Animal Shelter Pitbull
Visiting a dog shelter recently, I watched a young woman bring a young pitbull outside for some fresh air and exercise. She brought him into the gated play area, tossed a ball across the yard, and sat down on a bench to watch him play. The dog showed no interest in the toy. All he wanted was some serious lap time. More than toys and play, he needed emotional support.
Nurturing, connection, undivided attention, and touching: these are the parts of his life that needed the most exercise.
Rescue Dog Finds Love
He clambered happily onto the bench and burrowed into her arms. The shelter volunteer understood. As she hugged his wriggling body, she giggled as his wet tongue licked her face. She was absolutely present with him, and for him. She bathed him in loving kindness. He looked up at her with big shining, accepting eyes and breathed it all in, as if his life depended on it. It did. I watched, and felt my chest heave, as he reveled in his moment in the sun.
Power Of Touch
I shared this episode with our class of Foundation workshop students. Nurturing, connection, undivided attention, and touching: the parts of his life that he indicated he needed more than exercise, are the core elements in PetMassage. They are conveyed in each touch. They’re all present in the way we touch.
Each touch has value. Each touch has the potential to reassure. Each touch is a source for entertainment. Commitment. Each touch demonstrates trust and fellowship. With each succeeding touch, the depth of self awareness reinforces and strengthens. Each touch develops the greater capacity for outward trust and self-empowerment.
That’s why touch is a need; as essential as food and water.
All Touch Is Not Equal
Of course there are different types of touch. Different values. Different affects. There is empty touch. That’s when you place your hand on the dog absent of any intention. There is dead touch, when your mind is distracted, your attention withdrawn and directed elsewhere, leaving your hand in disconnect: lifeless. There is apprehensive touch, when you stop breathing (hold your breath) and the dog becomes alarmed trying to figure out why you are showing signs of fear or pain. There is aggressive touch, violent touch, frustrated touch, confused touch, fearful touch, submissive touch, surrogate touch, distracted touch, needy touch, and smothering touch.
Power Of Breath
They’re all imbued in each breath. We must be conscious of what is present in our touch to make sure we are adding, not detracting, from the dogs quality of life. THE WAY we breathe during PetMassage is more than simply inhaling and exhaling. There is more to it than that.
PetMassage emotionally “therapeutic” touch must be applied in a form the dog can easily and readily understand and accept. Touch is applied. It must come from someone outside the dog. The needs PetMassage touch feeds are inherently present. The receptors are there. Waiting. Unrequited love. They cannot be activated, or fulfilled, without our active-and conscious intention-loaded touch.
Let’s practice breathing through our hands. We’ll call it “Touch breath.” Touch breath projects our sense of compassion, our loving support, our vitality, our aliveness. Dogs can FEEL our bodies breathe.
How To Experience Touch Breathing
Here’s how we breathe through our hands. Hold your hand in front of you so you can observe your palm as you breathe. As you inhale, feel your chest expand. Notice your shoulders pull back, your neck enlarge, your skull expand, your palm widen, and your fingers spread. As you release your breath, observe your hand as your body deflates. Your palm narrows and your fingers contract toward the center.
Breathe in and out; watching your hands expand and contract. Place your hand palm side down (pronated) on your other arm and observe how it feels to have your hand express your breath. The movement does not need to be big and exaggerated. You do not have to shout to be heard. It is natural. The motion is subtle; like your chest gently rising and falling. Whisper. It’s enough.
Touch Breathing With Dogs
Now place your hand on the top of your dog’s head and breathe through your palm. The tissues you touch gently expand and contract with you. The fascia that’s waiting for your touch on your dog’s head feels and responds to your breath.
Share “Touch breath” through whatever part of your body that is touching the dog: your chest, your belly, your palm, your thumb, and even your fingertip. On your fingertip, there is movement. The whorls of your fingerprints expand and contract.
Use the touch breath anywhere on your dog’s body where you sense it would be helpful. With “Touch breath” you draw from your own reservoir of chi, life force and instill a boost of much needed love and support.