by Gretchen Dietz, Tallgrass Canine Blogger
We chose Rubin as our new puppy based on a photograph. His breeder sent the photo of the two boys from the litter and we were supposed to confirm which dog we wanted. There wasn’t any question. We wanted the boy with the smirk. It wasn’t an evil smirk, but rather a slight mischievous lift of his right lip that said, “I’m ready for adventure, are you?”
Little did we know that the smirk wasn’t a smirk at all. It was a birth defect — a malformed jaw that led to the removal of his bottom right canine, monthly visits to the chiropractor, a sometimes cantankerous attitude, and a series of related orthopedic issues not the least of which is a bad left shoulder to a right CCL (cranial cruciate ligament) that is weak. To top it all off, he had terrible skin allergies that, if left untreated, turned into raging staph infections.
Early on, we consulted a number of Western vets who never saw his issues as interrelated. His shoulder was soft tissue damage from playing too rough; he needed confined rest. His CCL was most likely partially torn; he needed surgery. His jaw was misaligned; braces for his teeth or better yet, surgeons could “try” rebuilding his jaw. They suggested Prozac for his anxiety and prescription diets for his persnickety eating habits. And for the allergies, monthly shots and antibiotics for the outbreaks.
It wasn’t until I took him to a holistic vet who practiced Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) (along with being a skilled chiropractor) that I started to put the pieces together. It was also about this time that I got interested in body work for small animals earning my massage license and then enrolling in my first Tallgrass Animal Acupressure Institute class. After long talks with the vet and hours of reading and even more hours of practicing on Rubin I finally understood the important concept of Jing or Essence.
Briefly, Jing is one of the “Three Treasures” (Chi and Shen are the other two). There are three types of Jing — Prenatal, Postnatal, and Kidney. Prenatal Jing is passed from the parents to the fetus and is fixed in quantity and predetermined at birth. Postnatal Jing is the Essence that is acquired after birth through the food and water consumed and the air inhaled.
Finally, Kidney Jing is also inherited and determines our constitution, but unlike Prenatal Jing it can be partly replenished by Postnatal Jing. Like the name implies, Kidney Jing is stored in the Kidneys and circulates throughout the body. In other words, it don’t mean a thing, if it ain’t got that Jing and clearly, Rubin didn’t have it. To top it all off, the breeder had Rubin neutered at seven weeks old, depleting his already stunted Jing and adding to his weak constitution and development.
The more I read about Jing and the more I talked with my TCM vet, the more I realized that everything Rubin struggled with centered around weak Prenatal Jing and a breeder who literally and figuratively altered his Kidney Jing by neutering him at such a young age. Kidney Jing controls the growth of bones and teeth; this accounted for Rubin’s jaw dysplasia and many of his orthopedic issues. It produces Marrow, which in TCM not only includes bone marrow, but also the brain and the spinal cord; this accounted for Rubin’s nervous disposition and struggle focusing. While Wei Chi is the first line of defense against external pathogens, Kidney Essence also influences an animal’s strength and resistance; and this accounted for his battle with allergies.
Of course, seeing all the puzzle pieces fit together, while a relief on the one hand, left me a bit stymied on the other. How could we ever help this poor dog? The answer isn’t simple and we’ve come at it from all directions. A raw diet, monthly chiropractic adjustments, acupressure and a acupuncture, daily exercise, weekly swimming, and lots of constant and consistent training.The vet always tells me he’s a “work in progress” though at his most frustrating, I jokingly say he’s a piece of work.
But he’s our piece of work and we love him beyond measure. When I look back at his smirky puppy photograph, I don’t think he knew how much of a teacher he’d be for me, though I’m sure he knew exactly the adventure he would take us on.
*Gretchen is a Tallgrass Certified Small Animal Acupressure Practitioner, a Small Animal Massage Therapist, and NBCAAM certified in both. As the owner of TripleDog Pet Services, she and her faithful companion, Rubin divide their time providing dog walking, pet sitting, and acupressure, massage and swim therapy in the Seattle area.