Monthly Archives: November 2013

Touch Me, Babe

Just because we’ve made Cooper a permanent resident around here doesn’t mean we’re about to slack off on his training. Our job as Cooper’s People is to help him be the absolute best Cooper he can be. Let’s catch up, shall we?

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As you may remember, Cooper has anxiety. He had über separation anxiety when he first joined our household, thankfully that’s subsided substantially – I would even say completely, if I didn’t believe in jinxing myself. Cooper also has anxiety about the vacuum cleaner, the blender, the paper shredder, the lawn mower, the mailman, and the guy who walks past our house on the way to the bus at the exact same time every single day.  Those things would be manageable enough, but the main issue of Cooper’s anxiety lays with two Very Scary Things: other dogs and children.

Cooper has been through Basic Obedience, Relaxed Rovers (twice) and even Agility classes. The idea was to give Cooper confidence as well as to give Dad and I tools to help Cooper trust us and learn that when he gets nervous, there’s no need to freak out, the People have everything under control.

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Recently we added a new weapon in our arsenal to battle Cooper’s anxiety: Tellington TTouch.  Linda Tellington-Jones developed TTouch in the 1970’s while working with horses. Since then, the technique has been found to be helpful on companion animals as well. According to their website, TTouch has been known to help in cases of:

– Excessive Barking and Chewing
– Leash Pulling
– Jumping Up
– aggressive Behavior
– Extreme Fear and Shyness
– Resistance to Grooming
– Excitability and Nervousness
– Car Sickness
– Problems Associated With Aging

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Miss Penny offering some nice soothing touches for Cooper.

There are hundreds of certified TTouch practitioners all over the world, and one of them is right here in Nashville. Miss Penny is an animal lover and Agape Animal Rescue volunteer and foster mom. She’s donated her time to help other Agape foster dogs, like Operation Freedom veteran Angel, overcome their demons. When Miss Penny heard that Cooper was having a hard time learning to relax, she though that TTouch might be the perfect thing to help him figure it out.

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Think of TTouch as focused doggy massage. Miss Penny works with Cooper rubbing his muscles in specific spots and targeting pressure points with light repetitive touches and circular motions. An important aspect of TTouch is for Miss Penny to build trust between her and Cooper – she encourages Cooper to engage with her, but she never forces the relationship. If Cooper wants to take a break, he’s allowed to walk away.

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Now I’ve only recently heard of TTouch so I’m no expert – I don’t know what’s going on inside Cooper’s little body and mind when he’s working with Miss Penny, but I DO know that Cooper has never looked more relaxed in all the time I’ve known him than when he’s under her healing hands.

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Miss Penny has been involved in TTouch since 1982.  She says, “Through decades of exploring healing practices, I have never found a single modality as powerful and effective as Tellington TTouch.  Simple, gentle touches and movements affect the receiver on mental, physical and emotional levels.  TT reduces pain, speeds physical healing, promotes soundness, releases anxiety, changes behavior, leads to self confidence, improves bonding…so many things.  With such a long list of benefits, it can sound like snake oil, but like good nutrition, TT affects every aspect of an animal.”

Cooper has now had about half a dozen TTouch sessions with Miss Penny and every time she leaves, he’s diminished to a big pile of Cooper-mush for the rest of the day. Is it helping with his anxiety? It’s hard to say.  Time, training, and practice will tell. What I can tell you is this – Cooper has now made it through two entire episodes of Pit Bulls and Parolees without going berserk at barking dogs on TV. That, my friends – is growth.

Have any of you worked with TTouch? Has it helped your pets? Please share your experiences below!

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Guest Post: Dad takes over the blog!

Bye Coop, be a good boy, I love you

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A nice way to say “good bye” right?  As Cooper stood there on that brisk early morning, stretching out every inch of his long-lead, his face and slight quiver of his body disagreed.  But standing there in slippers and my Ohio State sweat suit, I was rubbing the sleep out of my eyes and didn’t notice.  The sun was just peaking up over the trees and its warmth was covering the front yard, so when Cooper didn’t feel like coming inside after Mom drove away, I thought nothing of it – he probably just wants to bask in the morning sun for a while. I went right inside, bringing Oscar with me so I could read some ElevenWarriors before work. It was then that I heard it.

Coming from the front yard, a slightly distressed, but not at all aggressive bark from the Coop called to me.  I’d heard this bark before, it’s common to hear this bark when Cooper get’s tangled up, or stuck, or just want’s to come inside.  As I walked to the front of my house I fully expected to see Cooper wrapped around a bush or my tulip poplar. To my surprise, he was just sitting there, leash fully extended, body positioned towards the street, head looking back at me.

I didn’t really understand it, I wasn’t sure what to make of his bark, or lack of being tangled.  Confused, I grabbed another leash and walked out to him. I thought that perhaps he wanted to sniff further out in the yard today? Or maybe he wanted to go for a walk? I clipped the leash on him and started walking farther out in our yard; Cooper followed, then peed. I started walking up the hill towards a park, but now I was the one that was tethered, not to my porch as Cooper was before, but to Cooper himself.

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Now I was really confused.  Cooper was just sitting by the passenger side door of my truck.  Unable to coax him away, I thought to myself “Well this is weird. I guess I’ll take a picture to show Mom later today.”  This was totally new behavior.  Sure, Cooper loves to ride in the car, but he’s never insisted on “going for a ride” before.  So, reluctantly, I sort-of dragged Cooper back towards the house so that I could grab my keys and lock the door, and was lead back to the truck by Cooper.

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On my way to the truck I started wondering what was happening. Where did he want to go? Am I crazy for actually following my dog? Yes. Did I care that I was acting crazy? No. How long do I have before I need to get ready for work? But most importantly, what is wrong with Cooper?  Then I remembered the last time I saw Cooper act this way.

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It was two winters ago, and our friends had decided to build a fence in their backyard.  Cooper was brand new to our foster family. Mom had just picked him up from the shelter a day ago.  Everybody (dogs included) was in the back yard working on the fence and watching the dogs play.  Again, Cooper was tethered (I promise we don’t leave our dogs tied up outside as much as it seems).  When Mom went inside to refresh our libations, Cooper was immediately distressed.  He ran and lunged against his tether in the trail left by Mom.  His bark wasn’t aggressive, but stressed, almost whimpering.  I was right there, not leaving, not going anywhere, and Mom was coming right back. But Cooper didn’t know that – all he saw was Her walking away from Him. And he couldn’t stand it. You see, Mom saved Cooper.  She was the one who plucked him from animal control, I didn’t meet Coop until I came home from work later that night. Mom and Cooper have, and always will have, a different bond than he and I do.

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So as I backed out of my driveway, I knew right where I needed to go. Somehow, Cooper seemed to guide my turns with his nose, though he’s never been there before.  He was excited. His tongue lapped at the air, tail wagged, eyes darted into every turn before it was made.  He somehow “saw” where she had gone and knew where to find her.

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So as I pulled into the garage and down the tunnel of her building where I would meet her, it was no surprise to me that he became so excited that he tried to jump out of the car, through the door as she approached.  Mom.  That was all he needed – to know where she was, that she loves him, that she’s safe, and that she will be back.

After our visit when I drove away from her, there was no mystery as to why I was getting pelted in the face by a tail whipping furiously back and forth.  Cooper was standing tall, paws to the rear window of my cab saying goodbye. When we got back home, Cooper went straight inside.  He jumped up on the couch next to Oscar, took a deep breath and sighed it all the way out, and settled in ready to snooze the day away.

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This is a true story, a story about Cooper and Mom, and a story of a crazy Dad. A story about Love, and I’m glad it’s mine to share.

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