by Gretchen Dietz, Tallgrass Canine Blogger
When Henri was introduced to his soon-to-be sibling, there were sparks. Bella, four years old at the time, was not the least bit interested in having a younger Westie brother. It took time, but soon Bella accepted Henri especially once she realized she could boss him around. While never really affectionate, over the next five years Henri and Bella grew to be true friends learning to play together, peacefully share their home together, and at times sleep in the same bed together, but only when Bella allowed it.
Unfortunately, Henri passed at the young age of five after bravely battling a severe autoimmune disease. The human family was devastated by Henri’s passing and worried that Bella’s grief would trigger an episode of her own (she has Addison’s disease). But a week passed and Bella seemed anything but sad. She was energetic and playful; she ate well and slept soundly. She raced around the house like a clown and barked at the squirrels in her yard as vigorously as she always had.
I have been working with Bella for the past year focusing on her digestive issues and frequent constipation that arises primarily after her monthly hormone injection for her Addison’s. Bella responds well to acupressure, often falling asleep during her sessions and her GI issues have been less and less frequent.
When I showed up for our first session after Henri’s passing, the guardians assured me Bella was doing great. “She doesn’t seem to be missing Henri at all,” her Mom informed me. So when I began with my opening along her Association Points, I was surprised to find intense heat just behind her withers.
Bl 13 is the Association Point for Lung and is located just behind the third thoracic vertebrae at the peak of the shoulders. In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), the emotion associated with the Lung meridian is grief, so while the family didn’t see any outward appearance of Bella’s sadness, her body was sending a much different message. Not only was Bl 13 significantly hotter than all the other Association Points, when I placed my fingers gently on the bilateral points, Bella quietly whimpered. In that moment, it was clear to me that despite Bella’s cheerful disposition the week after Henri’s death, she missed her little brother beyond measure.
After my session with Bella, I thought about why there was such disconnect between her normal-appearing behavior and the information I was receiving from her body. Her human family was an emotional wreck leading up to and after Henri’s death. They’d fought long and hard to provide him with the best medical treatment possible, but in the end, the disease won. Choosing to say goodbye to Henri was overwhelming for them and they cried for days and days, unable to find any peace in the knowledge he was no longer suffering. The grief in their house was palpable.
Bella was in the middle of all of these emotions, surrounded by their weight day and night even before Henri’s passing. Her family had dramatically changed — Henri was gone and her guardians were heavy with pain and sadness. Perhaps Bella’s “cheerful” demeanor was simply her attempt to make her family happy again — playing like she always had, eating every meal willingly, doing her best to bring some normalcy back to her home. Meanwhile, her own sense of loss was hidden, suppressed in an attempt to save her guardians any more sadness. Bella’s grief was there all the time though, held in the tight heat of Bl 13, just waiting for some release.
That night, after I got home, I received an email from Bella’s Mom. Bella went for her usual walk before dinner and ate her meal slowly and deliberately. Then she decided to go lie down, but not in her own bed where she normally curls up for the evening. For the first time since Henri’s passing, she slept in his bed perhaps allowing herself to feel his loss openly and hopefully, start the process of moving through her grief while helping her human family move through their own.