I don\’t often write about my twelve-year-old German Shepherd, Lexi, because these days she\’s mostly quiet. This is not to say that she is inactive, however: she amuses herself during the day by playing invisible power games with the other dogs. She parks herself in certain spots in the kitchen or living room and suddenly I\’ll hear either Wolfie or Bisou give a pathetic whine and I\’ll go see what\’s wrong and they\’re standing on the other side of Lexi, \”trapped,\” even though there is plenty of room to go around her. I don\’t know how she does this, because she isn\’t growling or giving any outward sign that I can read. It must be her aura.
Lexi is in good health, except for the fact that her musculoskeletal system is falling apart–arthritis in the hips, the elbow, the knee, the spine. So every six weeks she and I go on an outing, to the vet. This involves getting out the heavy dog ramp, unfolding it, leaning one end against the edge of the cargo compartment of the Subaru, then telling Lexi that no, she can\’t jump into the car, she must use the ramp. Once she\’s settled, I take down the unwieldy contraption, fold it while trying not to catch my fingers in it, put it in the back seat, and we\’re on our way.
Lexi loves going to this vet, who started out as an \”ordinary\” vet and then decided to specialize in chiropractic and acupuncture. She is a soft-spoken, slow-moving young woman who always tells Lexi what she is about to do and shows her what she is going to do it with, namely, the acupuncture needles.
First, however, she has Lexi get up onto a low, towel-covered platform and goes over her entire body with her hands. Then, slowly and gently, using the thumb and little finger of one hand while supporting Lexi\’s belly with the other (Lexi has trouble standing for long periods), she adjusts Lexi\’s spine. Meanwhile I\’m holding Lexi\’s head, and she and I gaze into each other\’s eyes, and generate oxytocin.
Then the needles go in, and Lexi is allowed to lie down and, as the vet puts it, \”cook\” for a while. For the next ten or fifteen minutes, the vet and I sit on either side of Lexi–I on the floor, the vet on the platform–talking idly of dogs or politics. But most of the time we are silent, and focused on Lexi. And under our combined gaze Lexi seems to expand, and takes on a kind of glow. Part of it is the action of the needles, part the anticipation of the fabulous treats that the vet dispenses at the end of the session. But I think that it is being the focus of our relaxed and caring attention that transforms Lexi every time.
Strangely, by the time the needles come out I feel as if I\’ve undergone some kind of therapy myself. I put Lexi back in the car and drive home through the Mettowee Valley, looking at the cows, watching out for cyclists, wondering if the farmers got enough hay in to last the winter. At home Wolfie and Bisou, who have forgiven us for leaving them behind, throw themselves into our arms. I eat my lunch, and Lexi carefully lowers herself down in one of her power spots, and takes a nap.