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THE DANCE OF CANINE MASSAGE

I have a couple of confessions to make. One involves a guilty pleasure and the other reveals a secret in order to give credit where credit is due. The first confession is the guilty pleasure. I admit to watching one - and only one - reality show in particular - "Dancing with the Stars". For me, nothing quite compares with the pure pleasure of watching two beings become one for a brief period of time as they glide gracefully - for the most part - around the dance floor. I know from the show that it takes a significant amount of learning to master the myriad of steps - the technical part of the dance - that when performed successfully makes the dance appear effortless. Yet there's another more elusive part that's equally as difficult to learn. And which calls for both dance partners to let go of their individual selves and trust together in a shared bond as their physical movements merge in perfect harmony. This elusive part is best defined as both a mutual awareness of the other partner and a shared intention established by both partners. Very different from the required technical skills it is nevertheless an essential ingredient and can elevate the whole dance to a visual form of art when done well. These components of awareness and intention are respected and honored by both partners and allows the technical part of the dance to be flawlessly performed. One partner leads and the other follows and one without the other - a partner or awareness and intention - is simply incomplete.

There are other dances between various partners that we all observe throughout our lives each having their own steps to learn, their own unique partnerships and their own mutual shared intention. There's the dance of friendship, of marriage, and of parent and child just to name a few. Another one to consider and which you may or may not find surprising is the dance between human and animal which occurs everywhere daily on a constant basis and specifically the dance occurring during a session of canine massage.

My second confession is that it always has been and always will be my animal partner that makes our canine massage session effortless. More importantly any missteps that occur during the massage are mine alone and usually are because I'm not paying close enough attention to the communication - verbal and nonverbal - from my massage partner. Although you might think that the technical part of the massage - learning canine anatomy, the strokes and sequence of strokes - is more difficult it is truly the lesser part of the massage. The more challenging area lies in the flow of massage, if you will, occurring on a moment to moment basis and in my ability to read and match my canine partner's awareness level of what they are experiencing through my touch.

"What part on the body do I touch next, does this particular area need more attention, is the animal reaching their maximum energy load level and need a few minutes to regroup" are just a few of the questions that go through my mind during a massage session. Moreover, and on another level I am keenly aware of the responses being given to me from my partner which enable me to safely and effectively manage the whole of the massage. My awareness of my massage partner and my responses back to their cues is crucial in order to achieve our mutual shared intention of a step forward on the return path to the animal's intrinsic state of wellness. It is, in fact, the animal's lead that I follow in order to answer all of these questions. It is the animal's lead that I follow to attain that elusive level of separate and different yet equal and joined partnership that I've been kindly told at times appears magical.

Phew! I feel so much better now that the truth is out and I'm grateful to you, gentle reader, for being my partner in my confessions. The best partnerships are the ones in which each partner puts the other partner first. I'd like to think that by pulling back the curtain on what really goes on during a canine massage just might make a difference for you at some point in your future. I continue to learn daily from all animals' masterful ability to live moment to moment and in their ultimate desire to be effective partners with the humans in their lives. They truly do make our dances with them wondrous to behold when we follow their lead.

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