A Male Practitioner With Female Clients
I am told that I project an energy and quality of presence that people and dogs are comfortable with. Dogs and people are easygoing with me and we usually join up readily. I do not force my will on them. I work with dogs and their owners, encouraging them all toward the process of seeking balance. Throughout, I am a man. I smell like a man, stand like a man, walk like a man, react from the perspective of having been raised as a man, and speak as a man. We get there with PetMassage™, energy work, patience, caring, presence, and understanding. These are skills that did not come naturally. I’ve had to learn and develop them.
Most of my students and dog owner clients are women. They walk, talk, move, think, smell, and respond female. Often, I am told that their dogs are “apprehensive” around men. I’m always amused -and feel a little special- when they remark that they are surprised when their dogs connect so readily with me; that they are eager for me to pick them up and give them a PetMassage™. My belief is that the dogs sense that their people trust me; so they let down their guard and allow me in. When their person is relaxed, they are relaxed. When their person senses danger, they do too. They may be responding to my experience and confidence. Anastasia calls my approach to dogs and their people, “calm assertive.” Thank you, Cesar.
Lesson For The Instructor
During the canine aquatic massage workshop last week I had an experience that gave me pause. One of the dogs that participated in the workshop, a magnificent German Shepherd, refused to acknowledge me. I’ve been disregarded by dogs before; just never this overtly.
Prior to beginning his session, I directed his owner to move him about so we might observe him. I’ve learned to pay attention to body language, nonverbal signals of animals. I look at the attitudes of eyes, ears, nostrils, head, and tail. I notice tightness, rigidity, as well as flexibility and ease of movement. I notice symmetry of muscle development, joint and spinal alignment, rate and depth of breathing, and behaviors that reflect their levels of comfort or anxiety. That’s how I know what to address on their bodies. Plus, that’s how I stay safe.
I was in the pool. I was right there. I described what I was seeing so the students would know what they would need to learn to see as PetMassage Canine Aquatic Massage Practitioners. I was calm, affirmative, and I was definitely a presence, at least for my students. The Shepherd connected readily with everyone except me. He either looked through me or past me. It was deeply disconcerting. One can feel disassociation; when the attention is other directed. This dog was intentionally excluding me. There was some aspect of my being that he was unable to comprehend.
I felt the flow of this dog’s attention before I noticed it. I had intuitively moved to the side of the pool. I hadn’t intentionally moved there. When I noticed that I had distanced myself, I reflected on why I had felt the need to expand the space between myself and the group. Yes, he would be more comfortable with my standing where I was. I looked around and became aware of the gender differential. The owner was female and there were five women in the pool. Two more women were observing from outside the pool. I was the only male.
This dog continued to direct his attention to everyone except me. I asked his owner about it. She said matter-of-factly, “He’s not comfortable around men.” Her DOG didn’t like/trust men.
Dogs Act On Their Humans’ Emotions
I did not share my contention with her that dogs are extensions of their owners; that they smell and feel their owner’s emotions and are duty bound to act on them. In PetMassage™, we learn to pay attention to our thoughts and feelings because the dogs take them on. For example, if my mind wanders as in Oh look: squirrel, the dog senses the disconnect, and reacts as if he had been abandoned. At that moment, that was my conviction. I suggested that it would be sad indeed if this young dog was destined to live out his life refusing to interact and functionally perpetually angry with half of humanity. I voiced my opinion. I suggested that he needed to be socialized to accept and be nice to men. I asked her if there were any males that came to her kennel and agility clubs her boy could work with. Her response “very few,” led me to ponder some of the intrinsic differences between men and women, boys and girls.
The humans who participate in dog sport are predominantly female. Sure there are some men; however, the dedicated enthusiasts are usually women. Dog sport training and competition are based on communication, positive reinforcements, patience, community, and snacks as rewards. So it appears to fit perfectly with innate female needs, qualities, and characteristics. Not so much with males. Men are more comfortable with doing, problem solving, fixing, controlling, expecting commands to be carried out, and immediate gratification.
Dogs, Cats, Horses, Oh My?
I thought about my students and colleagues. Of the people who we’ve trained at PetMassage™, of which 90+% are female, a general survey shows that they almost all knew early on that they had a special affinity and connection with animals. It was usually dogs; their family’s pets, other peoples’ pets, and strays. They were always saving dogs that were injured, sick, scared, hungry, dirty, helpless, and alone. Their need to nurture was their nature. They took care of cats, rabbits, ferrets, goats, fish and amphibians, too. And then there were the horses. The romance between young girls and horses is somehow natural, yet difficult to define.
Horse Crazy Girls
When I was little, I took riding lessons. I loved going to the barn to ride. My lesson horse was an old palomino mare, named Blondie. Throughout the summer, I got thrown, rolled on, run away with, and, it was great, if not altogether injury free, fun. My sister and her friends took riding lessons at the same barn. They spent more time grooming, washing, dressing hooves, mucking stalls, cleaning tack, and generally hanging out with the horses than they did riding. They were the caretakers, the nurturers, the ones who worried, the ones who lived and breathed to be near horses. It was my sister, with the impeccable reasoning of a 10 year old, who once rode Silver, her white livery horse, over 10 miles through residential streets to our home, because he’d be happier living with us, with our one car garage as his stall.
There are many characteristics about horses that trigger young girls maternal instincts. Besides, their incomparable beauty, size, strength, grace, and exquisite smell and feel, they are honest (most of them), responsive, trainable, and consistent in their return of affection. They are easy to understand, once you know the rules. They call on the girls to learn balance, posture, and responsibility. Leap like superheroes over jumps. Change leads with a subtle shift in weight. That they, as small people can control the movements of gigantic horses, and that the horses depend on them for direction. Wow, that is heady stuff. This is empowerment and control that is giddy-up addictive for adults. Let alone, a little 60 lb girl. As a reward for maintaining a correct seat while riding, they offer the ecstatic pleasure of joining up with the powerful churning movement of the equine body at the canter and gallop. They are also, like bad boys, potentially dangerous. The animals have the delightful attributes of being non-judgmental, non-demanding, and non-discriminating. A horse, it seems, is the complete perfect Beast to the 10 year old Beauty.
While I might have gone out to the barn to ride, my sister was going there to take care of the horses. I recalled the kids at our county fair who were obsessed with animals. They were overwhelmingly girls. I thought about all the girls I knew who were absolutely and profoundly horse crazy. Google “young girls horse crazy.” Hi, Nita.
The Special Feminine Passion For Nurturing Dogs
The passion, the caring, the unbounded, unbridled love that my female PetMassage™ students express with their pet and sport dogs -and their client’s dogs- is deeper, more profound than any connection I can imagine. I, as a male, am in awe of their natural capacity to love. Now, my female PetMassage™ students are all grown up. Unless they still ride, their horseback riding experiences are sweet manure encrusted memories. Now they attend to dogs. Their destinies to be the saviors of all the canine unfortunates motivates them and continues to hold their hearts captive.
I’m honored to be part of their training. These are amazing women. PetMassage™ checks all the boxes for the service work that is the dog-centric bliss they’ve been seeking. Needing. They, as only females can, help dogs return toward balance and wellness. They get there with PetMassage™, energy work, patience, caring, communication, understanding, and presence. When my female graduates practice PetMassage™, they do not just massage dogs; they offer the experience of loving healing.
Link: PetMassage Workshops