Thursday, 10 February 2011

Scary Monsters

We went for a walk down Plemont Beach.  It was absolutely chucking it down and we took refuge in one of the caves down there.  Although one of our popular beaches of a Summer, of a winter it is pretty much abandoned and can be quite creepy as the cliffs are big and oppressive, but good for getting out of the rain in.

We have had plenty of rain of late and I have never seen so much water on the land and running off it as I have this year so far.

Hector and Tilly were fasinated by the roof of the cave and at first I thought it was due to some feathered friends perched there or maybe some bats that I could not see or hear.  As it was, the rain started to thin out and Colin and I decided to head back to the van when the dogs came flying out of the cave as if they had Hell on their tail.  I didn't hear it but Colin said that the cave had rumbled at them.  There was no fall or rocks or anything, but for whatever reason it rumbled it scared the crap out of Hector and Tilly.  Mind you, Tilly was quite clever as she was looking up at the cliff top when she came out as she was looking for something on top of the cave that had made the noise.

Am pleased I was not on my own and am hard of hearing becuase I would of taken flight as well as fright if I was on my own and heard the rumble as Colin said it sounded as if a monster was going to come out of hiding in the back of the cave.

The lovely beach of Plemont along with bespoke paw marks!

Taking shelter.  Colin always loves a walk in the rain....NOT

Friday, 4 February 2011

Getting in TTouch with Tilly


It is said that dogs do not have body awareness. Having a dog that will disappear at the sight of the approaching dremel and hide his head in the wardrobe leaving his backside on show, I used to subscribe to that theory. Hector, like most men, thinks if he hides his head in the sand then the rest of the world isn't happening. Then along came Tilly

From an isolated 18 month old dog with no mental or physical stimulation she became the equivalent of Jim Carey after ingesting too many E numbers. She was so wired from all her new experiences she used to shake and twitter from the moment she got up to the moment she collapsed of a night time. Most of her behaviour we managed to moderate though just taking her back to basics and giving her the experiences she should of had as a puppy. But a few problems persisted. One was her extreme reaction at being visually stimulated and the other was her sheer horror at accepting touch. The worst though was her total terror at the sight of the vet.

Whilst she craved attention it was as if the action of touch was so alien to her she did not know how to accept it or on what terms its intent. Whilst Hector would climb up on the sofa next to me for tummy tickles, Tilly would climb up me using her over-long claws as crampons and then wonder why sitting on my head did not bring the same sense of enjoyment as Hector was experiencing from his contact with me.

The frustration I experienced at trying to calm her down whilst experiencing different situations was awful. Sometimes it was worse for other people. On one occasion we were talking to a lady who had engaged our attention whilst at the same time whose appearance had indicated dinner time for her horse in the field behind us. Hector is solid with livestock, unfortunately Tilly was not. I was unaware that the rapid blackening of her eyes indicated the approach of said horse as I had my back to the field. It was only when Tilly suddenly went vertical whilst letting out such a long, blood curdling scream till the point she fell over flat on her back as if in a dead faint, that I realised Tilly had a problem with horses. The same reaction could be triggered by an unconscious hand lowered for a gentle pat on an unsuspecting hind leg of a sleeping Tilly

The absolute worst one though, was the vet. Tilly was pretty much a clean slate at the vet when we picked her up from the shelter. Unfortunately she was exposed upon her compulsory return to the worst kind of ignorance, that an animal can be controlled by force, at the removal of her surgery dressing after her spay. I will not go in to what happened at the hands of the shelter veterinary staff, but the result was an extremely phobic dog that could spot a vet or their surgery at 100 paces. A qualified behaviourist’s remedy to this problem was to make Tilly sit in the surgery waiting room, ignore the fact she is deafening everyone within a mile with her frantic squealing, peeing herself and shedding hair in distress. It was only the fact I needed both hands to pick up my dog and walk out of said surgery that I managed to keep my hands from off the behaviourist’s throat.

So, I continued to struggle with a dog that acted as if she was burned by touch, had a very effective visual and vocal tribal display (making the All Blacks Haka look as offensive as Swan Lake) at anything mobile, fast moving and, to her mind, coming her way and, finally making me need more sedation than her when approaching a vet.

Previous to Tilly I had purchased the Book on TTouch by Linda Tellington-Jones. When Beau had been a bit stiff with age he seemed to have appreciated my very amateurish attempts at TTouch. They might not have been effective in the way they were meant but we both appreciated the connection and closeness it brought both of us. So, in desperation I re-read the book. If I have one very big failing it is putting theory into practice. I am just not confident enough when it comes putting theory into practice with hands on descriptions in books and if I am doing it right. I can be pretty isolated in Jersey when it comes to the holistic approach in animal husbandry. I spent hours reading and practicing on Hector, who is always willing to do anything if he knows there is a reward at the end of it. I slowly gained enough confidence to try TTouch on Tilly, with moderate effect. I just knew there was more to this wonderful approach, if only I could tap into it with guidance.

Then one day I saw a huge GSD jump out of the back of a Range Rover next to me in a half body- wrap whilst at an agility competition

As it turns out the answer had been in front of me for quite a while. One of the ladies at agility was training to become a TTouch practitioner. She was the owner of two rescue GSD's, one of which she did agility with. I used to have to keep Tilly in the van at agility competitions as the stimulation of all the hyper dogs running around tripped her mind and people would flinch at her appearance, or should I say at the sound of her coming! If you want to be exposed to petty ignorance join a competitive discipline is my opinion. In a perfect world there would be only "normal" dogs and no need to think out of the box for any dog for whatever reason. I am afraid I became rather defensive at the attitude of some people as I really firmly believe you have people that love their dog and then people who love all dogs full stop.

To actually meet with someone who could answer my questions was amazing. As it happened, she was a TTouch Practitioner in Training and had been attending courses at Tilley Farm in England under the guidance of Roybn Hood, Linda Telling-Jone’s sister. I soaked up her calmness and she seemed to have an immediate connection with Tilly. What was even better she agreed to use Tilly, although at the extreme end of the scale, as one of her case studies. The most important thing I was aiming for was to be able to get her in to the vet without undergoing an session of ultimate fighting that ended up with both of us alienated from the other for a couple of days, as well as the vet needing plasters and brandy. Now I had the chance to turn that dream in to a reality

What amazed me about TTouch is that it was very much hands off at first. It concentrated on the dog becoming aware of its body in relation to the situation the people present and what it was experiencing (in Tilly's instance mostly hysteria). We started off our ground work exercises by walking a grid called a Labyrinth so Tilly had to be aware of where she was placing herself in relation to same. At the same time Tilly was being touched by a long wand that is actually a white dressage whip so she was on the receiving end of touch whilst not having to cope with the presence of person giving it, hence she took touch at face value and enjoyed the experience. She only had to concentrate on what she was experiencing with no other demands on her. I learnt how to moderate my body language and experienced the wraps as well as Tilly and half the time I don't know who benefited more me or my dog as I came away so relaxed. It was really amazing what could be achieved in a short space of time. What people must have thought of us as I walked my dog up the road in a full body wrap or head wrap just so I could walk her past the dreaded vet surgery. Colin took one look at my first attempts at a head wrap on Tilly and threatened divorce should he ever wake up resembling a mummy. There was plenty of deep breathing and lead stroking on my behalf and loads of contented sighs on Tilly's. I learnt a little and often am positive as did Tilly. When I found myself gently doing little Clouded Leopard touches to her without realising it or when she was lying next to me, I knew I had found something that not only worked for me and my dog, but was also mutually enjoyed just for the sake of it. It is not rocket science, which is important to me, and can be easily applied anytime and anywhere and with the equipment you have to hand such as your lead and a stretch bandage from the chemist. It treats both animal and owner and as with most things in life, you get out of it what you put in to it.

Of course the biggest success was actually getting her in to my vet for a check-up. She had never been for one before as it was too stressful for her. The only way we had managed previously, when she slit her throat open on barbed wire, was to approach her was in the car park and very quickly before she cottoned on to the fact it was the vet looking over her. Although I adore my vets, I think they drew lots at the mention of our name and took holidays around the time Tilly was due in for anything. Only my vet nurse (and old school friend) seemed to be able to do anything with her (chief tick plucker) and she has rescues too! Although not entirely happy and quite vocal, the whole point was she was actually IN the vet without causing a mass exodus of patients and staff. I am amazed at how little movements of minimal contact can have such a rapid positive response and this is in any sized animal. The thing that impressed me most is that even though to witness how quick and effective TTouch can be in restoring calm and trust in a distressed animal, it can equally be enjoyed with the family pet just for the sheer pleasure of it.

I would not have been able to progress without the help of my TTouch practitioner as she really did prove that practice is better than theory on this occasion. She is the picture of calm and acted as if my attempts of practicing touch pressure and type on her were perfectly normal. Tilly absolutely adores her and my vet is in (sneaking) admiration of her as Tilly as he no other explanation but to believe in a method he previously doubted. Some people will never know what it is like to feel close to tears to see your dog accept something that previously brought to them only terror. This is not just at the vet because when Tilly lay down and fell asleep at a busy agility competition amongst all the action and bedlam, I felt ten feet tall. I also find myself doing TTouches on other people’s dogs when just holding them or going in for a cuddle. Little ear touches are always welcome!

For me, having the tools to help curtail that adrenaline surge before it decides which way to swing, is empowering. Tilly is a very demanding dog and shows it at times by now pawing me for more TTouches when I stop, thinking she is asleep. Now that to me is a result and one more tool to enable Tilly to get as much out of me as I get out of her.

Many thanks to Briony Price, pictured above with Tilly in a half wrap, TTouch practitioner in training - Jersey. I now have help always to hand.

Information:  http://www.ttouchtteam.co.uk/