Special dog gets massage therapy

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By The Staff

 Robert Redford made talking to horses an acceptable practice in the Oscar-nominated film, “The Horse Whisperer.” In fact, bona fide horse whisperers have been around for eons, taming even the wildest stallions.

Today, TV’s popular dog whisperer, Cesar Millan, of the “Animal Planet” channel, helps families learn to correct bad pet behavior by proper communication. Using his advice, Hospice massage therapist Paige Cushman has picked up numerous tips on how to work with pets.

“The success rate is phenomenal,” says Paige. “It always adds to my visits in a positive way, as well as allowing me to connect with the patient, their family, and make friends with their dog(s).”

While Paige has experienced across-the-board success with her dog-whispering techniques, there is always one story that stands out ...one dog, one relationship, one special moment. This is the story of that dog.

“Bailey is a bright and loving 3-year-old Springer Spaniel. When I arrive, he paws at the knob until the door opens and proudly escorts me to his master’s room. But Bailey is often too enthusiastic. He’s a “jumper.” In the dog world, this can be an aggressive behavior, potentially hurting someone.

“Because of Bailey’s keen interest in my giving his master a massage, I found an immediate reward and pulled out my best whispering techniques. Bailey’s so wanted to be a part of this massage thing, he would keep jumping up on the bed, so I redirected him to lay on the other bed. If he behaved himself, I promised, he would also get a massage. He took the bait. With a twinkle of understanding in his eyes, Bailey would cross his paws and lift his chin letting me know he agreed with the terms. Bailey would stay put until the moment the massage was finished. Then he let me know it was his turn and I, of course, held up to my end of the bargain.

“One day, Bailey’s master disrupted our well-rehearsed routine by taking a bathroom break. The minute he left the room, Bailey took his place on the bed, put his head on the pillow, and looked at me, as if to say,  

“Today, it’s me first.” How could I refuse? Laughing out loud, I massaged his head and down his right side. After about a minute, he turned himself over and clearly signaled, “OK, now the other side.” As I worked down his left side, he reminded me that I had missed a spot. By the time the patient returned, he was satisfied with his massage, and without a word, hopped off the bed and went in search of other things to do.

“As time went on, things changed for Bailey’s master. When he was no longer able to walk, he moved from his bedroom to a hospital bed in a closed-in porch where he had great views of the outdoors. Bailey laid claim to the corner of the room next to the bed, where he piled his many toys, including the green bone. During my visits, he usually stayed in his corner and no longer asked for a massage. He understood that his master needed all the attention and let me know that it was okay. At the end, Bailey and his master exhibited a gentleness of spirit and a calm acceptance of life’s never-ending changes. I am grateful to have known both of them.”

All volunteers, whether for respite care or thrift store work, participate in specialized training and orientation. Anyone interested in becoming a volunteer for Hospice of Marion County may call the Volunteer Department at 873-7441 to get an application. Hospice is at 3231 S.W,  34th Ave,