Dogs and their people are happier and healthier with PetMassage

With each dog I see behind what I see, imagine beyond what I imagine, and I know more than I know.

By Beth Farkas | April 16, 2019 | 0 Comments

The Plastic Puppy: Breaking the Puppy Mill Cycle with Touch and Patience

By PetMassage | April 15, 2019 | 0 Comments

Full Title: The Plastic Puppy: Breaking the Puppy Mill Cycle with Touch and Patience

Author: Lorraine d. Achey, LMT

Date of Publication: December 19, 2019


Research Paper Text:

The Plastic Puppy: Breaking the Puppy Mill Cycle with Touch and Patience

Lorraine D. Achey, LMT

December 19, 2018

 Statement of Problem:

Puppies who grow up in a puppy mill environment and are removed from their mother and pack mates too early can develop a host of behavioral and health problems. Can these puppies and young dogs be adapted to normal life with the help of obedience training and canine massage? How long does neural plasticity last for dogs?

Limitations of Study

There is little to no research studies about the following:

  • Effects of removing puppies from their mother and pack members before the age of the optimum time of 8-12 weeks
  • How effective obedience training is when used without previous socialized puppies?
  • How can a remedial socialization program be developed that works for most puppies?
  • What can pet parents expect to accomplish by using touch techniques to create new behaviors?

Research Methodology

Since this is a unmined area, I will present my experiences in rescuing a mill dog. Information on resources will appear as a bibliography and a list of useful links.

The Plastic Puppy:

Breaking the Puppy Mill Cycle with Touch and Patience

How many of us know that most puppies purchased in pet stores or online are the result of a puppy mill environment?

In the United States alone, there are over 10,000 puppy mills which produce an annual 4 million puppies. Sadly, the amount of dogs that are destroyed because of overpopulation is also around 4 million.

Puppy mills exist for only one reason: to produce as many viable puppies as possible for sale. A breeder often does not consider the health or comfort of the puppy producing females, starting them into the breeding cycle as early as 6 months old and breeding them every cycle (2 times a year) until they are worn out or too sick to produce any more puppies.  Crowded into small crates or wire pens, their food and water is often dirty and moldy. Feces and urine pile up in or under the crates, forcing the dogs to live in constant filth and leads to health problems. Prenatal care is minimal, if non-existent.

Worst of all, since most puppies will sell more quickly and easily when they are still very young and cute, puppy mill puppies are often removed from their mothers as early as 5-6 weeks. According to research, the ultimate age for a puppy going home is 7 weeks. While those 7 days seem insignificant, in truth they are instrumental in the development of the puppy into a mature and healthy dog.

A puppy’s brain reaches the final stages of development at 5-8 weeks. During this time, it is crucial that the puppy be held and cuddled, introduced to other animals and people, allowed to explore, and have many stimulating toys and things to do. Stressful situations should be avoided. In other words, the puppy needs a calm place to play and become socialized.

Remember that 6-month-old bitch that started having puppies as soon as she can, without this type of puppyhood? How well do you think she will do as a new mother? Would she be able to teach her puppies what they need to develop strong neural connections and confidence, leading to happy, healthy, and responsive dogs? Or is it more likely the puppies removed too early and under very stressful situations will become problem dogs when their socialization process is interrupted?

Boredom, lack of exercise and sunlight, and the exposure to barking and stressed dogs creates an environment that leads to repetitive spinning and other compulsive behaviors. Such an environment can create an anxious, tense, and depressed dog. Add all of this to being removed from their mothers early, and you can see that a puppy can start life with quite a handicap.

Behaviors and Health problems related to early removal of a puppy from his mother before 12 weeks include:

  • Fear
  • Reactivity (startles easily, etc.)
  • Aggression
  • Social impoverishment
  • Potty training problems
  • Intestinal and external parasites
  • Lack of bite inhibition (learning when to bite, how hard to bite)
  • Lack of tolerance to tactile contact, poor attachment skills

It all sounds like your new puppy could turn out to be quite the troublemaker. But, there’s hope!

First, do your best to take your dog to as many different places as you can to make friends, both canine and human. Handle your puppy often and let others handle them, too.

Second, if you don’t already have a well socialized dog in your home, find someone with a well-adjusted dog who will agree to spend time with you and your dog. Supervise the dogs as they get to know one another. The older dog may well take the pup under his wing and teach him the behavior the pup will need to learn how to be a dog.

Third, get your dog into a good obedience class as soon as possible. Time is of the essence to help your dog catch up in his development and to avoid any problems with aggression.  Make sure your trainer helps you teach your dog to love his crate and his time in it. It can literally save his life.

These three actions may very well prevent most problems for the new puppy. However, if the puppy is older than 8-12 weeks, you now have more than twice the work to give your puppy a healthy, stable outlook on life.

If you are starting with an older puppy, a rescued mill dog, or a rescued stray, there is still much you can do to help your dog learn new behavior. It will take patience and troubleshooting, but it will be worth it. Be patient and kind. Remember that your dog is acting on the information he has had in the past. It’s up to you to help him discover how to behave appropriately.

Talk to you dog often. While he may not understand what you’re saying, he recognizes your tone and body cues. Especially if your dog is timid and frightened, a soothing voice will help calm him.

Get down to her level and talk to her. Let her come to you. If she is reluctant to come to you, try offering a high value treat to her on the floor near you. Praise her for taking the treat, even if she is a few feet from you. You can bring her closer and closer, rewarding her with treats. At this point, don’t try to touch her unless she initiates it.  Don’t insist that she stay if she decides it’s too early to trust you. Take your time.

When your dog is feeling confident about how you treat him, try stroking his chest. Use the back of your hands and fingers to start, it’s a less invasive touch. Especially if this is a small timid dog, DO NOT pet him on his head. (Think about how big and threatening your hand and fingers can look to a small dog face and eyes.)  Instead, move slowly into the dog’s space from the side, and stroke the chest under the collar. This is an excellent point for creating calmness. If you are concerned about the dog biting, try starting with the shoulder instead. Always be proactive, and be mindful of your surroundings, including any body language cues.

These are the basics. If your dog needs more, continue to work patiently with her while you do some reading and studying about dog behavior.

I suggest that you start with Linda Tellington-Jones’ excellent book, Getting in TTouch with Your Dog. It has clear and concise directions on how to best utilize her techniques, as well as suggested moves for various issues your dog may have. While this modality is touch based, it is not massage per se. It concentrates on the moving the skin touches with a “quarter and a half” circle. It is a light pressure touch, very soothing and calming.

I have been using TTouch with excellent results for the past 25+ years, including rehabilitating a 5-year-old Papillon. Allie started her life with us after being rescued from either a puppy mill or a hoarding situation. She rarely blinked the first few weeks she came to us; and holding her was like handling a bundle of sticks wrapped in dried leather. I could not work with her at all unless I wrapped her in a tea towel first, so I didn’t touch her fur. She didn’t play, she didn’t bark, she would not eat or drink in front of me or the other dogs for her first year. Her favorite hiding place was usually the smallest spot she could find to squeeze herself into. I started working with her, first for about 5 minutes. Over time, I added more time and number of sessions into her schedule.

As a student of anatomy, I was always learning new things about how our bodies worked. I read an article on how scientists found a link from the vagus nerve to the vestibular nerve. Turns out that stimulating one influences the other, leading to calming (vagus) and balancing (vestibular) the mind and body.  When I first read the article, I thought, “That might work for Allie.” Especially since Allie had come to us with a severe ear infection and a growth in her ear canal (successfully removed), I was curious as to how this information could help her heal. I’d already been rocking her, so I thought I’d keep on with it and watch what happened. Allie and I established a routine. Every evening, I would take her into the living room, wrap her in a soft quilt, and rock her. For 30 to 45 minutes, she would snuggle in my arms. At first, she just drowsed until she wanted to get up. But slowly, she began to relax and make eye contact, even decided she could let me pet her on her fur under her blanket.

But the day she fell so deeply asleep in my arms that she snored, mouth gaping, I knew we had stumbled onto an effective way of assisting Allie.

Other benefits were noticed: no more reverse sneezing, brighter eyes, stronger confidence and curiosity, and generally a more relaxed condition.

While this experiment is more in the realm of anecdotal information, not scientific fact, I feel confident from my experiences that touch–regular, gentle, and loving touch–offers to lay people an effective way to improve their animals’ behavior and lives. It’s non-invasive, inexpensive, easy to do, and it brings pleasure to both the person and the animal. Because of this experience with Allie and other experience with other dogs, I became aware that like humans, the brains of dog and other animals showed signs of neural plasticity. While I don’t profess to be a neuroscientist, I do believe in the ability to create new neural paths that can change how people and animals think and behave.  I’m hoping that there are researchers out there studying this, and that one day we will know how to help both people and animals change their lives for the better.


I encourage you to read Temple Grandin’s book, Animals in Translation. I got lucky and read this book before Allie came into my life. It was the best training I could of have for helping her and other rescued dogs. From Ms. Grandin’s work, I was able to learn how to decode what Allie reacted to and come up with a viable solution to help her. This has become one of my best tools for helping dogs lead more happy and confident lives. I also highly recommend any other of Ms. Grandin’s books, especially her Animals Make Us Human. 

Getting in TTouch with your Dog  by Linda Tellington-Jones

The Tellington Touch, Caring for Animals with Heart and Hands. Linda Tellington-Jones with Sybil Taylor published by Penguin Books. 1992.


Piriformis Syndrome in Canines

By PetMassage | April 12, 2019 | 0 Comments

Full Title: Piriformis Syndrome in Canines

Author: Tammy Callahan

Date of Publication: April 12, 2019


Research Paper Text:

Piriformis Syndrome in Canines
Tammy Callahan
April 12, 2019

The piriformis muscle is located in the pelvic region. It is a small muscle completely covered by the gluteus superficialis muscle. The piriformis muscle arises on the third sacral and first caudal vertebrae. It inserts on the same site as the tendon from the gluteus medias at the greater trochanter of the femur. It is innervated by the first and second sacral nerves.

The purpose of the piriformis muscle is for the extension of the hip joint.

Piriformis syndrome can be a debilitating issue and was not diagnosed until recently in canines.

Most dogs are diagnosed with dysplasia or possibly nerve damage and piriformis syndrome was never really thought of in dogs until recently. Maja Guldberg, DVM, did a study on a dog named Iris. When the study was started, there was little to no information about the piriformis to find. Since the pelvis region on dogs is similar to humans this vet started with what is available regarding this syndrome in humans. After many tests were done to rule out other possibilities in Iris, they came to a preliminary conclusion that it was probably a sciatica issue. The overall cause of Iris’ sciatica was constriction of the piriformis muscle causing entrapment of the sciatica nerve. The study did conclude that sciatica and piriformis syndrome does exist in dogs and this was causing lameness and pain for Iris.

Piriformis Syndrome is described as an abnormal condition of the piriformis muscle. Characteristics and signs are due to the entrapment of the sciatic nerve at the greater sciatic notch resulting in spasm, edema and contracture of the muscle causing compression, (entrapment), of the sciatic nerve.

In a flexed position, the piriformis muscle internally rotates and abducts the hip. In the neutral position, the piriformis muscle acts as an external rotator for the hip.

There is no information regarding the piriformis syndrome being breed pacific that I could find. Possibly, now that there is more being done with canines regarding piriformis syndrome, they may find that diagnosis of hip dysplasia could be sciatica/piriformis related in some cases. And possibly more relevant to larger breeds.

In regards to relief from piriformis syndrome. Stretches originally intended for humans were adapted for use on canines. Along with chiropractic adjustments in addition to the adapted stretches and the use of acupuncture it was concluded that dogs can possibly be offered relief from piriformis syndrome and sciatic pain and issues. Massage could also be a form of relief for the piriformis as well, however with the piriformis being completely covered by other muscles and “buried” within the region, it can prove to be difficult to get to with hands/fingers . These modalities offered relief and a more normal lifestyle for Iris. So in conclusion, it worked.

In humans, piriformis syndrome can be very painful and debilitating. It causes lower back pain, hip pain, leg pain and knee pain. Anywhere from a dull ache to shooting pains throughout the lower back, hip, leg and knees is possible. Chiropractic adjustments can possibly help to realign certain areas and offer relief of pressure on the piriformis. The use of heat and ice, certain exercises, walking and stretching can offer relief as well.

There was not a lot of information available on this topic. However, it seems with the realization that massage, acupressure, acupuncture and chiropractic adjustment it has been found that these modalities can offer relief from pain and it is now more than ever accepted as a useful tool in offering relief as opposed to the use of medications, surgeries and possibly euthanasia as a final decision. 

I believe that more and more people are using alternative therapies to create a better lifestyle for themselves and their pets.

Information for this paper was obtained online from a study done by Maja Guldberg, DVM. As well as an informational paper found online that was created for students attending the school of Ojai School of canine massage.

Canine aquatic massage and underwater treadmills

By Jonathan Rudinger | April 12, 2019 | 0 Comments

The Benefits of Hydrotherapy was the topic this week on Dr Karen Becker’s blog on the Healthy Pets Mercola website.

Karen discusses aquatic therapy from the perspective of her holistic veterinary practice. Her subtitle: Soothes Sore Joints and Muscles, a Godsend for Injured or Obese Pets. I’d like to add my perspective to her presentation; coming from a practitioner and instructor of canine aquatic massage.

Most dogs are buoyant. That’s the first benefit we think about. Movements they may have been straining to perform suddenly become easier. It becomes a non-weight bearing activity.

There’s a big difference between the underwater treadmill experience and canine aquatic massage. Think of comparing a workout session with your personal trainer at the gym and a massage. The treadmill work is like supervised repetitive exercise on equipment. The two are very different processes. Their approaches to working on the dog’s body is different. PetMassage canine aquatic massage facilitates dogs rediscovery of balance and harmony.

Consider what happens when you combine the life-affirming characteristics of dry canine massage with water. Water becomes more than an environment. It’s a support system. It’s a bubble of nurture in a disinterested environment.

Besides its buoyancy and wetness, another significant attribute of water, is its temperature. The water temperature that we work in is around 83 degrees. It’s pleasant.

During their canine aquatic massage dogs develop strength, stamina, balance, and confidence. They are guided through the motions of swimming and treading water which provides their mild cardio workouts. Guided into their controlled floats and glides, they sink and paddle, stretch and join up, twist and straighten, and emotionally and energetically, realign. They are getting massage!

The water’s warmth stimulates dogs beyond their body physical. As we move them through the water, we the WaterWork Practitioners, maintain constant physical and emotional contact with the them. We direct them, encourage them, and challenge them. We can feel their cognitive and emotional shifts. We actively participate while dogs optimize their lives.

Every session is life affirming, validating, and joyous. We are in the water with the dogs, observing and moving with their every move. The joy we feel is like a contact high. Let me rephrase this because it’s important: every session with every dog is genuinely ecstatic. Compare that to any other type of job description!

Who are your clients? Think about the dogs who have been restricted while waiting for their injuries to heal. How about the dogs that are obese, or arthritic? How about the apartment bound dogs whose owners do not take them out to get sufficient exercise? How about the agility dogs who come up lame or need a venue for off season conditioning? Canine aquatic massage helps dogs with confidence issues, behavioral issues, structural issues and flexibility issues. Then, there are senior dogs whose metabolisms are slowing. Imagine how, with just the gentle stimulation by the waves in the pool, lymphatic flow and peristalsis in the gut is supported.

Is this complementary to treadmill therapy? Yes, you bet! Treadmill work is straight forward. Massage is circular. Combine them. Ally your practice with rehabilitation veterinarians they will refer their patients to you.

Training and Certification

The PetMassage Training and Research Institute offers a training program for you to learn canine aquatic massage. The complete program includes a home study module in Basic Canine Anatomy so you can better visualize how the dog’s body ought to move and function. The on-site, hands-on 6-day workshop is training that’s as enjoyable and rewarding as your new career will be.

This is vocational training. You are training to create your own:

  1. rehabilitation facility for injured dogs, working with veterinarians
  2. body toning and wellness maintenance workout facility for canine athletes
  3. gentle cardio program for older, and in-hospice dogs
  4. program for maintaining strength and support for partially paralyzed dogs
  5. weight loss programs for dogs
  6. soothing, emotional relaxing session for grieving and traumatized dogs

We call it WaterWork not because we work in the water; rather, because we rely on the water to do much of the “work.”

In PetMassage WaterWork workshops you will learn specific hands-on techniques, protocols, and sequences. You’ll learn controlled floating, myofascial releases, water stretching based on the mechanics of canine anatomy, and aquatic massage skills with dogs on a submerged platform.

You’ll learn about dog handling, gait observation, water, pools, pool selection, filtration, installation and maintenance, legal restrictions, developing a business, and marketing.

By the completion of the workshop you are trained in what you need to know to support and complement both the rehabilitation work of veterinarians and the strength and conditioning demanded by dog caregivers and sport dog enthusiasts. You will be ready to start your business and help dogs.

Here’s a Link [] to a video that demonstrates how this therapeutic session is done as a dance. While it may not be obvious, this dog is getting everything he needs and fun besides. Just look at his face! As the Practitioner, I’m having the time of my life, too.

The PetMassage approach is effective, holistic, spiritual, and flat out fun. PetMassage WaterWork, Canine Aquatic Massage, is a most enjoyable and rewarding form of canine massage.

Is this the career you’ve been searching for?

Here it is! Join us in the next PetMassage WaterWork workshop.

My client dogs and I agree. Every canine aquatic massage session is a profound and ecstatic experience.

By Anastasia Rudinger | April 12, 2019 | 0 Comments

What’s in Your Pet First Aid Kit?

By Jonathan Rudinger | April 3, 2019 | 0 Comments

What’s in Your Pet First Aid Kit?

From the perspective of canine massage, first aid includes the gentle manipulation of the dog’s body, his environment and his activities. We use

  • touch 
  • healing touch and /or Reiki
  • acupressure and meridian rebalancing
  • leadership through body language
  • presence
  • breath control
  • anxiety control
  • positioning for comfort and controlled blood flow
  • applications of ice or heat, compression
  • restricted access to the injury or monitored licking.

In addition to bodywork, and often before massage is administered, you may need to treat your dog with items that you have in your pantry.  Here are some of the natural components we suggest:

Cool water.  Purified water kept in a spray bottle can cool overheated pets.  For the fastest results, spray near the pulse points, the “armpits” and where fur is the thinnest.  Further, a vet will assess if clinical hydration is needed beyond the water bowl.

Saline solution.  Versatile saline is available at the vet’s office or any pharmacy, and also easy and inexpensive to make at home.  Use it to flush debris from eyes, clean wounds and promote healing from incisions.  Two teaspoons of non-iodized salt in four cups of boiled water mimics body fluids.  The Ohio State University Medical Center website provides a recipe for normal saline solution at

Vinegar.  It acts as a drying agent, especially for floppy eared dogs taking a dip in a pool or natural waterway, which can leave the inner ear moist. ” Don’t use vinegar if the skin is red or broken because it will be painful,” Jules Benson, DVM. 

Honey.  Apply this sweet unguent to gums to heal, counteract low blood sugar and shock, particularly when a diabetic pet’s insulin levels are off.

Sugar.   Although not recommended in a regular pet diet, sugar can be a topical antibacterial for the short terms.  Sugar draws water from the wound and dehydrates bacteria, supporting growth of new tissue.

Plain yogurt.  Adding this healthy refrigerated topping to dry food will activate a sluggish appetite and supply needed cultures to help balance the digestive system. 

Cornstarch.  This non-toxic remedy helps stop minor bleeding from cuts, scrapes and pedicure accidents.

Calendula.  Also known as pot marigold, calendula cream may be used as an anti-inflammatory.  Bug bites, scrapes, sunburn and itching from allergies also benefit from its application. Our calendula tea sprayed liberally on their coats keeps mosquitos and flies away from our dogs.

Aloe.  Easily grown in a garden or pot and available in gel form, aloe sooths burns, prevents blisters and speeds healing.  It also serves as canine Chapstick. “Older dogs often have cracked skin and keeps the dog comfortable.”

Rescue Remedy. Illness or injury brings stress, and one common solution is Rescue Remedy.  To relieve fear or anxiety, rub it into a paw, nose or ears or add the recommended number of drops to water, a treat or food. This combination of flower essences helps dogs, cats, horses, birds, fish and even iguanas. Dosage relies on the extent of stress rather than weight or species.

Clean cloths.  For bee stings or insect bites on the body, cool compresses can reduce swelling and itching.  Wet a washcloth with cold water or for larger welts, wrap an ice pack in a towel and apply for a few minutes at a time.  For stings on the face or mouth, it’s best to go to the vet’s office immediately so that airways don’t swell up and hinder breathing.

I am a Human Doing. The things I do enhance my dog’s quality of life.

By Anastasia Rudinger | April 3, 2019 | 0 Comments

Stretching at Joints

By Jonathan Rudinger | March 26, 2019 | 0 Comments

Stretching at Joints

In its most basic form, stretching is a naturally instinctive activity; it is performed by humans and many other animals. Stretching often occurs instinctively after waking from sleep, after long periods of inactivity, or after exiting confined spaces. This is an appropriate activity to foster and use, since it comes from our dog’s natural instincts.

Stretching refreshes dormant muscles by elongating them. The alteration of pressure within the muscle tissue squeezes out old, tired, used fluids and draws in fluids that are fresh and clean.

Increasing flexibility through stretching is one of the basic tenets of physical fitness. It is common for athletes to stretch before and after exercise in order to reduce injury and increase performance.

When a specific muscle or tendon (or muscle group) is deliberately flexed or stretched, it results in increased muscle control, flexibility, and range of motion. Stretching, in combination with bringing the elements of the joint toward each other, is used therapeutically to alleviate cramps.

When you are stretching your dog’s limb, be sure that it’s a controlled and safe activity. There is more to stretching a leg than pulling the paw away from the shoulder. There are physiological, body mechanic, and emotional behaviors you need to keep in mind. Remember the key words here: controlled and safe.

For example, if you are stretching the elbow, you need to remember that the elbow and the wrist are reciprocal joints. That is, when one bends, the other bends. And, when one straightens, so does the other. When you grasp the humerus above the joint and the radius and ulna bones below it, be careful not to grasp so low that your dog’s wrist movements are restricted. If the wrist is not free to move, you are placing unnecessary strain on the elbow. The stifle and hock are also reciprocal joints.

Your grip must be light. Use just enough pressure so that the coat cannot slide from your fingers yet the leg is held securely. I seldom close my fingers around the limb. I prefer to cradle it, allowing its weight to hold it in place.  

Supporting the bones of your dog’s limb on either side of the joint being elongated gives the dog a sense of security. Your gentle supporting hands remind the dog where his limb is, and how it is positioned during movement. This is called proprioception.  During the stretch, your proximal hand, the hand closer to the trunk, supports, while your distal hand, the one further from the trunk, guides. You are not pulling; you are guiding. The movement must come from the dog.

During the return, when the stretch is complete and the limb reflexively pulls back toward its normal position, your hands work in the reverse. Your proximal hand accepts, while your distal hand guides. Every time I feel the leg retract into my palm I feel as if I’m receiving a precious gift. This is the control that insures that the dog does not pull out or kick out to the side.

Watch the tissues between your hands as they move. It’s true that what you focus on expands. Stretching is an expansion of the joint, so … your concentration, your intentional focus on the elbow energetically assists its movement. Your dog will bask in the focused presence that you are giving. Firstly, he loves, loves, loves the attention. Who wouldn’t? And, he will be more willing to cooperate when he knows what you are thinking and asking of him.

Your thoughts can be enhanced with your breath. They work together to support the movement you are requesting him to make. When we say breathe with the dog, we do not suggest that you can match the dog, breath for breath. Dogs breathe at different rates than people. Synchronize your breath with the movement you want to elicit. Inhaling is collecting, or bringing in. Exhaling is releasing, or pushing out. Exhaling with the stretch, and inhale with the return. You do not have to do everything in one breath. Your dog may want to sustain the stretch for several seconds. Just support him during his big movements.

Now, your breath, your presence, your intention, your support, your understanding of how your dog moves, all come together to assist your dog to stretch his limb.

This is a chapter from the book Canine Massage for a Senior Dog. Purchase this and other PetMassage books and DVDs at

My PetMassage is safe and effective as I combine breath, presence, intention, and my understanding of how the dog’s body moves.

By Anastasia Rudinger | March 26, 2019 | 0 Comments

A Walk in the Woods is open to interpretation.

By Jonathan Rudinger | March 20, 2019 | 0 Comments

A Walk in the Woods is open to interpretation. Last weekend I attended a concert at our local university. In this essay I work through understanding how to experience a new musical form and how it relates (as everything does) to canine massage. The concerts entire program was original compositions created by faculty, grad students, and incredibly talented and distinguished visiting artists. It was all very new, very fresh, very avant-garde.

One of the compositions was for trumpet and horn. The 2 musicians played at their own paces, sometimes their patterns blended, sometimes it felt like they were attempting to join up but with stutters and squeaks they defaulted into their their own paths. They were both accomplished musicians but listening to them, I was uncomfortable. It was disturbing. It seemed unpolished. Unprofessional. My conditioned expectation is to hear musicians playing with each other, in sync. You know, like in classical, jazz, rock, R & B.

During the Q & A, I asked the composers how they felt when their compositions were played in ways that were in variance with what they were hearing when they were composing. Was there a musical intention they felt they wanted to express? They all agreed that interpretations of their compositions are up to the musicians. They elaborated, saying that they are often pleasingly surprised and learn from, the new interpretations they hear. They likened it to writing a poem. Once it is created they have to let it go. Then, it takes on a life of its own.

I thought about this. I’ve been a musician my entire life. I follow my grandkids: one plays clarinet in an orchestra and another sings in musical theater. I didn’t think I was that disengaged. Could what I heard be the result of lack of rehearsal time? Could it have been played as intended? Was the composers intention expressed through the veil of the artists interpretations? Am I a troglodyte in the strange new 21st Century? Has music gone the way of visual arts? The piece was called “A Walk in the Woods.”

I took the dogs to the park for a walk in the woods. I watched them as they experienced their walks by themselves, with each other, and together. Their heads, noses and ears were busy; very busy.
So many delicious distractions. The leaves and dirt are seductively dappled with aromas of animal traces. Deer, squirrels, chipmunk, birds, hikers, other dog walkers, and the sticky testosterone-sweat of joggers. I could almost see it all wafting up from the leaves.

The dogs gaits revealed another level of language. They indicated where their attention was directed. They often walked stride for stride, heads turning in unison. When their pace differed they were in their own thought-scapes. They were each on independent journeys. They walked and paused, sniffed, scratched, and moved on.

Wherever the dogs meandered, whatever they did, they maintained a slightly turned ear to me and the other. We were connected.

A key to my uneasy understanding of the musical Walk in the Woods came in the comments of another composer. His piece was a slow gradual slide from the deepest low to the highest squeal, up the entire range of a cello. It was a relentless continuous interplay, played 2 strings at a time. The rising progressed as one tone lagged behind, then slowly caught up, and overtook the other.

He announced that his piece was intentionally written without a time signature. Artists are free to play at whatever pace they feel is appropriate in the moment. It could be all slow, it could be all fast. It could be slow in some parts and fast in others. It could pause. He provides no indications for bowing, volume, or inflection. It was the observers impression and the musicians experience that was important, not the written music. The composition was the map. It was not the journey.

What are the Helpful Hints? If you took your dog for a walk in the woods and refused to allow her to sniff and investigate, she may as well be on an indoor treadmill. It’s exercise but uninteresting and offers no significant opportunity for shift and growth. Life happens in the excursions.

The PetMassage session is a map for a dog’s walk in the woods. It’s a romp of the dog’s body, mind and spirit. Our beginning PetMassage training teaches a basic form and set of skills. That’s your map and vehicle. These will get you and your dog moving in unison. The PetMassage form is open and free to interpret. You and your dog will set the pace, determine the inflection, volume, depth, and length of session.

Your dog has her own timing and agenda. She is walking in her woods. And, these are her woods. If she is refusing to accept the light pressure you’ve learned to use in palpation, sink deeper. Meet her where she lives. Descend to the tissue level where she is and can accept you. That’s the depth where her investigational slide response will move her toward balance.

Then, bands of marauding tightness unravel beneath our fingers. Floods of brilliant intuition flow in, catch up and flash by. We are working together and we are each having our own separate experiences A Walk in the Woods is open to interpretation. . 

Your dog’s interpretation of her massage experience is the factor that enhances her quality of life.