Taco – The Dog Who Brought Her Owner for Therapy

 

Taco is a year old mixed breed dog who was brought to me by her owner Emma, although in actual fact, Taco brought her owner to me.

Emma has owned Taco since she was a puppy, adopting her from a local animal shelter. Taco had both behavioural (emotional) and physical problems that were causing Emma some concern. Recently Taco had begun to show signs of anxiety around other dogs when at the dog park and would hold back from any interaction.  If a dog approached her unexpectedly she was showing signs of reactivity. She had recently nipped a foster puppy that Emma was caring for and had shown some signs of aggression when children had recently visited the house. This could have potentially been a huge problem as children often visit the household. Taco was born in the shelter, but had not experienced any trauma that could have resulted in her behaviour or physical issues. Emma was at a loss over what to do to remedy the situation.

On a physical level, Emma explained that Taco was having problems with her back. When she put her front feet up on Emma for a pat or cuddle, the strain of holding her weight on her back legs would cause her back to spasm.  Clearly something was wrong physically.

As is normal in my first session with a dog, I let the dog roam around the enclosed garden of the clinic whilst I collect information from the owner. I am always watching to see how the dog deals with the challenges of a new situation/environment and how they move physically.  Does the dog look stiff?  Is it lame?  Is it showing signs of discomfort? How is the owner reacting to the dog being off-lead in a new environment?  Is the owner relaxed in talking to me or do they appearing anxious? I always assess the dog and owner as one entity.

Here are some of the things I observed and noted regarding Taco during the first 10 mins of her session:

  • Taco was lame on her back right leg and had a shortened stride. This was placing a lot of strain on her lower back.
  • She was really unsure and anxious in the unfamiliar environment and did not engage with me at all.  She avoided eye contact and appeared very distrustful.
  • Energetically she felt very disconnected. I often find this is symptomatic in dogs who don’t have a purpose or who have not quite found their place in the world.

Some of the things I noted about Emma in the first 10 mins included:

  • She had a serious ligament injury in her right leg and wore a leg brace for support.
  • She was very unsure and anxious about the unfamiliar environment and was reluctant to engage with me.  She avoided eye contact and was very distrustful.  She appeared to be there under duress.
  • Energetically she was disconnected. Later questioning revealed that she was on indefinite leave from her job as a chef due to her injury and she was unsure which way her career would go next.

The similarities between them were astonishing! Essentially, Emma and Taco were mirror images of each other and anyone could see they clearly belonged to each other. Even down to both having issues with their right leg! Such close similarities are commonplace in the dogs and owners that I treat, but it can sometimes take time for the owners to trust me with their emotional wellbeing enough to allow me to help them make the connections.

During the first session I focused on Taco’s physical problems.  I did this for two reasons.  Firstly, pain is always a priority. Relieving a dog of any pain is the single biggest thing that will improve their physical and mental health.  Secondly, if Taco had back pain, this may have been why she was grumpy at the prospect of any physical interaction with dogs/children, therefore this was going to begin addressing her behaviour problems.

Although I had felt this intuitively within the first 5 mins of their arrival at the clinic, by the end of the first session I knew for sure that Emma was the one who was meant to have the therapy.  Acknowledging and addressing her own fears and self limitations was going to change things for Taco completely.

For the second session I used Energetic Kinesiology to balance Taco's muscles at a deeper level using meridians and acupressure points.  When using kinesiology as a tool for animals, it is often necessary to use the owner as a surrogate.  I must say, Emma's anxiety levels rocketed at this prospect, even though she politely obliged!

During this session I also worked on Taco's emotional stress using neurological techniques.  One of the techniques I have adapted is to check for reactive stress with regards to the owner.  This entails asking the body, 'is there any stress within Emma that is contributing to Taco's emotional or physical stress?'.  As I suspected the answer was yes, and Emma began to open up on an emotional level in a bid to help her best friend.

Triggered by information coming through the kinesiology muscle monitoring techniques I was using, Emma explained that she was very unsure and reserved around new people and only had a small close circle of friends she trusted completely.  She felt anxious in new situations and environments and was frustrated at herself for being this way. She likened this to Taco around water.  Taco did not want to swim, even on the hottest of days, and would not go into water past her ankles! This frustrated Emma as she felt Taco was missing out on the joys of life by not being free or confident enough to jump in completely.

After these sessions Emma noted the following changes in Taco:

  • Taco was much more relaxed around other dogs.
  • For the first time ever, Taco had gone swimming showing no signs of fear!
  • Her back spasms reduced significantly.
  • She was no longer lame.

The game changer with Animal Kinesiology is that the therapy allowed Taco to help Emma.  Emma could clearly see the ways in which Taco was mirroring her emotions, personality and fears. Having this new understanding of Taco forced Emma to be conscious of her own reactions to situations. Working alongside them on this journey  I have witnessed how things have changed for both Emma and Taco. You may remember that both were a bit unclear about their role in life. Well, Emma is now a full time business coach with The Life Empowerment Project where she specialises in helping women who operate complementary health business really reach their full potential, ensuring they are able to help as many people as possible. This is such a fulfilling role and one she is completely aligned to. Taco is doing great and is even contemplating becoming a therapy dog to help others overcome their fears and anxieties.

These two were always destined to shine in the world in ways they could never have even begun to imagine. I am so grateful to have played a small part in their story together.

 

Did you know that our animals mirror our emotions?  What is your animals' behaviour saying about your emotions?

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