Tag Archives: Fear Free

What does your car say about you?

This is an important question for someone like me, with a mobile practice.

Let me start by saying that I have never been a ‘car person.’ I don’t notice makes and models when I am out and about, and I most certainly do not follow things like car reviews or new model releases. I consider myself lucky to know that there are cars that run on petrol, diesel, hybrid and EVs. That’s where my car knowledge stops.

My 20-year old Toyota had served me well and I always said that 2022 was when it would be time for a replacement before it started costing me a lot of money. I also had to face it, the advertising on my car was starting to look dated because when we originally designed it, I did not have enough photos that were adequate and so we resorted to purchase a stock photo license for some of the design.

Here is what my tried and true Toyota looked like before I traded it in:

Last year, we filmed a customer story commercial for accounting company Xero and I had in my hands a number of professional-quality photos in addition to the few I had commissioned for my website and brochure several years earlier.

It was time for a refresh!

Things that were important to me in buying a new car and commissioning a new design were:

  • an economical vehicle with fuel efficiency and a degree of reliability. These are important for my bottom line and also because people rely on me to get to their homes on time and ready to work. I can’t have a car leaving me at the side of the road.
  • in terms of the business, I also think that my customers need to know that I am not wasteful with their money. Dog care is expensive and not subsidised in any way. Pet insurance doesn’t cover everything, even when you can afford a policy. Driving around in an expensive sports car or top-of-the-line SUV sends the wrong message, if you ask me. People work hard for their money and to take care of their dogs, my car had to reflect that.
  • retaining Izzy’s photo on the car in some way. Izzy was my canine sidekick in the last 7 years of the business which were our major growth years. I could not have done it without her and needed to honour her time with me
  • using photos of real dogs that portrayed the range of services I provide
  • retaining the Fear Free logo which I attained in 2018, becoming the first New Zealand-based Fear-Free certified professional working in canine massage and rehabilitation

I searched for another Toyota because they come up tops for reliability (this blog post is not being sponsored by Toyota in any way in case you are thinking that). And when I say ‘new car’ what I really mean is a new car to me – but secondhand in the marketplace. New cars are incredibly expensive and my Dad always said that once you drive a new car off the lot, 50% of its value is already gone.

In the end, I chose a blue Toyota Yaris because it had low mileage (a trade-in, not a Japanese import), a better safety rating, 4.5 star fuel efficiency and the right color to go with my branding.

What do you think?

Kathleen Crisley, Fear-Free certified professional and specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

Let me tell you about Rosie

Rosie is my foster dog; she arrived one month ago exactly, on 17 December 2021.

Rosie is an affectionate black greyhound who has had three unsuccessful adoption placements. You see, Rosie is profoundly deaf.

She was not born deaf, but she became deaf through ear infections – and what appears to be lots of them, or at least ones that had unsuccessful or no treatment. Her ear canals are so severely scarred that about the only sound she has reacted to was the high-pitched loud squeal of my burglar alarm which I set off accidentally last month.

But there is a lot more you need to know about Rosie to understand her

Rosie doesn’t know she is special needs. She simply lives in a world where she sees people’s lips move but no sound comes out. She is reluctant to make eye contact with new people and so can easily misread their intentions. She responds to emotional energy very well; she seems to know when someone is smiling and wants to give her a pat; I always ask them to allow her to come to them which works well.

When Izzy died, she certainly knew I was upset and came in for lots of cuddles and reassurance.

She isn’t so sure of people wearing masks because masks cover faces and Rosie needs faces to read the situation. I have been deliberately taking her places where she meets people in masks and where I am wearing mine. She even came with me to the drive-thru vaccination clinic when it was time for me to have my Covid-19 booster shot; she barked anxiously at the face outside the window.

Mask-wearing will be part of our lives for a while and Rosie needs to live successfully in a masked up world so I will continue exposing her in a controlled manner to mask-wearing people so she can become more confident. Today, for example, we went to the local SPCA op shop which welcomes pets. The shop attendants and the customers were all wearing masks. We didn’t have any issues.

Rosie has lots of energy. When the sun is up, so is she. Forget the advice that a greyhound is so placid that two, 20-minute walks per day are sufficient exercise. Rosie has been having two walks of at least 30-40 minutes each and cracks a good pace for the entire time. An hour’s long walk on the beach with greyhound Misty was not problem for her, either.

I gave Rosie a massage over the weekend (her first) and I can assure you that she has great muscle tone. For a girl who is now 6 years, 9 months old, she is in great shape!

Rosie would benefit from being adopted by a household with another dog who is well-settled and playful. Rosie likes to play (she has had several play dates and is enthusiastic about engaging with other dogs who are both off-lead and on-lead). A dog that could be Rosie’s mentor will give her someone to follow around and mimic. In my opinion, a chilled out dog who can teach Rosie the house rules will see her settle into a new adoptive home pretty quickly.

Meeting other dogs at the beach

Remember, though, that Rosie is deaf. She will always be deaf no matter how much training she receives. Rosie misses out on the low growls of dogs who are giving her a warning signal.

She doesn’t hear the children on the footpath who are coming from behind on scooters (startling her in the process). Whomever adopts Rosie needs to understand that they need to be her ears when they are out of the house – at all times. And when integrating into her new home, the dog:dog interactions will need to be supervised initially. Rosie doesn’t mean to be annoying, but she could be, in her enthusiasm to play.

Every greyhound needs a securely fenced section.

Rosie definitely needs one and always will. Off-lead exercise can only happen in securely fenced areas.

Rosie explores the section regularly throughout the day; the gate is always padlocked for added security

You may have heard that people who lose the their hearing seem to develop enhanced senses of touch, taste, smell, and sight. This is definitely the case with Rosie.

She is a sighthound. I can attest to the fact that Rosie triggers on all movement. So that is definitely cats, ducks, chickens, other birds, and rabbits. She also reacts to leaves, branches, pieces of rubbish and even my neighbour’s clothes on the line when they move in the breeze. Last week we were taking an afternoon walk along Papanui Road and the sunlight was reflecting off cars onto the ceiling of the shop walkway. Rosie startled at the reflections because it looked like something overhead was coming our way.

Consequently, it’s essential that anyone who walks Rosie does so with a firm grip of the leash and with it wrapped around their wrist. Always. And so that means that Rosie cannot be taken on walks by young members of an adoptive family. Adults only. Able-bodied ones, too. And please – a normal leash and not those horrible extension leads…

At my request, Rosie came with a lead that helps people know that she is a deaf dog. Her walking skills have improved considerably over the last month. She walks more calmly, mostly at my left side, although she will cross over the footpath when there is something interesting to investigate. Rosie is supposed to be a pet, not a competitive obedience dog and so I am happy to have her wander a bit. The important thing is that she has stopped tripping me up on walks with frantic zig-zagging in front of me.

If Rosie sees something of interest – like a neighbourhood cat – she will pull and rear up on her hind legs. Hold your ground and hold on tight. Rosie should always be walked in a harness for greater control and to avoid damage to her neck.

Rosie is a deep sleeper. All greyhounds sleep. Rosie sleeps more deeply than most. We know that dogs have a different sleep pattern than we do, but since Rosie cannot hear, it seems that she goes into a deep REM-like sleep more often. (This explains her energy levels when she’s awake – refreshed and ready to go!)

Greyhounds are known for their sleep startle – that sweet little greyhound can become a raving Cujo when wakened suddenly. In Rosie’s case, her risk of sleep startle is much greater. Therefore, I have developed a new habit of walking into a room with a good solid stomp of my foot. The vibrations will stir Rosie from her slumber.

The risk of sleep startle is another reason why Rosie cannot go to a home with small children, who are unlikely to remember the rules about engaging with a sleeping Rosie. Mature households only are needed as Rosie’s eventual adoptive family to keep everyone safe.

I mentioned earlier that Rosie is cuddly and affectionate. I have allowed her to sleep on my bed, particularly because she really wanted to snuggle and because she came one night to my bedroom at about 3 am when I was simply too tired to keep pushing her off the bed. Besides, I feel that since she has shown no interest in the sofa, she rightly deserves a chance to be a real pet greyhound and sleep on the bed.

Rosie is completely house-trained and she only barks when she is excited (such as when I am taking too much time to get dressed in the morning for our walk). I have had a pet cam running constantly for the last three weeks – she only whimpers a bit when I leave the house and then eventually settles on her bed for a deep sleep. She will sometimes go into the crate for a rest, but the crate is also strategically positioned so she can watch me in the kitchen from a safe distance.

In the interest of finding Rosie her forever home, I have begun working with Rosie on an essential cue – Look At Me. The Look At Me is the foundation for interacting with her handler so that she can then react to other visual cues which will be trained over time. I have already instituted her Come command, which is a vigourous tapping of my thigh.

We are perfecting her Look At Me and Come. Good things take time and I keep her training sessions short – only about 5-10 minutes each maximum. This ensures Rosie is set up for success. I am thoroughly happy to keep Rosie for as long as it takes until we find her the perfect match for her adoptive home and, in the meantime, we can continue our training and enjoy each other’s company.

Enquiries about adopting Rosie should be directed to Greyhounds as Pets.

Kathleen Crisley, Fear-Free certified professional and specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

Continuing education in pain management

In some professions (like mine) unless you choose to belong to a professional association that requires it, there is no requirement for continuing education (“CE”) or lifelong learning.

Long before I became Fear Free certified, I pledged that I would invest time and resources each year to additional study and I list everything I’ve done on my website to give my clients transparency and assurance.

This weekend has been a study weekend for me.  I’ve just finished a course in the Effects and Management of Chronic Pain in dogs and cats.  Chronic pain presents challenges for a number of reasons including:

  • recognition by the owner that their animal may be in pain
  • scoring of pain and tracking of improvements – a communication challenge across practitioners (owner, vet, massage/rehab therapist)
  • trigger points, myofascial pain syndrome, and compensation in movement which must be resolved to manage the pain (this is where my skills, in particular, are important)
  • setting realistic goals for the dog’s future activity

I was pleased to see the course endorse things I already do in my practice, such as having owners keep a journal of their dog’s movement and pain.

What I particularly liked is the description that arthritis is not an old dog’s disease – it’s a young dog’s disease because development of osteoarthritis is typically secondary to a conformational issue.   For those of you who wonder why I insist on gait analysis, this is why!

I cannot emphasise enough that we need to use our observational skills with our dogs because they are non-verbal communicators.  This video from Canine Arthritis Management ‘In Silence’ puts this important issue into perspective.

So in signing off, I use the words of basketball coach John Wooden, “It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts.”

Kathleen Crisley, Fear-Free certified professional and specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

At the vets

Today, Izzy was at the vets for her fourth Synovan injection for arthritis.

Izzy isn’t afraid of the vet, but she isn’t comfortable on the hard floor, either.   She’s used to carpet, a nice cushioning dog bed, or my bed – and because it’s winter, the hard floor can also be cold.   Physical discomfort is a form of stress.

My Fear Free solution has been to bring a cushioned mat with us to the vet for each visit and the mat has the added benefit of providing a surface that isn’t as slippery – also useful for a dog with arthritis.

Izzy can wait in comfort in the waiting room and the mat makes the exam room less stressful, too.

Kathleen Crisley, Fear-Free certified professional and specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

Top reasons for using dog massage

I’m often asked why people should employ a professional dog massage therapist.

balanced_dog-0002

In the 10 years I’ve been in professional practice, these are always the top reasons:

Care for an older dog

The dog whose been the love of your life is slowing down, possibly with a diagnosis of arthritis and medication from the vet.  This is often when I get the call…

A change in behaviour

The dog is doing something it hasn’t before; the family doesn’t know why.  And possibly they’ve been to the vet about it or possibly they haven’t.  We always need to rule out a physical reason for the behaviour and once I’ve seen the dog for myself, I often give the owners a list of questions to ask the vet.

General health & wellbeing

I love these enquiries!  They are from owners who tell me that “there’s nothing wrong with their dog” and they want to keep it that way.  Can I come and have a look and work on a fitness programme for them?  My answer is always yes!

Recovery from injuries and/or surgery

A dog on crate rest or restricted exercise gets all jammed up.  And many will need an exercise and rehab program.  My rehab programs always include ideas for mental stimulation and enrichment – key concepts behind my Fear Free practice.

Kathleen Crisley, Fear-Free certified professional and specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

Quiet, please, I’m Fear Free!

Last weekend, my business took a stall at the Dogs Day Out – a dog-friendly event at a local heritage park which included an organised walk.  I love supporting dog-friendly events because we have so few of them (something, over time, I hope to change).

These events become a good way for local dog-related businesses to showcase their products and services in a way that is focused on the community and not profit-making (unlike some of the commercial pet expos).  These events are also a way for me to highlight my Fear Free certificaton as well as my approach to natural dog care.

Fear Free certified canine massage therapist

The Balanced Dog’s stall complete with Fear Free certified signage and helper, Leonie

At these events, exhibitors often have time to chat once we are all set up and before the public arrives in droves.  I enjoy seeing the range of products and services that are on show.

Unfortunately, this event also taught me how far we have to go in terms of veterinary professionals understanding fear free handling and interaction.  Fear Free is about managing fear, anxiety and stress in our animals by focusing entirely on their needs and responses.  You need to understand emotional health as well as physical health.

So imagine that the stall next to us was a veterinary practice which opted to use balloons as part of its decorations.  Towards the end of the event, as I was still massaging dogs and talking with members of the public – the stall next door was dismantling itself in preparations to leave.  Someone decided the best way to discard their balloons was to pop them one after the other in rapid succession – like a car backfiring.

Can you guess how many dogs responded negatively to these noises (including the one on my massage table)?

Fear Free is so much more than spraying Adaptil in your clinic and playing soft music.  It’s about being prepared to take it slow and work with the dogs at their pace.  So many dogs are stressed by loud noises like fireworks, it should be common sense that popping balloons is not acceptable.

As my mother has said many times, common sense isn’t common.

Ask me about Fear Free handling! I’d love to tell you more.

Kathleen Crisley, Fear-Free certified professional and specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

Marketing Fear Free

Fear Free certification is something that is still new to the veterinary and complementary professions.  I saw an ad recently on Facebook for a Fear Free certified veterinary practice looking to hire and I’ve amended it to explain a bit more about what I stand for.

Where do you want to take your dog?

If you want your dog treated where…

  • dogs are allowed to rest on a comfortable, padded massage table – or the floor if they are more comfortable
  • appointments are booked hourly so there is no need to rush
  • you see me – a  fully qualified therapist with a commitment to ongoing professional development
  • I adjust my pace for each dog, so anxious dogs may take longer (but it is worth it)
  • and yummy dog treats and food diversions are used on a liberal basis

…then please book your dog into The Balanced Dog.  I look forward to working with you in the Fear Free way.

Bailey and Neisha May 2018

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

FF Certified Professional Logo jpg