Zebulon, a 70-pound German shepherd, “got schooled” before an audience of pet owners at the Athens Community Center on Saturday.
Rosanne Krager, owner of The Calm Companion, used a type of headcollar for dogs called a Halti to train “Zeb.” The integrated preschool teacher and animal trainer then applied some pressure with a leash attached to the mechanism when the dog balked during the demonstration. Unlike a muzzle, Haltis do not guard the dog’s mouth from biting down and therefore are more comfortable for dogs to wear.
A victim of abuse before his owner and acupressurist Tina Romine rescued him one rainy night in northern Ohio, “Zeb” has anxiety, but Krager’s methods of training and Romine’s acupressure demonstrations from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. allowed the dog to calm down after his initial whining. A canine massage and acupressure demonstration was held by Krager and Romaine in an effort to show owners how to care for and modify the behavior of their animals.
“Some dogs take an hour to accept (the Halti), and some take five minutes to do it,” Krager said. Although her goal was to make Zeb sit, Krager did not say the word “sit” throughout the entire demonstration. Rather, she showered Zeb with “good boys” when he sat down out of exhaustion and applied pressure when he pulled away from her.
Despite his apparent anxiety on Saturday, Zeb is no stranger to being an example.
“I had used him at Hocking College,” Romine, a retired equine education specialist, said. “I brought him into the classroom and he would jump up on the table and let me demonstrate acupressure and massage techniques to the students.” After Krager’s demonstration, Zeb hopped onto the table at the Community Center and let his owner begin feeling for uneven dispersion of “chi” in his body.
In addition to common hip or joint problems, many dogs’ emotional issues can disrupt their chi, which Romine said is “life force,” and can manifest into physical ailments. That may well be the case for Zeb, Romine, who has used her “structured touch” on animals since the '90s, said.
Once finished with her “point work,” or evaluating the dog’s body for cold and warm spots that indicate where and how much chi is present, Romine began to “nudge” chi from Zeb’s warm stomach to his "cold kidneys" with her hands covered in calming essential oils.
"Think of rolling out a wrinkled sheet on your bed," Romine said. “The animal will tell you how much pressure to use — and never push beyond a resistance ever.” The audience took notes.
Dog owners paid $35 to reserve one of the six spots for Romine to “nudge” their dog and Krager to develop a behavioral plan. However, an admission fee of $10 to both watch the demonstrations and enter a raffle for various prizes — including massage and training packages valued at $100 — was available to the public.
Alexas Losey, a sophomore studying sociology-criminology at Ohio University, won a free training session.
“I am very excited, my dog actually has aggression issues, so I think this will be really good for him,” Losey, owner of a four-year-old Pomeranian, said. “I was actually interested in booking a session anyways, so it’s really great.”
All proceeds from the event will be donated to Athens Friends of Shelter Dogs, which will use the money to pay their animals’ vet expenses among other things, Angela Marx, president of Friends of Shelter Dogs, said.
After the demonstrations on Zeb, Krager and Romine began training and massaging some of the six dogs signed up for sessions that afternoon.
Romine, owner of Trees LLC and 11 dogs and seven horses, stressed that neither she nor Krager are veterinarians and therefore cannot prescribe, treat or perform medical procedures on animals.
“I’m not healing the body, I’m helping the body heal itself,” Romine said. “I’m just the nudger.”