Wednesday, February 20, 2008

A Day at the Dog Park

One of my friends is an avowed animal lover. She lived with me for about 6 months after she got her first cat and her parents wouldn't let her bring him home. Shortly after she moved into her own apartment, she got another cat to keep the first one company. Since then she has also adopted a guinea pig from the veterinary office where she works, set up a fish tank, and taken in a third cat, a stray who stays mostly outside. This young woman can't seem to get enough of animals.

About two months ago she added Terrence to the mix. Terrence, or Mr. T as she likes to call him, is the cutest, most full-of-energy Jack Russell terrier mix. He has changed the equation quite a bit because for as small as he is, he is indefatiguable. He runs and leaps and hops incessantly. He never seems to stop. He is undeniably adorable.... and constantly demands an outlet for all that energy.

So my friend has gotten in the habit of taking Terrence to the dog park pretty much on a daily basis. I went along this week just for fun, and, my, what a scenario! My frame of reference for a "dog park" was something along the lines of a public park or school grounds known to local residents as sort of a gathering spot for dogs and their owners. What I discovered is that "dog park" is a much more official term these days. It's a special, large fenced in area with no grass at all, just a gravelly surface. You enter through double gates with a buffer area in between to avoid any escapees. Dispensers of special biodegradable doggie doo-doo bags are located conveniently around the place, and official park signs list the rules for using the facility. A couple durable-looking picnic tables and a few old balls and toys strewn around complete the picture.

When we arrived around 1:00 p.m., there were 3 women and about 10 or 12 dogs already there. Two of the women were clearly dog-sitters, overseeing several dogs each. The dogs perform quite a welcoming ritual when a new dog arrives involving a lot of barking, jumping, and sniffing until the newcomer is accepted into the group. Then everybody goes about their business. The little shelty goes back to running around and around the lone tree, barking and yelping at the imaginary squirrel high in the branches. The sweet, older black lab lies down in a spot of gravel off by herself, rolls around, and flops out. Some dogs patrol the place, and others hang close to their human looking for love even though they are here to run around and play with their dog pals.

A friend of Terrence's arrives, a surprisingly timid female German Shepard who cowers through the welcoming procedure, shackles raised. She is visibly happy to see Terrence, and even happier once she locates her special ball. She carries the ball around as if it evokes the courage she otherwise lacks. The dogs are a mix of shapes and sizes: an English sheepdog, a doberman, a border collie mix, an older Golden Retriever and a couple younger Golden puppies, and several small dog breeds, too. Everybody seems to know all the dogs by names and quirks.

What struck me about this whole scene was how drastically times have changed with regard to having dogs, taking care of dogs, interacting with dogs. I've known this, of course, but experiencing the dog park dynamics was a graphic reminder. Dogs appear to be fully integrated members of society, with a whole subculture of dogs and their owners or caretakers alive and thriving. It also struck me how easy it was to appreciate and accept differences in dogs. The obvious influence of breed and 'personality' make it a no-brainer to forego judgement about their behavior. If only we could remember to do this with people, too.

My Reiki Session with David

Last night I had the privilege of having a Reiki session with David Gleekel, Director of the Reiki Center of Greater Washington. I hadn't realized how much I needed work, and the power of the session made me think about how grateful I am for David's presence in my life - as a friend, teacher, guide, and colleague.

David came to me as a massage client several months ago, referred through a request on the Energy Therapy Network (ETN). ETN is an active list-serve of energy practitioners of all kinds, an amazing resource of and for healers - more on that in another post, perhaps. I was delighted to meet David because as a full-time energy worker, he truly appreciated what makes my work my work - the energetic component of the massage. He has since become a regular client, and his observations and descriptions have been affirming and helpful in owning my own power as a healer, in feeling validated and valued. He is a discriminating, discerning consumer of bodywork, who gets that 'deeper' does not mean more pressure, force or pain. "This is actually an energy experience delivered through massage!" Yes, yes, yes!!

In addition to massage, David was also very interested in experiencing and learning about Jin Shin acupressure, my personal stepping off place into the world of energy healing. We decided to exchange sessions - Jin Shin for Reiki, and we have been exchanging ever since. Through this experience
I have come to understand more about my own favorite healing art by comparing it to Reiki, both through my own sensations on the table, and also through David's astute and informed observations of his sensations. My knowing of both these healing arts, and of David's and my respective gifts as unique healers, has deepened considerably. I have also come to understand in a body-felt way what I've known conceptually since I started doing massage - bodyworkers need bodywork. This is not optional. The more I resource myself, the more I'm available to clients.

So last night it was my turn on David's table. His hands were drawn immediately to my right shoulder and I felt waves of release and relief begin to wash down my arm. David got a flash of a stabbing wound from a past life as a warrior, and I was glad to be releasing any residual pain from that. His hands followed the pain down into my arm, and he laughed and told me my arm was holding the distinct emotion of anger and wanting to punch somebody. I wasn't conscious of wanting to hit anyone, but as the healing proceeded a few choices floated through my mind. But it didn't matter, it didn't have to be made conscious, just released.

When David got to my right hand, he became quite still, almost reverent. He softly said my hand felt sacred, as if he were holding "a religious object that brings heaven to earth." His comment, and the vibration I felt of something like awe, took me instantaneously to a deep knowing and gratitude. To soul-level recognition of my hands as instruments of something so much larger than me, and the message that touching people is an unmistakable part of my purpose in being on earth this lifetime. As I seek to find a vision to integrate all the pieces and parts of me, this was a gentle but potent reminder not to take these amazing hands for granted. And how better to deliver and impress this message than with his own incredibly powerful hands.

Thank you, David. For last night's session and so much more.