In the March 2015 issue of Massage Magazine, there was a letter to the editor in the Reader Feedback section that caught my attention. It was titled “Pit Bull presence.” Part of the letter included “I don’t believe that most people find the presence of a Pit Bull in the (human massage) office relaxing. Jude may be the nicest dog around, but the reputation of the breed raises some anxiety for most people.” She goes on to state that she has a close friend whose 2 year-old grandchild was killed by the family pit bull, and concludes her letter with “I would not feel relaxed entering Carol’s office.” So. Massage therapist Carol must have written that she had her Pit Bull in her office while she was administering a massage. I think that having a dog present can have a very calming effect. Several of my clients like to bring their dogs with them when they get massage. It is the client’s dog that is present, though; not one of my boxers.
While I support the activities of pit rescues and personally love the happy go lucky characteristics of the breed, the sad truth is Pit Bulls are in fact abused and used as fighting dogs and weapons for protection in every city in the country’s tough neighborhoods. It is unfortunately the case that they have a reputation. We know that it is the culture and the training that create the killer dogs. And because of it, Pit Bulls have been the victims of state sanctioned genocide all over the US.
A quick look at the stats on dog bites shows that all dogs bite. The dogs that are trained to bite, those in law enforcement and protection and, of course, in dog fighting, all have the largest incidences of fights and deaths.
We need to honor the people who do not hold the same beliefs as we. Stridency for your beliefs is often a good thing and sometimes, has its place. Not all battles need to be fought. We need to be sensitive to those who are still living in fear and respect their need for personal and emotional safety.
We humans are the leaders. We are the ones who decide where the dogs are to be, when they eat, what they play with, and with whom they will interact. So, ought we to have dogs in our offices? Of course. But if any dog, be it a pit bull or a Yorkie, makes someone anxious, we need to respect them, too.
So, you may ask, why am I writing about Pit Bulls? 2 reasons: one is to address the passion that Pit Bull fans have that can devalue other people’s legitimate fears. I recall being in a pet store and listening with compassion as a raw food diet extremist browbeat someone who was purchasing a bag of kibble for her dog. She was in tears by the time she was allowed to exit the store with her dry dog food. The Bones and Raw Food Diet is more than the food you feed your dog. It is great for most dogs. It is also a choice. It is a commitment. And, it is a lifestyle. Stridency for your beliefs has its place. Pit Bulls are strong, and strong willed dogs. They just happen to be the poster-dogs for those who know them as fearful.
The other reason is that sensitivity to individual cultures and fears is an issue that is core to massage and bodywork. Nurturing is a primary function of a caring massage. We lead. We teach. We do not have to lower our standards to coddling or enabling. First though, we need to establish comfort, confidence and trust. This is accomplished by listening to and honoring, our clients fears. This goes for our human as well as our canine massage clients.