An insight into how your dog feels
For years now, I have been arguing about how important it is not to attach dog collars to a leash, saying that the neck is the vital and energetic blood and nerve supply centre of the body. Slowly but gradually, I can see the mindset of many people changing, and more dogs appear to be wearing harnesses, which is really cool.
I have also received much feedback from people, whose dogs have stopped licking their paws or limping after they stopped attaching leashes to the collars, especially in dogs that pull or have a tendency to jump forward.
I am not sure if you’ve noticed that people who teach others of a problem or work in certain fields, mysteriously end up experiencing the problem that they help others with. One of the most well-known examples is Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor, a brain scientist whose stroke led her to gain a rare “insider/scientist” knowledge that led her to write a book, “A Stroke of Insight,” which became a New York Times bestseller.
If you are wondering why I put the use of dog collars and “Stroke of Insight” together, this is exactly what this article is about.
Generally, I have always loved to be active, pushing my limits of health and mobility with the hope that I will be able to benefit when I get older. Physical activities make me fit, but the other side of the coin is the potential for injuries. I have never paid much attention to my injuries, usually shaking them off and going on with life, but as I look back, I must say I have kept my “guardian angels” pretty busy.
On a bike ride with Gabriella, my friend and FleaHex creator
As a child, I was hit by a car crossing an intersection. I was also dragged by a horse with my foot caught in the stirrup. Later on, I had fractured my clavicle and topped the young age injuries by sleepwalking through a glass door in my early 20s. This one was a close call as I lost three litres of blood because of a shard of glass cutting my femoral artery.
In my early 30s, I got smashed against the ocean floor while body surfing in Honolulu. I “rescued myself” and got to the hospital on my own to learn I had a thoracic vertebra fracture. Only a year later, I was in a black-ice car accident responding to a late-night, horse-colic farm call. I was not going very fast, but it was still enough for me to completely lose control of my vehicle. My truck skidded into the ditch, cartwheeled over its nose, and ended up upside down. I walked away unharmed.
Weirdly, the chain of accidents has not stopped. It continued with my being rear-ended in 2013, causing me to suffer a concussion that affected my vision and eye movement, and consequently, my ability to read.
Was I able to break the "jinx" in 2018?
In 2018, I had my head slashed by a surfboard fin, and only two days later, I was hit by a car while cycling. I was on a bike path when a driver who was turning right didn’t see me and cut me off. I was shaken and bruised but completed the two-hour ride with my friends, thinking that my hand was sore because it was bruised. When I had my X-ray taken later, the emergency room doctor missed a fracture, and I learned several days later from another doctor that my finger was broken.
I was determined to break the “jinx" but more lessons were to come. In November, I was invited by a group of friends to do acrobatic yoga. It was fun, and I was praised for picking up things quickly until I fell and seriously injured my neck.
Watch the rest of the story here
As time went on, I started to feel numbing in my hand and foot, which was a sign of a disc injury. Suddenly, I had firsthand experience of what it felt like to have an injured neck and what dogs feel when a neck trauma causes a pins and needles sensation and numbing in their feet. (The only difference is that unlike dogs with injured necks, I didn’t lick my hands.) I must say, I was freaked out to know that the symptoms I was experiencing were a sign of a cervical disc injury and that if I hurt myself more, I would need surgery to avoid becoming paralyzed.
However, in a “twisted scientific way,” I am also "grateful" that I could gain a direct insight into how millions of dogs with neck collar injuries feel. The numbness was just a small portion of the overall effect. As days and weeks went on, I felt like I was on a roller coaster of fatigue and neck and head pains, and I felt like everything was ten times harder than before.
Perhaps you are wondering why I didn’t mention anything earlier, but my initial impulse was not to whine and burden the community with “life matters,” that in one form or another, happen to all of us. My partner, a physiotherapist, has been helping me, and also my osteopath and a chiropractor, (the gentle kind ;-). I am grateful that finally after two months, I am starting to feel better, and an MRI confirmed that for now, my injury does not require surgery.
There are two reasons why I am sharing this experience with you
Reason # 1
I am 100% certain that dog collars attached to a leash are an outdated and dangerous way of restraining our dogs that causes many injuries. Accidents happen, and it takes ONLY one jerk to cause damage. Read more on that here.
Reason # 2
I have always understood and empathized with people and animals that were ill or seriously injured or disabled. However, there is nothing more eye-opening to have firsthand insight into what an injury or disability feels like. Often, we walk by someone in a wheelchair or a person who has lost a limb or their sight and do not realize how lucky most of us are.
There are so many people whining about petty arguments with their spouses, family members, and coworkers. There are so many people engaging in senseless “ego politics” while the energy and money spent on conflicts could be used for helping those who are not as lucky.
Since my last injury, I am somewhat less patient with petty complaints and whining, feeling that all they needed was to be reminded of how insignificant their problems are and how lucky they are.
I know a young graduate vet, who became quadriplegic after a climbing accident and could never practice. I know a successful independently wealthy retiree, who lost his arm and health when a boat ran him over while he was swimming. I am certain they know the true value of life and health and what they lost.
- Who cares if someone was stuck in traffic? He/she still has both hands to hold the steering wheel.
- Who cares if someone's flight was late? He/she will eventually arrive at a home with a bed with a full fridge in it.
- Who cares if their spouse left a mess in the kitchen for a couple of hours or didn’t put the toilet seat up?
With my new insight, I look at complainers’ differently and often feel the urge to tell them: “Just stop it, will you? Do you realize how lucky you are?”.
And then I stop and chuckle because I also realize the reason why complaining drives me crazy is that I recognize the former whiner in me! I am fully aware that my mindset shifted because of my experience with the neck injury.
It may sound like a cliche, but I mean this very honestly. Every day when I can get up, stand on my feet, go for a walk, take a swim or bike up a hill, it is a precious gift. I have had a good and fulfilling life, but until recently, I had also had this nagging feeling there was something missing. Now I know that what was missing was having an injury, a close call to possibly being paralyzed, and losing the things in life most of us take for granted.
I do not know what else life has in store for me. I just know that the seemingly negative events in our lives may be the greatest gifts we could ever receive.
If you too want to join the “low complaint” zone and share your "wake up call" story, feel free to share this blog and send us your comments here. I am looking forward to reading about it.
© Dr. Peter Dobias, DVM