A couple of weeks ago I went to the garden centre. I noticed that one of the German Shepherds was no longer there. The owner told me that he had become paralysed in the hindquarters and she had opted for euthanasia. He was 12 years old.

I also noticed that in a compound there were two beautiful chocolate labrador puppies. They looked very anxious to me and I commented on this with the lady. She said she knew they were frustrated, but at the moment her first priority was the remaining German Shepherd. She is also 12 and is in poor health and rather weak. As the puppies are so full of energy, the old lady gets nervous when they are around and that is why the puppies are enclosed.

The lady confessed that she felt overwhelmed because she was finding the puppies difficult to manage. As she was open to suggestions, I suggested that at least once a day she should allow the puppies out to run free around the centre to let off some steam and vent some of the frustration they feel at having to spend so much time “on the sidelines”. I offered to  come back and teach her some basic techniques that might prove helpful to her. She readily agreed.

This morning I went back to the garden centre to start the work. When the puppies were released, they came out of the enclosure like torpedoes, jumping around and “assaulting” both of us. So as not to bother the old lady who was in the office, we set up in one of the plant enclosures. I began by offering them some essential oils. The oils they showed most interest in were:

  • Angelica Root
  • Roman Chamaomile
  • Valerian,
  • Frankincense (but less)
  • Mimosa
  • Neroli
  • Hops

The truth is that they wanted to swallow the oils, Licking madly and trying to bite the bottles. They were desperate to get at them.

The chosen oils confirmed the picture I had formed in my mind by observing them. They need tranquillity (Roman chamomile and Valerian). Roman Chamomile can also help them through the teething period because they want to bite everything they find. Therefore, I suggested that the lady could make an infusion of chamomile and put it in their drinking water, with the precaution of leaving another water bowl with just plain water so that they can choose. Following my previous advice she has been giving them a marrow bone once a week, so today I suggested that a Kong filled with frozen yoghourt mixed with something tasty would keep them entertained for a while and, being frozen, the coolness would help soothe their irritated gums.

Mimosa and neroli are oils which are often selected by animals suffering from separation anxiety. I was able to see that the puppies spend the day standing at the gate of their enclosure waiting for the lady to appear. They lack company and stimulus. When they see her, they become excited and happy.

Hops is an oil often selected by animals with hormonal upsets. Their choice of this oil seemed quite logical to me as they are entering adolescence when their hormones are usually “jumping madly“.

After the oil sessions, I wanted to teach the lady some basic TTouch techniques to help her when she takes the pups out for a walk. Since our previous conversation two weeks earlier she had put my suggestions into practice: after allowing the pups to run freely for a while she was taking each one out separately for a short walk.

As I had no TTouch harnesses left, I decided to teach her how to use the Super Balance Lead. We worked with each dog separately so that they would not distract one another. Our first candidate was the male who, the lady said, was impossible to manage. It was a Little difficult to put  on the lead because, due to his teething woes, he wants to bite everything.  However, once the lead was in position and after about five steps forward, he settled down beautifully and walked calmly by my side without pulling at all. I taught her how to use alternating signals on the lead if the pups should become distracted and want to get ahead. I also explained the importance of slight upward pressure — not backward — when she wants them to stop. The puppy responded wonderfully. We then returned him to the enclosure and took out his sister.

The lady had said that she was much more manageable, but she turned out to be much more hyper than her brother. It took her a little longer to settle, but settle she did, and responded well to the signals, walking calmly by our side during the walk around the garden centre.

At the end of the sessions neither dog wanted to return to the enclosure. They lack company and “nearness”. The lady commented that her German Shepherds had never given her these problems, but I asked her whether they had been shut up when they were puppies. She replied that they had always been free to wander around the garden centre, entering the office at will, playing and sleeping when they felt like it and, crucially, they had access to her at all times. This made her reassess the situation, because it is not really the puppies who are so different but their response under completely different circumstances to those that the GSDs had at the same age.

Before leaving, I went into the office where the old lady lives. The oils she selected with gusto, licking and yawning and laying her nose on top of the bottles were:

  • Wintergreen
  • Birch
  • Vanilla
  • Lime
  • Tobacco

The first two oils have analgesic properties so I was not surprised that she chose them as she has problems with her hindquarters and movement is compromised. We massaged a little oil in that area and she seemed to enjoy the experience. Vanilla is a warm, comforting oil which an ageing animal with pains and aches would find attractive. Tobacco is an oil which may help elderly animals who are losing cognitive capacity.

It was an interesting morning, because we saw the two poles of the spectrum of life. A major positive aspect is that the lady is very open to any suggestion which might help the puppies who, as long as the old lady is alive, will always have limited freedom. It was clear that they are intelligent and will learn fast.

We agreed to continue working with the pups another day. Today it was pouring with rain so options were quite limited. Meanwhile she will practise what she learned today. It really is a pleasure working with people who are open and receptive to new ideas!