Who knew that a cowlick had so much to say? I sure didn’t!
But it was first thing that shouted out to the chiropractor when she looked at Grace last week. In fact, I had sent her a couple of pictures the day prior to our visit, and she said she immediately noticed it there, too. Apparently a cowlick is a major red flag that indicates issues with a nervous system. “Couldn’t it have something to do with her being a mixed breed?” I asked. “Maybe,” Donna replied, “but it is usually a signal of something wrong.”
As many of you know, Grace is a very fearful dog. Over the years, I have been focused on ways to improve the mental anxiety she has always faced. But I have never, ever, not in a million years, thought she had anything physical going on that would be affecting her. She started having seizures in 2008, but the literature said no one knows why dogs have seizures, so I left it at that.
I found this paragraph on a website devoted to dog’s health that helped me to put this into perspective: “Think of your dog’s nervous system as the control center for his body. The brain, spinal cord, and roadmap of nerves that travel to every inch of your dog’s body tell him what his senses detect and which muscles to move. They also help him learn. The nervous system also includes the intangibles that make each dog’s personality unique. So along with relatively understandable disorders, such as movement problems, behavior disorders also start here.”
All these connections were starting to come into sharper focus for me.
This generous dog chiropractor and I had agreed to meet halfway, each of us driving about two hours to a small park on the New York-Vermont border. I had assumed Donna would get a lot of information about Grace from watching her move. And Donna did observe, but she learned the most by moving her hands across Grace’s head, shoulders, neck, and then down and around her back. Surprising, and interestingly, Grace was much more willing to have this stranger come into her space than either of us had anticipated.
Upon my arrival, we walked around the park for about 15 minutes, then we sat on a sidewalk, giving Donna a chance to offer Grace some treats and a new friendship. Grace accepted both.
The change in the hair at Grace’s neck did turn out to be an accurate signal of problems, as Donna expected. With Grace, she found three significant issues: strong compression of the frontal cranial bones, a misalignment of her first vertebra, and a misalignment of the left pelvis. Donna moved her experienced hands across and around Grace’s body for several minutes, Grace allowing each movement without complaint or resistance.
After adjusting what she wanted, Donna sat back and patiently talked me through what she found and what it meant. I didn’t understand how the frontal lobes could be compressed (“isn’t a dog’s skull all one piece?” and “how can you tell the bones are compressed?” were questions I asked.)
There are many cranial bones and they are naturally expanding and contracting, I learned. But they shouldn’t remain tight and compressed, as they were with Grace. “So what does it mean?” I asked. “What’s the impact?”
“Imagine pulling on a pair of panty hose that are several sizes smaller than you need,” Donna said to me. Ohhhh, that would hurt, I thought.
“And then further imagine what your toes and your legs would feel like.” Ouch. I’m starting to get the picture. Along with the discomfort, the tightness of the bones is also causing restriction of the flow of important spinal fluids that transmit nutrients and cushioning to the entire nervous system. Donna feels that one possible theory about the fairly regular schedule of Grace’s seizures is related to the disruptive flow of the spinal fluid.
Later, I got to thinking about situations that were stressful for Grace and how much more she has been dealing with than I realized. What if she was experiencing the equivalent of a massive migraine while she’s faced with enormous fear of small children approaching her, for example? It’s amazing that she has done as well as she has.
These were old patterns, Donna said. I didn’t think to ask how she could tell, but she said it a few times and I felt that was important. In talking with my husband about the appointment, he asked if I had pictures of Grace when I first got her (of course I do…). I sent those to Donna that night and she said the difference was amazing to her. In the earlier pictures, she said her coat looks smooth just like on the rest of her body. And she didn’t see the tucked pelvis that she felt the other day.
I was telling someone over the weekend about the chiropractic visit and after just a few minutes of listening to me, he said to me: “This is impacting you more in other ways, it’s more than just ‘my dog is getting better.’ I know he is right, and yet I haven’t fully figured out all the things this process means to me.
I have always felt that when we experience something in one part of our life, it has some connection to another. That’s one of the reasons I write this blog, to help me – and others if they wish — see those connections more clearly.
I am absolutely elated that we are now working on getting Grace’s body back to a healthier state. But it is bigger than that. For me, part of it is that I moved forward with something that I didn’t even really believe was a problem, and doing something that some people might think is excessive. I tried to leave all my preconceived notions behind me. I believe there are other lessons for me and I’m still working to uncover those.
Is there a cowlick staring at you?