Pet Massage

Written by Karen Verna Carlson, N.D., Ph.D. (Hon.). Posted in Holistic Living.

Rubbing, scrubbing, scratching, brushing, petting, patting your dog, cat, hamster, horse, sheep, parakeet, cockatiel, chicken, iguana, snake or turtle is a feel good time for both of you. Beyond that, much has been researched and published about therapeutic benefits interacting with a "companion animal."

I've felt exhilarated swimming with a dolphin holding its dorsal fin at a Key Largo rescue center, observed the deLIGHTING of nursing home residents and staff when pets visited, and have seen physically challenged children transform astride a gentle horse.


~ Animals Are Beings ~
That term "companion animal" was used for a while by the Humane Society (HSUS) to emphasize "the integrity of animals as beings" in reaction to emerging laws defining pet animals as "sentient personal property." So writes Katherine Grier, a Winterthur and UD professor, in PETS in America (University of N. Carolina Press, Chapel Hill, 2006). J. Allen Boone wrote a book about his experiences eighty years ago pet sitting a Hollywood celebrity shepherd named London, describing how Boone's unsuspecting heart and soul were enriched by surprising expressions of dog intelligence and compassion. Kinship with All Life is a great read about this regular guy who opens to wondrous teachings from London. This was before Lassie and Rin Tin Tin were movie stars.
Grier notes that the Humane Society has "recently bowed to popular usage and returned to 'pet,' " and walks her readers through the early 1500's application of this derivative of the French "petite" to describe "an indulged or spoiled child; any person indulged or treated as a favorite" according to the Oxford English Dictionary. "By the mid-sixteenth century, 'pet' included animals 'domesticated or tamed and kept for pleasure or companionship.' ....It morphed into a verb, meaning to fondle an animal, by the early 1600's...."

~ Verb Emphasizes Touch ~
"These definitions are based on human perception: no people, no pets. They also call attention to proximity and the importance of touch...," writes Grier. Remember the Disney animation of Pinocchio? Not only does clockmaker Gipetto massage Figaro kitty, but also Cleo goldfish who wriggles and splashes gleefully. (There are a couple hundred million fresh water fishies residing in American homes and offices according to Grier's statistics from the American Veterinary Medical Association. Cats and dogs number less than 100 million each. Six out of ten U.S. households have at least one pet.)
"American pet owners now routinely describe their animals—even reptiles—as their best friends or as child/family members," says Grier, "and feel their pets enhance daily life and their own health...with the greatest drawback being the inevitability of a pet's death."

~ Ah-h-h-h-h-h-h ~
So, let's celebrate our life together now and get into your pet massage tutorial. And let's call it massah-h-h-hge, with a deeeeep ahhhhh. Say it, sigh it dramatically out loud and let your body recall the pleasure of total relaxation. Practice it a few times. "Massah-h-h-hge." Let yourself sink deeper into relaxation. "Massah-h-h-hge." Deeper. Make eye contact with your pet, and speak that sighing word. By the tone of your voice and body language let her, him or them really feel something of the gift you are about to bestow. Like all gifts, as the saying goes, the rose fragrance lingers on one's hands after giving a bouquet. A giver often gets a greater gift. In this case, it's guaranteed.
This is not remedial therapy, nor is it rubbing, scrubbing, scratching, brushing, petting, or patting. Massa-h-h-h-h-ge is a different animal entirely. (Sorry, I couldn't resist a pun-filled opportunity.) It is the quintessential holistic experience, which means each participant benefits exponentially on multidimensional levels. As the massahhhhger or massahhhhgist, you have the job of maintaining physical comfort for your own body during pet massah-h-h-hge. Your own body needs to feel happy. (The adage, "If Momma ain't happy, ain't nobody happy," certainly applies here to your bodily comfort.)

~ Plan Ahead ~
Give some advance thought to putting your body into a position where you'll be comfortable for about 15 minutes. Especially think about the comfort of your lower back. I sit on the floor for most pet massages, which might strain the muscles around your lumbar spine (that's a little above and below your waist). Sitting on a firm thick pillow might give you the comfort you need while permitting a full range of upper body movements to perform manipulations on a dog or cat. If your pet likes relaxing on or across your lap, a couch is a great place to do massage. Massaging a horse is obviously best done standing, but if s/he's laying down slip on a pair of knee pads. With experience you will be able to orchestrate your body mechanics for maximum comfort. At the first hint of muscle strain or fatigue, change your position.
Clear that your comfort comes first, it's time to massahhhhge. Our mission is to gently move tissue. For practice, place your finger pads of one hand onto the back of your other hand. Use your pads to slowly move the tissue over hand bones. Do not slide your fingers over the skin surface. Pretend they're glued on. That's masssahhhhge.

~ Gentle or Firm ~
Gentleness is replaced by firm tissue movement over larger areas of bone. On a dog or cat, that would be shoulders, chest, back and haunches. Use your whole open palms to slowly, firmly lift and shift tissue over skeletal frame. The loving bond between you brings forth feedback. Smaller or more intricately boned areas like ears, paw pads, lower legs call for one or more of your finger—or thumb—pads to manipulate tissue. Occasionally, vocalize "massah-h-h-hge" with a deep, satisfying sigh to set that connection in your pet's mind.
These mechanical techniques are simple. Move physically in response to your pet's feedback. Mentally or metaphysically, there are simple techniques that exponentially enhance the health benefits for both of you. For starters, just as you planned ahead for your physical comfort, hold a clearly formulated intention in your mind. Then during the massahhhhge, devote your full attention to the process.

~ Intention + Attention ~
Intention according to the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language is "1. A plan of action; a design. 2. An aim that guides action. 3. The general connotation or concept of something; what something is meant to convey." Attention means "1. Concentration of the mental powers upon an object; a close or careful observing or listening. 2. The ability or power to concentrate mentally. 3. Observant consideration; notice: Your suggestion has come to our attention. 4. Consideration or courtesy: attention to others' feelings."
These two simple tools—user friendly and free—are the source of my successes training practitioners, providing healing services for clients, as well as my holistic care ("Karen") for elders, children, pets, gardens, autos and homes. Because I most always INTEND to give clients—whether plants, people, places or pets—my full ATTENTION, I learn a lot about them. Whether a person casually comments on the weather, national economy, or family events, I pay attention to what they say and how they say it, as well as to what they don't say. A pet's eyes and body language are very informative. A place's color, furniture or garden arrangement, sunlight, odors and sounds of the area convey valuable information.

~ Tap into Help ~
My cellular intelligence or cellular consciousness collects data in this manner. It's as though all my cells are telemetrically connected to greater [more than 1,000,000%] intelligence or consciousness. This universal awareness stores, analyzes and retrieves those data that support my communicated intentions or goals. My cells are databanks of experience. Cosmic consciousness "pays attention" and intends to be helpful at my request.
Many names for this greater intelligent, loving nature could include Light, God, Spirit, Higher Power, Guardian Angels, Ra and Ka of the Egyptians, High Self and Mana of the Kahunas, Hippocrates' Healing Power of Nature, Brahma and Prana of the Hindus, and in the far East Tao, Chi and Ki. Anyhow, this greater perspective sifts through all that data and somehow presents cues relevant to our intention for me and my client to notice in a timely fashion.

~ Tap into Power ~
A famous example of the POWER inherent in attention happened in a high tech laboratory. An ongoing scientific experiment monitored electrical patterns in a glass cylinder to simulate lightening during the theoretical Big Bang. It was in a restricted room, so entry was limited to authorized scientists, and all comings and goings were logged on a time sheet and observed by security.
Many times there was just a singular observer. When others converged, they casually discussed sports or the stock market or corporate scuttlebutt, while watching the perpetual jagged electrical activity.
Similar to computers running calculations of Pi day after day, state-of-the-art computers charted this experiment continuously. One scientist noticed some vague sort of pattern emerging at times from the wildly random activity. He discovered evidence that the electrical pattern changed whenever one or more persons were present. (Maybe the visitors' attention, minimal as it may have been at times, caused the electrical change.
Hmmmm, maybe the electricity was paying attention to the visitors. Maybe the electricity chose to change its pattern!)
~ Infuse Vital Energy ~ The academic conclusion to these data was that attention is indeed a force or power that physically affects phenomena that aren't even 'alive'! And that led to the scientific realization that everything has consciousness, that is, everything—matter and energy—has some level of intelligence! And so everything is indeed alive to some degree!
Attention paired with intention draws vital energy into our aura and into our body. Attention and intention catalyze to open our channel to Nature's vital force. That energy is a magnificent resource. It is the fountain of youth.

~ Real Stories ~
Here are some pet massahhhhge stories that give some idea of the results you may achieve. McDuff is a 5-year-old Springer Spaniel who's a basic kinda guy, content that Esha (that's a long 'e'), a slightly smaller hound, white with orangey patches, demure and sensitive, is the alpha dog. She was my bestest friend as soon as I first laid hands on her. I usually start with her shoulders, one hand on each side. Her trim, muscular physique appreciates firm pressure as my thumbs and fingers grasp small rolls of tissue, gently lifting and kneading muscles around her shoulder bones. It's not long before she's on her back for chest massahhhhge. This is even firmer and slightly more vigorous as she stretches open. My thumbs press along the crest and follow my strong hand circles. She now requests massahhhhge by gently placing a paw on my lower leg, while gazing longingly into my eyes. That's usually good for a 15-minute session, which is enough for me, but we've never reached her saturation point. Anytime I'm in the neighborhood, working with other clients, Esha sits patiently in front of her yard to greet me coming and going and gets at least ten minutes of massahhhhge.
At first she'd edge out McDuff from my ministrations, but a year later, she's willing to let me work on McDuff with one hand, while she gets a thorough massahhhhge with my other hand. They never get tired of hearing me exclaim that that's why Nature gave me two hands. McDuff's eyes half close during our session and through the slits only white is visible—the closest thing I've seen to that blissful state of Nirvanna.
Misty kitty is aptly named, for this 20th year of her life she is certainly a wisp as light as a helium balloon. She's so etheric she probably wouldn't leave any paw prints if she walked through sand. And when she transitions from floor to masterbed she really does look like a helium balloon released, rather than a jumping feline. This old gal really loves her massahhhhges. She's a survivor, not a lap cat. After our first sessions on the floor, she got the idea for the raised fireplace hearth to serve as her private massage table. She'd stand there looking like an ancient oriental sage with slit eyes and drooping whiskers that remind me of a Fu Man Chu mustache, until I sat down on the hearth next to her. I am amazed at how much more comfortable my body feels working at this "level" (with lots of metaphysical implications). And it was all her idea. I hold her up with one hand on her chest as my fingers softly manipulate the paper thin tissue there, while the fingers of my other hand delicately knead her shoulders. She always chooses to stand. I feel like she's soaking in my healing touch like I used to soak up the sun at the beach.
Charlemagne was a wild cowbird that lived cage free with me for her life of 11 years. She'd demand massahhhhge on the top of her head. I'd be reading or journaling, and she'd land on my hand and give me a light, but sharp peck. My finger tip was about as big as her head, which felt like a marble under her feathers. She'd ruffle her head feathers while tilting her head downwards, while I massahhhhged her crown. I used this as a cover photo for one of my Holistic Massage magazines.
If "pet" implies fondling, then massahhhhge might imply fulfillment. Katherine Grier reminds us also that " 'pet' suggests the most fundamental characteristic of pet keeping, the act of choosing a particular animal, differentiating it from all other animals. I know people who insist that their pet selected them first—and if you know dogs and cats, there is some reason to believe that this is true—but in the end, we choose to become their stewards."
The Little Prince (by famed aviator Antoine de Saint Exupery) doesn't understand the fox's request to be tamed. Fox explains, "To me, you are nothing more than a little boy who is just like a hundred thousand other little boys. And I have no need of you. And you, on your part, have no need of me. To you, I am nothing more than a fox like a hundred thousand other foxes. But if you tame me, then we shall need each other. To me, you will be unique in all the world. To you, I shall be unique in all the world....One only understands the things that one tames. Men have no more time to understand anything. They buy things all ready made at the shops. But there is not shop anywhere one can buy friendship.
Discover a deeper connection with your critter companion through holistic massahhhhge.

Writer's Bio: Karen is a naturopathic physician who has taken holistic healing and education into the realm of quantum physics. She is credited with “the first major breakthrough in Swedish Massage ~ research demonstrating energetic interconnections ~ since Peter Ling systemized it in the early 19th century.” International recognition for her healing and educational work includes an honorary degree, a silver medal, listing in Who’s Who of Professional and Business Women, appearances on TV and radio, lecturing in Europe and in the U.S. for professional symposia, colleges, corporations, community groups, and being featured in professional journals, magazines and newspapers. She has published more than 200 articles on holistic health and education. She has facilitated joyful well-being and health for hundreds of students she has personally certified in holistic healing and holistic massage and for hundreds more clients she has personally touched including luminaries in science, medicine and religion.
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