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“A Cocker Spaniel Moment” – A Thanksgiving Note – by Susan Tretakis

Some refer to this feeling as “Acu-spa”, that wonderful lightness when everything is all right in your body and your mind – and hence your world – after an acupuncture treatment.

I call it my “Cocker Spaniel Moment”.

Some background: Throughout the 1950’s and into the 60’s, my aunt and uncle operated a kennel in Connecticut where they bred cocker spaniels for show at the Westminster Kennel Club. My families’ kennel specialized in breeding coal black spaniels and even today, I have the silver plates of their many first, second and third place winners.

Every now and then, as genetics or the Universe would deem it, a buff-colored puppy would be born. While these puppies could not be shown at Westminster – for reasons I am still not clear on – their appearance was so infrequent that my aunt would usually “gift” these dogs to people she knew and trusted.

Such was the case in 1951 when I was 9 months old and my parents were gifted with a 9-week-old buff spaniel, who, with the kennel name of “Pied Piper of Hausman Kennels”, was quickly renamed to “Pie”.

Pie and I were inseparable. While my mother would say (often) that Pie was easier to train than I was, we were best friends. Once I learned to read, I read to him every day. He endured the indignity of being dressed in doll clothes and being pushed around the block in a doll carriage. He listened patiently to my stories about school.

He stayed by my bedside through every childhood illness. He let me cry into his neck. While everyone in my home said that he was “without a doubt Susan’s dog”, what was truly fascinating was his devout loyalty to my aunt.

For the entire 14 years that Pie was with us in New York, when my aunt came from Connecticut to visit us, he never forgot her. He would hear her car pulling up outside our home and run through the house like a dog possessed, then run to the front door and leap into her arms when she knelt to greet him. Pie was a wild puppy, then a wild dog, then a wild, older dog – but when my aunt would smooth out his foreleg, gently stroke the length of his snout, he was suddenly completely mush, wrapped around her like a favorite sweatshirt.

As a teenager, I worked at the kennel during the summers, and I watched many of the trainers use the same trick in quieting nervous or skittish dogs. Way before “the dog whisper” was even a phrase, touch and massage were key therapies.

I was reminded of how those animals literally melted against the trainer or in a furry lump on the grooming table after my last acupuncture session.

Let’s face it: life can be hard. If we are finally “getting over” something, there is something new to “get over”. Intellectually, we know that stress is a killer; Google and WebMd – as well our doctors and our bodies – tell us and show us that stress can causes severe muscle pains, shrink the size of our brains, and even causes heart disease. We know we should lessen our stress. Unfortunately, many times that single rational thought can be swept away in an instant, much like Dorothy’s house in “The Wizard of Oz”.

For me, Traditional Chinese Medicine has become a great alternative to combat the day-to-day stressors that I face. In a sense, TCM has become my “ruby slippers” – showing me that “I always had the power”. I just didn’t know how to harness it.

Certain things for me are absolutes: I overthink, I can easily worry about something down the road that I have no control of, and if someone just whispers the word “overreacting”, I overreact. One hour on Facebook can age me a decade and the morning television news can cause me to shout at an inanimate square box. Like for many, the daily mail brings more bills after I’ve paid bills and notices of increasing tax rates Aging continues to smack me up the side of the head. Friends suffer from illness and some friends are lost.

Last week my drive to the acupuncturists’ office was a bit like swimming for shore; if I did not get there soon, I was going under. I was on edge, angry at myself for being on edge, extremely hyper and desperately needed a TCM intervention.

Everyone needs to walk into a wellness center and have just one treatment of acupuncture – if only to feel to feel how it can change your life. Put it on your “To do List for 2018”, if not sooner. It will be the best investment you can make in your well-being. Trust me on this.

There’s something about a hand-picked front office staff who greets you by name and with a smile. There’s something about a TCM doctor enquiring how you feel, taking both pulses, checking your tongue and that doctor sharing what he sees is out of balance. It’s okay not to be okay; there is no judgment or criticism.

After reclining for 45 minutes in a darkened room, feeling both safe and acknowledged, it should come as no surprise that when my doctor re-entered the room and asked how I was feeling, I answered that “I was having a cocker spaniel moment.”

Thankfully, my doctor knows me so well that he is rarely surprised at what comes out of my mouth.

Without a blink, he listened to my explanation. He said that many patients refer to this feeling as “Acu-spa” and went on to tell me about acupuncture for animals (it’s a real thing), how babies and small children can be quieted by massaging their “third eye.” I was still completely “in the zone” even as he handed me my next two weeks of herbs, as well as a list of things I may want to read up on. But most of all, he reminded me that it was okay to be me.

Acupuncture is a 3,000-year-old healing technique of Traditional Chinese Medicine. In 1997, Google will verify that US National Institute of Health documented and publicized its safety and efficacy for treating a wide range of conditions.

I’ve written before that acupuncture has changed my life. Never has this been more apparent to me than in this past month. The most difficult mind shift for me to make was to understand that TCM is based on an ancient philosophy in which the body and the universe must be in agreement.

No prescriptive drug can do this. If the body is in agreement with the Universe, both Yin and Yang are in balance. Energy, called “qi” (pronounced “chee”) flows along specific pathways, called meridians, throughout the body.

This constant flow of energy keeps the yin and yang forces balanced. However, if the flow of energy gets blocked, like water getting stuck behind a dam, the disruption can lead to pain, lack of function, or illness.”

Acupuncture therapy can release blocked qi in the body and stimulate function, evoking the body’s natural healing response through various physiological systems.

Keywords: “Body’s natural healing response” – as in no prescription drugs.

Your body can heal itself. Your mind can quiet itself.

Modern research has demonstrated acupuncture’s effects on the nervous system, endocrine and immune systems, cardiovascular system, and digestive system. “By stimulating the body’s various systems, acupuncture can help to resolve pain, and improve sleep, digestive function, and sense of well-being.”

Here’s what I know for fact – acupuncture has bought balance into my life. I find it easier to set boundaries for myself and for others. I find it easier to pull myself back from the ledge and to talk myself out my inner funk. I find I am a great deal nicer to myself, and ultimately to others. I know there is more to learn, and that there will be days that are without “cocker spaniel moments”. Adversity, if viewed without emotion, can be a great teacher. Once conquered, adversity enables you to move forward – stronger and more confidently.

The ancient Greek philosopher Hippocrates wrote “The natural healing force within each of us is the greatest force in getting well.” I find that on those days, which sometime turn into weeks, when I don’t have acupuncture, I am still able to recall those skills my TCM doctor has taught me.

Simple skills, like taking suggested TCM herbs, by eating TCM suggested foods, by drinking suggested TCM teas and by following my breath. The knowledge and personal experiences in TCM gained over this past year has enabled me to “click my heels together” and find my way home, safely, back on the shore through each and every new “stressor”. Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine have given me back control over my life, my mind and my body.

It seems appropriate that on this Thanksgiving week, I put out to the Universe just how grateful I am for my TCM doctors and for my wellness center. I am thankful for an 80-pound weight loss and for no longer being on 8 prescription medications a day. I am grateful for the quiet in my mind and the renewed sense of self that acupuncture has given me.

I am thankful for the tricks I have been taught to maintain this health – and the self-knowledge to know when I need additional remedies. I am grateful for the new like-minded friends and colleagues I have met. And I am grateful – yet astounded – that so much has changed in my life since that first acupuncture consultation back in October of 2016.

I am counting many blessings this year.