By Mary Debono
Photo by Jay Wennington on Unsplash
The white poodle didn’t seem to have much going for her. At 15 years of age, her vision and hearing were dim. This sweet dog, whose name was Buttons, also had extensive arthritis in her neck and back.
But those limitations took a back seat to the most troubling concern. Ten days earlier, Buttons had suffered a stroke while undergoing surgery to remove her spleen. The stroke caused her left legs to remain stick-straight, unable to bear weight. The dog couldn’t stand, let alone walk.
After several days of intensive hospital care without any improvement, her veterinarian said that nothing more could be done for her. Buttons’ people, Clare and Frank, weren’t ready to say goodbye to their beloved miniature poodle, so they took their girl home. The little white dog had been lying on the carpet in front of their sofa, unmoving, ever since.
Clare and Frank knew first-hand how the Feldenkrais Method® of somatic education can help people move with greater ease despite physical challenges. When they heard that I applied Dr. Moshe Feldenkrais’ approach to dogs, they asked me to come to their home as soon as possible.
Time was of the essence. Clare explained that I was their dog’s last chance. If she didn’t improve very soon, they would agree to have their dog euthanized.
What transpired over the next five days would transform not only the dog’s life, but mine as well.
Despite her advanced age and poor physical condition, the poodle improved dramatically. In just three sessions, she began walking independently. Pretty soon, she was meandering around her spacious backyard and acting as if the stroke had never happened. As I excitedly observed her transformation, I knew that I was witnessing the amazing power of neuroplasticity.
Although this happened in January of 1995, the poodle’s remarkable recovery informs my work to this day. Knowing that a dog in such dire straits got better reminds me that improvement is surely possible for the rest of us too.
That’s what motivates me to share this life-changing work. Whether you’re dealing with the effects of aging, arthritis, anxiety or injuries, you can learn simple, powerful ways to improve comfort, balance and mobility for both yourself and your dog.
Having the tools to help yourself and your dog is empowering. You can participate in shaping the future for yourself and your canine companion, allowing you both to be active, happy and healthy for a long time.
A wonderful byproduct of this work is that it strengthens the bond you share with your dog. As you gently touch and move your dog in specific, beneficial ways, you pay close attention to what you feel. Tuning into your dog in this way deepens your relationship. The two nervous systems, human and canine, join in a subtle, powerful dance. Hearts are linked. It’s an unmistakable, joyful feeling of pure connection.
Most people find that this level of attention brings them fully into the present moment and calms and quiets the mind. Stress melts away. You get the benefits of meditation and you’re helping your dog at the same time. It’s a win-win.
I’ve seen how this work can improve comfort, balance and mobility at every life stage. I’ve worked with youngsters with congenital abnormalities, athletes in their prime who were recovering from sports injuries and senior citizens who just wanted to move around a little easier. All these age groups include dogs as well as humans!
Over more than 25 years, I’ve had the good fortune to help individuals with various challenges, including arthritis, hip dysplasia, torn knee ligaments, orthopedic surgeries, intervertebral disc disease (IVDD), fractures, muscle and tendon injuries, anxiety, scoliosis, degenerative neurological diseases and paralyzing strokes.
Whether you’re a millennial with a young pup or a baby boomer with a senior dog, the Feldenkrais Method is a beautiful gift to give yourself and your dog. Since it’s based on the idea that we can learn easier, more comfortable ways to move and act, it has at its core a feeling of hope. Of biological optimism.
And that’s why I love sharing it so much. It’s incredibly rewarding to help a person and their dog move easier, feel better and enjoy life more. To feel younger in body and mind. To realize that joy can be found today. And every day.
And that’s what I hope for you too. That through the wonderful work of Dr. Moshe Feldenkrais, you and your dog will discover new, more comfortable ways of sensing, moving and connecting. Like the 15-year-old dog Buttons, you’ll tap into the power of new possibilities. To feel younger, freer, more alive. At any age.
When you embrace the idea that improvement is possible, you’ll no longer be defined by a problem. Or limited by what you can’t do. Instead, you’ll focus on what you can do to make today better. And all your tomorrows so much better too.
Remember, it’s never too early—or too late—to get started.
I can’t wait for you to Grow Young with Your Dog.
Mary Debono, GCFP helps animals and their people overcome challenges and enjoy lifelong mobility and vitality. An international teacher with over 25 years of experience, she’s the author of the award-winning, Amazon #1 best seller, Grow Young with Your Dog. Mary’s website is www.MaryDebono.com.