EMHD Episode 2: How Optimism Can Heal Your Dog

Sep 06, 2022

Would you like your dog to heal from physical or behavioral issues? In this episode, you’ll learn how shifting your focus AWAY from the problem can help you make better choices to help your dog recover.

And you’ll hear about dogs who, against all odds, overcame serious health difficulties.

Their recoveries were possible because their humans expanded their thinking. They set aside the negativity of their dog’s problem. Instead, they used their brainpower to look for new possibilities for their dogs.

They focused their thoughts towards helping their dogs heal. To deepening their connection. To feeling love and joy.

When you embrace this shift in thinking, what happens next may surprise and delight you! Shifting your perspective towards new, more optimistic possibilities can make all the difference in your dog’s journey. And your own.

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Hello today. I'd like to share with you how a little shift in your perspective can really help your dog. The title of this episode is actually how optimism can heal your dog. So before you just like, shut this down and say, oh my gosh, Mary, but my dog is maybe 15 years old and struggling to walk, or my dog has just been diagnosed with something really serious.

Let me tell you that I've been working with dogs and their people for more than 30 years. And I have seen a lot and I've seen how a different way of looking at an issue can really help your dog. Okay. So let's just think about this. Just say, God forbid, a dog is diagnosed with something serious or your dog is older and is struggling, struggling to walk.

Maybe no longer runs again. Maybe isn't jumping into the car or onto the couch, things like that. So you see that there's definitely issues. And of course, number one, you're following veterinarian's advice. That's important. Well, there are people who right away when they see something like that. They have a very pessimistic outlook, they think, oh, my gosh!

This is the end of the road. And yes, it's sad. It definitely, there is a loss. When you start to see that your dog is diminishing and function, maybe even diminishing cognitively. So definitely you don't want to repress those feelings. This isn't about repression, but it's about not just focusing on a problem, but also seeing possibilities.

Okay. Because sometimes what happens. And again, I've seen this over and over again is that we get so habituated to focusing on the problem that we're blinded to other avenues that could really help our dog. So say for example, there's a pretty significant injury and you think this injury is going to be life altering to your dog, and maybe it will meet to some degree.

Again, you can just focus on how negative that is, how bad that is. And you may not see that there are other ways that your dog can be joyful and that you and your dog can still move through life in a happy way. So let me give you some examples. Maybe that'll help. I start with some examples.

So a number of years ago, there was this a woman called me up and she really wanted an appointment. I was seeing dogs in person at that time. She wanted me to work with her dog. She had a little Chihuahua named chili and he had a stroke and he had been paralyzed for the last, I think it was 18 Days and he was literally at the vet hospital. So she took him straight from the vet's hospital to my office, for me to work with.

And what had happened was, again, the dog had a stroke and one side of his body was completely paralyzed at the vet's office. They were fabulous veterinarians and their technicians, and they tried everything. They were doing all kinds of rehab, trying to bring them back, nothing, nothing, nothing was helping this dog. And he was like a middle-aged dog.

He wasn't very old at all. And they said we have tried everything. He is not going to improve. If he hasn't improved at this point, he's not going to improve. And he was literally paralyzed on one side. So that meant that he just could lie down on his side. He had to eat and drink lying down and you have to squirt water in his mouth carefully and all that stuff.

But Marion was the person's name. And she had heard about my work from some other people and she thought, let me see if there's something else I know everyone's telling me that this is the problem he has, and this is going to be the outcome no matter what, but I am going to see if there's something else I can do. And so she brought him to me and what was really cool was yes,

he came to me paralyzed. Okay. And by the way, I've pictures of him, of me working with him and how he was before and at the end. And he just needed what he needed was he, his body needed some way out of that loop. It was in. So if you think about a stroke, that's a disruption in the neural signaling K from the brain to the muscles.

Let's just say to put it in simple terms. And so he had a big disruption because he had had a stroke. It's a one sign of his body was not getting those signals. There was nothing wrong with the joints and the muscles and all that. It's just that the signals were not getting through. So using my hands and I actually have a blog post where I describe in detail how I worked with Chile.

But if you, what I did was with my hands, I started to give him different sensory information. I did this in a very, very particular way. I, you know, I've been trained for many years in this work and my work is based on the Feldenkrais method for people. And I apply it to dogs, horses, and all kinds of critters and humans as well.

So I just want it, so we can go into depth to talk about chili another time. And like I said, I do have a blog post about him, but if, just to give you a sense of the Marion's perspective and my perspective, because if I just had focused also on this idea that, okay, this is how chili is, this is what all the vets are saying.

I would not have the ability then to look for other possibilities. So chili is one example. And by the way, he walked like late that day. And I only worked with him three times and he was running around completely fine. Amazing, amazing. And I, I detail all this, not saying I'm amazing. It's he was amazing. His body had optimism.

This is an important distinction. It's not just you being optimistic. It's recognizing that your dog has biological optimism. Okay. Your dog wants health. Wholeness wants to be well. And I think it's, it's important that we recognize that. And we're going to talk a little bit later about end-of-life stuff. Okay. I'm not sweeping that onto the rug.

There is. We're going to talk about that today, but what I wanted to, just to, to remind you is that we all, we have a two, we have this built in biological optimism that we're looking for that health and that wholeness. So all we have to do, I shouldn't say all like as if it's super simple, cause it's not necessarily.

But what we want to think about is tapping into that is us being able to make that connection from my biological optimism, to the dog's biological optimism and creating that connection, that heartfelt connection, it comes from the heart. It comes from our nervous system. It is a really, it's something very strong that I feel as I'm working with a dog, I feel it.

And what's really cool is since the pandemic I've been working. And I actually did some of this even before, cause I have clients all over the world, but I'm working online with people and helping them use their hands to help their dogs and horses, et cetera. And what's really cool is even across thousands of miles, you know, over the internet, I can still have that sense that I'm, that we're connected, that I'm connected with that human and her and her dog.

And there's something I really feel a deep insight into. And it's this idea that I know that there's optimism there, that there's an innate optimism in that dog, in that human in myself. And that all I need to do is kind of give them a blueprint to tap into and then they can run with that.

Okay? I say, they, because it's the dog and the human are working together. It's something, this work is something we do with animals. We don't do it on them. It's not like something we're imposing on them. It's a way of connecting at a very deep level and then providing new sensory information. So their bodies, then their nervous system can then use that to help them heal.

So another example is a dog named Rocky. And I talk about him in my book, real young with your dog. He was definitely a big teacher for me, Rocky. And he came in, he was 11 and a half years old, a very handsome Australian shepherd. And he was dragging his hind legs and he was kind of falling over and not good.

And again, his person, Bob had obviously done all the vet stuff. I won't see a dog without that. And they said they couldn't do anything else for him. And someone told him about me. He wanted to see if I could help. And in that session, I connected so deeply with Rocky and I was able to give him a sense of relief.

He was holding so much tension. He had, of course, had a lot of arthritis in his spine, which I can't take away, but I could give him new ways of using what he has. Again, I talk about him a lot in the book. So I go into depth about what I did, but if I just focused on Rocky's problem and said, okay, well the vet said this and the vet said that, and just focused on this narrow window of this is the problem and he's not going to get better.

Well, we all would have been screwed. I would have missed out on a tremendous experience that I had that changed my life. Again, I detail it in the book and Rocky would have missed out on being able to walk again and on his own, or Bob would have missed out on experiencing all that and taking Brockie for hikes in the mountains again and all that good stuff.

They went camping again. And it was like fabulous. So this is not to say that I have anything special. I felt Rocky gave me by the way, a lot more during that session than I gave him. But nonetheless, we connected and I was able to have that sense.

I had this strong sense of optimism about new possibilities for Rocky. So that was really, really important. Another dog was Jackson. So Jackson came to me. He was only three years old. He was diagnosed with carpal arthritis. So that's arthritis in the wrist. And his vet had told the owner, Mary, Mary Jane, that he's going to have to live with this.

And the dog was limping. Jackson was limping when I saw him and they did x-rays at the vets. And the vet said he has significant arthritis. Yes, he's only three, but he developed arthritis. And just to have to manage it with prescription pain meds and she wasn't ready to do that. And again, someone had told her about me and I helped Jackson.

Who's also in my book move in a way that the arthritis was no longer... I'm sure his x-rays will look the same, at least right away. Maybe over time they would have changed and gotten better. But he walked normally out of my office, never limped. As a matter of fact, I nicknamed him action Jackson, because he was so crazy apathetic and so active and never had a problem with his carpal arthritis.

So again, in his case, Mary Jane was optimistic. She chose to look at other possibilities. Therefore we were able to give Jackson other avenues, other possibilities. This is important. We were able to tap into Jackson's own sense of optimism. And I don't just mean optimism. Like, oh, it was the food coming now. Yay. I'm so excited.

There's going to be treated. I know it. I know it. We love that optimism in our dogs, right? But I'm talking about something even deeper, something even deeper than it's just this weather. Even if you think my dog isn't optimistic, you know, she's afraid of everything or something like that. They still have that innate biological optimism that wants them to be healthy and whole and well, and to feel good.

So you learn to tap into that and feel it in yourself. You can really help your dog that way. So another example is this dog, Zoe again, a young dog, she was only three. She had had an FHO surgery. So that's when they have to remove the top of the femur, the head of the femur.

And she was the smallest dog and dogs like that usually recover really well. But despite going to canine rehab, and things like that, she wasn't getting better. She would not use the lag. And she was doing swim therapy. She doing all kinds of things, but she would not use the lag. And the surgeon was at a loss. The surgeon's like you're doing all the right things.

I don't know. Well, her person happened to come to a presentation I was giving. And so she went out and got my book and she did one of it's actually the very first exercise connected to breathing. She did that with her dog and it was like the magic dog got up and started using her leg normally. But what does her person does, whose name is Natalie?

What Natalie did, was she tapped into that sense of new possibilities instead of saying, oh, well I guess she's never going to recover. She thought, no, there, there could be other avenues we can explore. Let me see how I'm doing this gentle exercise. That's kind of like a reset for the nervous system, by the way, it was connected to breathing, which if you sign up for my masterclass, it's totally free.

You'll learn about that. So if you go to marydebono.com/dog, you'll get three videos and you'll actually learn all about that. But that's what she did. So she learned it from my book, but I also give it to you in this free masterclass series and amazing how much it helped her dog.

Right. It was like a reset for the dog's nervous system. Again, she tapped into her dog, biological optimism, and she was optimistic. She's like, I'm not giving up. I'm going to just see if there's something else we can do. Another dog Juliet owned knows who I should say loved by my friend, Vicky Juliet was a wonderful dog.

And she was diagnosed with what they said was severe hip dysplasia. But despite that, despite that Juliet was able to, without being on pain meds or anything competes in agility and other canine sports, she was an amazing, very active dog. She was like a border Collie Aussie mix and Vicky again, she's a very optimistic person, Vicky.

And she thought, well, I'm not going to just say, well, she has this arthritis. I'm going to just like shut down her life. Let's see how we can do how we can help her. And so what Vicki did was she used to have Juliet have sessions with me. She would have acupuncture. Veterinary acupuncture also gave her sessions. So she did things to keep the dog well, to keep her whole.

And they worked, they worked now, of course, she would never be reckless and do something that was damaging to the dog. She was always very aware of how her dog was responding, but again, she had that openness. She had that sense of optimism and therefore she was able to tap into that with Juliet, her dog as well.

Okay. So I've many, many stories like this. My book is full of them. I have them also in my blog and things like that. But this idea is that we can either be focusing on a problem or we could focus on the possibilities. Now what's really interesting is this whole field of neuroscience shows us that we kind of get addicted to certain perspectives, to certain ways of thinking.

And maybe we started being very problem-oriented maybe quite young in life. Maybe it helped us. Maybe it helped us cope with things as kids or whatever. We just were maybe kind of indoctrinated into that way of thinking. We learned it from our parents or from our teachers or from our friends or whoever, maybe the media, but we started really being problem-focused and that bleeds over then into other areas of our life.

So maybe we're always expecting the worst at our job or in our relationships that will negatively impact you in all areas of your life. And it was certainly impacted your dog because our dogs are so tuned into us. Okay? Whether we realize it or not, they're picking up physiological signs. We're giving off, they're picking up our emotional state. That's why like all these so many dogs, right?

They can be trained to be like diabetic support dogs that they can change. They can signal a change in your blood sugar. They can notice it and give you a signal that, oops, you better check your blood sugar or something's going on with you. They could be trained to that degree. It's like because they already tuned into us.

It's like they know that they notice things about us, that we have no idea. Like we have no idea that they're, they're noticing how maybe our scent changes. We're giving off different hormones or something. And these subtle signs they're picking up. So often your dog will know that you're in a, let's just say in a negative mood, maybe faster than people you're living with.

So it's really important though, to take some ownership of that and know that we are affecting our dogs. So how we think about things and this isn't a guilt trip. Anybody that's not about that because when you improve, maybe I need to tell you you're affecting your dog. So you're motivated to change your thinking because it will, it's also negatively impacting your life.

You know, your physiology is changing, right? Your stress hormones are increasing. Your heart is being affected. All kinds of things are being affected. When you have that more problem focus when you stop and think about, Hmm, I can think about new possibilities, new ways of looking at this issue, your whole health, your overall well-being improves as well.

So yes, we're helping your dog or also helping you. And they go hand in hand super important. So let's now talk about when things are very serious. Maybe your dog is at the end of life and you're thinking, how can I be optimistic about that? I'm terribly sad. And let me tell you something about having dogs all my life and other animals,

I get that. And I get that sense of sadness that grief, that sense of loss. So we're not diminishing that by any means, but let me give you some examples of how maybe you can shift your perspective a little bit to you can, you can feel sad, but you can also think about, you know, maybe if I change something about how I'm thinking about this.

I can help my dog in these last months, days, moments, whatever. So a woman contacted me some time ago. Her name is Robin. And she said, she got my book. I didn't know. Or I never met her. I, she read my book and she said, her dog, Emmy had liver cancer. And they did everything that veterinary medicine could do.

She actually had half her liver removed. They were treating her in all these different ways. And she was, she was doing okay. She was hanging in there. But then, you know, she was 17. The dog and things started to really decline. And Robin realized this was the end of things.

And the vet agreed. And what she did was she did, again, she did that connected breathing that I mentioned and remember, go to marydebono.com/dog. You can, you can learn more about that, but it's, it's detailed in my book and she read it in my book and she decided to do it. It's very meditative. It's, it's a way of doing this very simple, but very profound meditation with your dog where you're breathing together.

And let me stop right there and say something about that, doing this very simple meditation. And please don't say, I'm not a meditator. I can't stop my thoughts. You will because I guide you through it. Okay. I guide you through it. And what happens is when you clear out all the stuff that you keep thinking about habitually, right?

It's a habit. All these ways of thinking are habits. When you clear that out, that's what allows you to be open to new possibilities. You may think of something different you can do with your dog. You may just embrace a whole new way of being with your dog. Okay. So that's really important. So anyway, back to Emmy, it also helps your dog's breathing.

Okay? There's and this, this is one reason why it can actually reduce pain because helps your dog get out of that vicious cycle. That downward spiral. I call it again. I talk about that in the free masterclass, how these, how dogs get into these downward spirals. And by doing that by, by doing the simple, simple meditation, you,

both you and your dogs start to feel like you physically start to feel a greater sense of possibility, a greater sense of optimism of wellbeing, right? That's what well-being is when you think about it. So it was like an appreciation for life. So back to Emmy, the 17-year-old dog with liver cancer, what Robin said to me was by doing that, was helping her breathing cause towards the end, her breathing was getting very difficult.

And she said by doing that, her breathing would calm. And she said, it gave us both an incredible sense of peace and calmness. So think about what that did for our men, for Robin, that there at the end, the last days, the last weeks of life for Emmy, they could connect in this beautiful way in this beautiful way that gave them both a sense of greater wellbeing, a sense of joy and very, very deep connection.

That's healing. Yes, we know that Emmy didn't have much longer, but that is still healing. And Robin went on to tell me that she continued to do this connected breathing after Emmy passed. Now that may seem strange to you, obviously not with her body right there and not with her physical body, but even after Emmy was gone, she would imagine she was still with Emmy.

And it, she said would bring up such an incredible feeling of peace and love and joy. She continued to do it and she had two other dogs and she would do it with them. And she said, it just became this lovely, like, like a sacred ritual, if you will. That allowed her to still enjoy that love. She feels for Emmy. And she felt that she was still connected with her.

And of course, she's also doing it with her current dogs, the ones that are still here in this physical plane. And it was just such a beautiful experience. So this is what I'm talking about with the sense of optimism of new channels like new possibilities is that yes, that's sad. And you could focus on the sadness. And of course, Robin cried and all the things, you know, and felt that sadness of losing Emmy, but she was able to also appreciate her to remember the love and the appreciation she has for her.

And again, I've, I've seen this over and over. I've helped a lot of clients. I've coached them through this because having a serious illness or being at end of life, there is a sadness there. So even if an illness is not terminal, it's something that's life-altering. There's definitely a sense of sadness, a sense of loss that can happen.

And we don't want to just ignore that or push that down. But if you think about other ways of connecting other ways of enjoying life, right, and it could be even something like maybe there's a behavioural issue that your dog is never going to be the type of dog that you can take to a dog beach or take, you know, to crowded places.

You have to think, okay, maybe you have a sense of loss about that, but you start to, to be open to new possibilities, you start to have a sense of optimism. Maybe there is a different, you know, different training we can do. That will be fun. That will be, maybe your dog will or will not be comfortable in very crowded places after the training,

But maybe it's just a fun activity you do together. You know, maybe you want to focus on, you know, nose work or something like that. Like there are so many things we can be open to. Okay. So again, this is a learned response. It, how we focus is a learned response or our thoughts become so of ritual.

So many of them by the way are unconscious. So you might be unconsciously problem-focused versus possibility-focused, but you can consciously choose to rewire yourself to adopt a new way of thinking to embrace more optimism, to bring that innate optimism out. And again, this will help your dog immensely. Okay. So I hope that was helpful for you.

Let me know. I would love to hear from you. You can email me at [email protected]. Let me know your experiences. Let me know. Also, if you have a topic you'd like me to talk about, I'd be happy to do that. And don't forget. Go grab that free masterclass. You'll learn more about connected breathing and other cool stuff as well and help your dog get out of these downward spirals.

But they can often get into so here's to a wonderful day for you and your dog and for greater and greater optimism, which by the way, leads to a feeling of youthfulness and more possibilities. So thank you so much for being here. I so appreciate it. And I can't wait to talk to you again. Bye for now.