Cody's Story: Animal Acupressure,
Critical Health Issues, & Hospice Care


Tom Wilson, Ph.D.

"Participate with joy in the sorrows of the world."

                                                 -Joseph Campbell
First of all, good news: Cody is still with us as I write this. He’s a spirited little white terrier-poodle mix, seven and a half years old, with serious degenerative health issues. We are seeing too many of our beloved animals with degenerative diseases and severely compromised immune systems leaving us between the ages of four and eight years old—long before their time.

I believe that unconscionable over-vaccination and non-nutritive commercial pet foods are strongly implicated in the devastated immune systems and degenerative diseases of animals—but that is another article for another time. What I want to address here—with Cody as a case study—is our role in assisting animals with holistic alternative therapies, such as Massage, Acupressure, Jin Shin Jyutsu, Craniosacral, Qigong, Tui Na, Zen Shiatsu, Chi Nei Tsang, and Reiki.

Let’s look at Cody’s medical condition. His veterinarian recently diagnosed him with canine Cushing’s Syndrome (hyperadrenocorticism), the overproduction of adrenal hormone, along with two conditions correlated with Cushing’s Syndrome: SARDS (Sudden Acquired Retinal Degeneration Syndrome) and pseudomyotonia (muscle weakness and stiffness). Cushing’s causes hair loss, increased appetite and water consumption, frequent urination, and abdominal enlargement resulting from fat shifting to the abdominal area, accompanied by weakening and wasting of the abdominal muscles. Cody is now almost totally blind. His small frame carries 42 pounds, his abdomen is enlarged and hard, and he has stiffness in his back and hip joints. Just recently, his vet added glaucoma and a thyroid condition to the list. Cody is also on prednisone, which adversely affects the immune system.

SARDS has no known cure. Cushing’s can be treated with drugs that are the equivalent of chemotherapy, along with their attendant side effects. Surgery can be performed if there is an adrenal tumor. But surgery is very invasive and may not stop the progression of the disease. When Cody’s guardian contacted me, she was aware of the dilemma: If Cody had only one issue, his body and immune system might stand up to aggressive medical treatment—but Cody has multiple debilitating illnesses and very little in the way of energy reserves. Moreover, his guardian has limited financial resources, and diagnostic tests and medications have already depleted her savings. Cody was also getting acupuncture, but needles caused him to react with fear and confusion. She said that even if she wanted to, she could not afford to do aggressive medical treatment. She also expressed real concern about how much aggressive medical treatment you put an animal through in Cody’s condition. What quality of life would Cody have in his remaining time?

This is what Cody’s guardian wrote in her first email to me: “Cody seems very confused and sad, as I am. He was diagnosed only three weeks ago, and it's a lot to take in.” At least half of my energy work with animals involves critical illnesses, which often leads to hospice situations where we need to assist animals and guardians in walking the last months, weeks, or days of an animal’s life with compassion and loving care. And then there is the grieving process. If our dedication is to the whole being, then I’m certain that our work with animals and their guardians is becoming more important than ever.

Let’s also be clear on our role. We are not doctors, veterinarians, or medical technicians; we don’t diagnose; and we don’t pretend to be healers or to effect cures. We appreciate the efficacy of Western medicine. As one of my Jin Shin Jyutsu master teachers once said, “Sometimes all we need is Jin Shin Jyutsu and a good surgeon.” There are wonderful holistic vets out there, and the West is coming together with the East more every day in seeking holistic approaches to animal health.

Our role in working with critically ill or dying animals is to facilitate the flow of life-force energy in the body, knowing that when energy flows freely in the body, energy imbalances can be resolved and the immune system strengthened. A strong immune system creates the possibility for healing and return to health. Life-force energy is also needed when an animal is passing, especially kidney energy. Our role is to work with our hands as extensions of our hearts and with the knowledge that has been passed down to us from ancient and modern masters. And because we address aspects of the whole being—physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual—our work helps animals and their guardians to find that inner peace and clarity, an inner knowingness at a deeper level that says “all is well.” 

When I started working with Cody, I had to address his guardian’s fears and confusion, which she felt were being picked up by him. She was shocked that all of these illnesses could be present in a dog barely reaching his prime of life. She was uncertain about what to do, and fearful that it wouldn’t be the right thing or wouldn’t be enough. So we talked about Cody’s situation to unravel the confusion and allow her to find her inner guidance and clarity. This conversation became an integral part of our sessions with Cody.

The clarity that came to her was that it’s all about accepting what’s here now, being open to the possibilities of healing, but most of all, to realize that she and Cody are sharing a life’s journey together. She continues to consult with her veterinarian but has decided against any invasive surgeries or chemotherapy-like drugs. She wants to use natural remedies as much as possible, to keep Cody comfortable and out of pain, to let him just live out his natural life, and to make the most of their time together. Recognizing that Cody’s physical body is failing, her attention shifted to healing at the level of spirit and heart. To support their journey, I have taught her acupressure and Jin Shin Jyutsu points and flows to use on Cody in addition to my sessions with him. Being able to work with compassionate touch on their animals brings a sense of empowerment to guardians.

My sessions with Cody have consisted of a blend of Acupressure, Jin Shin Jyutsu, Tui Na, Zen Shiatsu, Qigong, and Craniosacral—all framed by the Five Element Theory of Traditional Chinese Medicine. I have worked to balance all of the meridians, to unburden stagnant or congested energy first and then regenerate and strengthen with attention to the Yin organs: liver, kidney, spleen, lung, heart, and pericardium. I’ve worked with flows to balance the three burners for metabolism and regulation of body functions; with the Extraordinary Vessels as those reservoirs of energy related to the 12 main meridians; with cranial holds to release mental confusion and to free the sacrum where the stiffness resides in the lower back muscles; with Tui Na (Chinese Massage) to address muscle stiffness and improve blood circulation; with Jin Shin Jyutsu to improve circulation in the hips and legs; and off-the-body with Qigong for the thyroid. I have also selected acupressure points to address Cody’s spirit, bringing my attention to the ancient wisdom that all physical imbalances are rooted in spirit. Each session has used TCM methods of assessment and blended sessions based on the assessments.

After the first session, Cody’s spirits started to rise. His guardian reported that there’s a little bounce back in his step, that he is enjoying his food and time spent on short walks and sitting in the yard. Cody and his guardian are both earth types, and both are now more centered and grounded. Cody is adjusting to blindness, learning to navigate through the house with familiar landmarks. I told his guardian that the most important thing to look for in Cody is Shen—the spirit that animates the body, guides our destinies, and resides in the heart. The radiance of Shen can be seen shining through the eyes. Even with his cloudy, almost blind eyes, Cody emanates Shen. His spirits are high. After one of our sessions, Cody went outside while I talked with his guardian. I felt my attention being drawn to the window, and there was Cody, this little white terrier sitting with his back to us in the high grass taking it all in—a little Buddha, just being.

I’ve completed a series of sessions with Cody, and his guardian is doing points and flows on him daily. We’re in a mode of maintaining. If something changes, she will call me in and we will assess what is needed. One day the Shen won’t be there. His guardian knows, amid the sadness that will come, that she and Cody will have taken this journey together, that these final months or weeks will be a time of being together and sharing love. They are, to use Joseph Campbell’s phrase, “participating with joy in the sorrows of the world.” In a recent email, she said she now comes home and puts Cody and her other dog Lucy in the car and takes them for rides because, “That’s what they love to do best, anyway.”

I can’t tell you how many times my imagination has called up pictures of them on their rides together. 

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© Copyright 2010 Tom Wilson, All Rights Reserved 



© Copyright 2010 Tom Wilson, All Rights Reserved
P.O. Box 2278 Nevada City, CA 95959-1945
Phone: (530) 913.1309