Massage & Bodywork

November | December 2014

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8 m a s s a g e & b o d y w o r k n o v e m b e r / d e c e m b e r 2 0 1 4 during an airport layover, she crossed paths with a soldier and his Belgian Malinois returning from Iraq. He explained that the dog was trained to detect landmines. "She performed great on her first two tours and had come back and had a break," Michelin explained. "Then, when she had her third tour, she started whimpering a lot. When she went out into the field, she just laid down and cried." The soldier appealed to the military to get the dog out of the Middle East and back to the training center in Idaho, where she could help train other soldiers and other dogs in a less stressful environment. When Michelin explained her work to the soldier, he was keen to have her engage with the dog. Because of the dog's military training, Michelin couldn't touch her directly, so she worked through the soldier. He appeared fascinated as he learned how massage releases stress held in the body. "That was one of my standout moments in my career," Michelin says. "It was more a gift to me than it was to the soldier or the dog, but I think everybody walked away feeling better." In particular, Michelin was impressed that the military would transport the dog back to the United States. Michelin says in her experience of military dogs, "The emotional impact seems to really carry over, more than the physical trauma." Michelin and animal behaviorist Wendy Dahl will soon unveil a new nonprofit Shelter2Service. They're working with shelter dogs, pairing them EDITOR'S NOTE Bodywork for All Who Serve These foot soldiers didn't enlist, but they're highly trained and keen to excel. They love to take orders, and they'll do anything for their comrades in arms. They're military working dogs (MWDs). In the June issue of National Geographic, writer Michael Paterniti portrays the world these dogs live and die in, and the unquestioned dedication and respect their human coworkers have for them. Paterniti writes that "at the height of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the US military had a force of roughly 2,500 military working dogs." Now, about 500 are still in service. Like other military personnel, many return home with physical injuries, psychological trauma, or both. Bodyworker Lola Michelin— education director for the Northwest School of Animal Massage in Washington State—remembers the first MWD she met. A few years ago, with veterans who are healing mentally and physically. Whether or not the dogs are also trained to assist with disabilities, they are valuable simply as companions. Severely disfigured veterans may be hesitant to reintegrate into society—having a dog with them takes some of the pressure off and helps smooth the way. Michelin says the dogs are truly "the canaries in the coal mine" for their human partners. "While I may not always agree with military decisions, I'm always supportive of our troops," Michelin says. "The opportunity to work with the men, women, and animals in the service is my opportunity to give back to the individuals and not necessarily align myself with the machine." This issue is dedicated to all those working to heal mental and physical trauma from their calls to duty. And to those who've paid the ultimate sacrifice. LESLIE A. YOUNG, Editor-in-Chief A soldier and his canine companion share a quiet moment at the National War Dog Cemetery at the US Naval Base in Guam. Lola Michelin and her dog Stella.

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