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News About Dr. Sue

Doga - Canine Massage


Doga

Story by Jamie McElry | Photography by Cheryl Johnson

I run. I run with my dog, Mandy. She stares at me with eager brown eyes and quivers with excitement. She asks, "Is it time, Mom? Is today the day we run together?" She is my silent companion in an otherwise mostly solitary activity. She holds me accountable. Our run time is our bonding time; it is our outside play time. While I am away at work all day, she is home being sedentary. We stay fit and healthy together; make no mistake, running benefits her as much as it does me. If you haven’t tried running or walking with your canine pal, try it. (Remember to always check first with your doc and vet to make sure there are no underlying health issues that would be prohibitive for either of you!)

One of the ways I balance running is through yoga. Actually, I teach yoga. It relaxes me, easing stress. It helps to clear my mind. As with running, it gives me quiet time to reflect. It stretches me physically while making me aware of the subtleties of moving my body. It helps flush toxins from the body. Eventually, I hope to engage my highly energetic Mandy in the benefits of doggie yoga. Oh yes, it’s out there! Doga: basic, simple yoga postures incorporating a canine companion into them, classically free of all expectations and competition. It’s bonding time and fun time, time to connect. Our canine companions get tight muscles just like we do. And just as with the human body and mind, the canine body and mind must also be coaxed into a quiet, relaxed state to release those muscles. Don’t believe me? Research it! It is out there in some credibly written resources. And yes, in my spare time (really?), I am reading up and attempting to practice it, hopefully sharing it with yogi and dogi friends.

Another way we runners relieve the aches and pains of our sport is through massage therapy. Actually, a perfect workout on a Saturday would be a nice run, followed by yoga, finished with massage. Just sayin’. Like yoga, massage therapy benefits the body in many ways with many approaches. Some folks prefer a gentle, relaxing touch, while others, like myself, beg for the deep tissue type of massage that seeks, finds, and relieves the source of discomfort. Complementary to yoga, massage relaxes muscles, flushes toxins, and enhances flexibility to help prevent injury; it aids in recovery, can reduce back pain as well as migraines, and increases immunity.

So by now, I suspect you are rolling your eyes as you realize where this is going. Canine massage. Seriously. It can benefit the canine couch potato to the canine athlete. Just as with humans, massage for our pups is invigorating and energizing, comforting, healing, stimulating, relaxing, and reassuring. I have learned this through my friendship with Sue Furman. Sue is a fascinating lady. She has recently moved to Victoria along with her family of Irish Wolfhounds. Sue holds a PhD in biological sciences from The University of Texas, and she is the founder of Holistic Touch Therapies, which specializes in helping folks expand their human–canine bond through the modalities of pet massage and acupressure. Her credentials take up an entire page. She has authored several books, one of which is titled, Canine Massage for the Athlete in Every Dog. There is also a companion video. Sue explains, "The touch of massage heals the body, soothes the mind, and lifts the spirit of not only the dog but the human as well." Massage does not equate with simply petting your pup, just as a human pat on the back does not equate with a massage for us. While petting is certainly a start, massage goes much deeper than that. It teaches a skillful touch to improve flexibility and circulation, to loosen tense and overworked muscles, to relieve aching joints and reduce body stress. It also teaches stretching exercises for the dog, which brings us full circle back to yoga with our dogs.

Running gives us a "high." Yoga and massage center and calm us, creating balance in our bodies.

On April 19, Sue will present a seminar on canine massage, including a few doga stretches as well. It promises to be beneficial to the working canine, the recreational canine athlete, the couch potato canine, and the geriatric canine. It will be held at the Texas Zoo, further details pending. Hope to see you there! For more information, contact Sue at 618-339-0425.