It’s no secret that I have a special place in my heart for hound dogs. A few months ago, Wendy and her Black and Tan Coonhound, Phoenix, were driving cross country from Maine to Arizona when they were involved in a serious car accident. The vehicle was totaled, Phoenix sustained spinal bruising, and Wendy was battered and bruised. Both were walking, but each had a significant hitch in their get-along.
Phoenix is everything a coonie should be: goofy, vocal, mellow and amicable. She has a perfect coonie physique with wrinkles and rolls in her neck and waistline and ears nearly down to her elbows. Every time I went to the house for a massage session, Phoenix ran to her water bowl to get a big, sloppy drink. She always returned with her ears soaked more than two inches above the tips, slobber oozing out of her jowls like icicles off a pitched roof in Kennebunkport and a grinning bay that announced my presence to the entire neighborhood.
Every dog has a preferred massage location and Phoenix was no exception. She enjoyed the daybed in front of the picture window at the front of the house. When she was ready, she’d haul herself up onto the bed and nestle into the mountain of pretty pillows. I always smiled at the picture: a big, lazy-looking hound dog burrowed into a sea of Laura Ashley florals.
I worked with Phoenix for ten weeks and during that time she became more and more trusting of me and my hands. At one point during our third or fourth session, I noticed that she was breathing deeply and evenly. She was asleep. I could hear the gentle thrust of air through her nostrils and every so often, a soft sigh. I was just about to share this sweet moment with Wendy when I realized she was in the same state. Her head tilted easily on the back of the chair, writing pad resting on her outstretched legs, pen still in hand. Even the house seem to be resting, no longer creaking or shifting as it often did while I was there.
This is one of my favorite responses to gentle, restorative massage. The muscles of the body and the mind relax. The dog and the human have enough trust and faith in the process to let go fully. There is a certain completeness to parent and dog falling asleep together. Oddly enough, it’s one more way they build a deeper relationship, one more thing they do together.
Listening to Wendy and Phoenix snore softly, nearly matching breath for breath, I felt a stillness and certainty in my purpose. I grinned went back to work