This week I had the honor of working with the Tails of Joy therapy dog group in Manchester, CT. Over twenty people and many dogs were in attendance at the Tails-U-Win training center. Only one person in the group had any experience with TTouch, having read a how-to booklet in the early 80’s. We began with a review of how Linda Tellington began TTouch work, with its origins in Feldenkrais and non-habitual movement. I showed pictures of the brain wave biofeedback study done by Anna Wise with horses and people doing TTouch with them. In this study, four brainwaves (beta for logic, alpha for relaxation, theta for recall & learning, and delta for deep sleep/meditation) were activated equally in both hemispheres of the brain during circular TTouches, and in the corners of the labyrinth. This pattern was previously noted by Maxwell Cade in his work with yogis and meditators, and he called it “The Awakened Mind State.”
Students then practiced lying and clouded TTouches on each other, followed by python lifts, and Noah’s march. Next I had a wonderful volunteer in Jake, a beautiful Korean Jindo dog, to show ear and tail work, as well as the TTouches we had done with each other. People then broke into groups of two to practice TTouches on the dogs.
In their comments at the end of the evening, people were glad to have some techniques to use when their dogs were showing signs of stress in a therapy visit, some techniques to work with sore backs and car sickness, and to have experienced TTouch on their own bodies. A doctor who came, and others caring for elderly relatives, were impressed with ways to use TTouch with people as well. I shared stories of my corgi Comet, who as a therapy and comfort dog worked after 9-11 with grieving families. I also told the story of how he helped an elderly veteran tell the story of the dramatic battle he had survived in WWII with many fatalities. This man never recovered emotionally and had spent his life in institutions, incoherent, until he told his story to Comet. That night, after his story was heard, the man passed away. The work of therapy dogs is so important, whether they are helping kids learn to read, comforting people experiencing deep grief, or brightening the days of nursing home residents.
The most important thing our teams of therapy dogs and their handlers found with our introduction to TTouch was a deeper bond with their dogs, who give so much to so many.