for people that Witness Violent Crimes / Have Relational Anxieties, Trouble Sleeping / Worrying / Phobias / Fears.
Rapid Resolution Therapy is a method of therapy that pinpoints and addresses an inner issue through clinical hypnosis. Similar to traditional hypnosis the counselor guides the client through their sub-conscious to find the root of their issues. Depending on the issue at hand the counselor will guide each client differently. Rapid Resolution Therapy is the quickest form of therapy for those trying to move on from traumatic events.
Somatic Release Therapy. Somatic simply means ‘having to do with the body.’ A somatic therapy of any kind is one the deals with the body. As a form of psychotherapy, somatic therapy is a way of affecting emotional changes via the body. Talk therapy is combined with mind-body exercises in a holistic approach to treating PTSD and other mental health issues. The theory of this type of somatic therapy is that our body’s natural response to a threat is extremely helpful for immediately dangerous experiences. However, the nervous system can become stuck in this state of tension, arousal, or shutdown. At this point, the nervous system remains in that state on a chronic basis.
The idea behind the somatic therapy used to deal with trauma is that traumas from the past caused instability in your autonomic nervous system. You may feel both emotional and physical effects of that instability. Psychologists use somatic therapy to get your ANS (Autonomic Nervous System) back into balance.
This is an important conversation. Dog bites happen. My hope is that the trauma of a dog bite will not thwart your ability and desire to massage dogs. You have so much to give. An isolated occurrence need not derail your entire train (of consciousness).
I appreciate all the Likes and Emojis you send on Facebook. This time, I’d really like to know what your thoughts are. It’s not just for me. Sharing your experience will help others.
- What have you done to recover from dog bites?
- What has worked for you and what hasn’t?
- What advice or encouragement can you give to others who are dealing with the stress induced by the trauma of a dog bite?
TY to contributors Cindy Baker, Monica Bernhoffer, Megan Ayrault, Kevin Macke, Anastasia Rudinger, the RVTs at MedVet Toledo Emergency Animal Clinic, and the dog trainers at Glass City K9 LLC, Toledo OH.
CTA: We emphasize safety and personal responsibility in our PetMassage workshops. We offer a home study course that addresses dog handling skills:
https://petmassage.com/store/confident-dog-handling-for-the-canine-massage-practitioner-petmassage-home-study-course/ Or, if you’d just like the video download: https://petmassage.com/store/confident-dog-handling-for-the-canine-massage-practitioner-petmassage-streaming-video-and-download/
Here is “Anastasia’s Affirmation” that aligns with this blog:
Even though I become anxious every time I see the lips of a dog tighten, I love and accept myself.