“If you are not struggling, then you are not learning…..” a quote from a vet that was intended for the anatomy and physiology portion of school, but applied to my internship as well…
My internship was one that would teach you to never give up. I had received nothing but rejections from veterinarians, groomers, daycares and boarding facilities. Sadly, even one of the biggest shelters around Western Massachusetts turned me down. But I did not give up. Lisa, the head of the internship program, along with my wonderful support system of family and friends, encouraged me to keep trying. I did just that. I sent out a new batch of letters and emails to any dog related place I could think of. One day I received a call from Anna the head of Belchertown Animal Control. This was the start of a fabulous internship.
My first client was Cookie. Cookie is a shelter dog who was basically deemed un-adoptable because of her extreme nervousness towards everything and everybody. She was a handful for the pound to catch and was a resident since January 2010. Anna noticed during the first session with Cookie that she looked more comfortable and was starting to relax. After only two weeks of massage, Cookie went to her forever home. She is blossoming into a wonderful little princess. At the pound, Cookie was progressing more and more after each massage. She started to slowly walk in front of people, she began to eat her meals right away, and even her body was starting to feel and look much healthier. As I continued to work with Cookie at her new home, she began to open up even more. Each day she encounters new and adventurous things and is thoroughly living the “good life”. Who would ever think that this girl was once thought to never be able to go to a real forever home?
Anna was so impressed with Cookie's progress that she started complementing my work to vets, groomers, and any animal owner that would listen. I was touched! What a way to boost my confidence! Quickly I had places to intern and lots of animals to work on…. 40 hours… piece of cake! Anna in turn hooked me up with a groomer named Amy, who when she heard from Anna “how good I was”, she immediately contacted me. From that point on Amy told me how she was complimenting my work to her vet, and low and behold, her vet wants me to start holding massage clinics there as well!
Another interesting case I stumbled across was a rescued dog named Heidi. Good spirited and stubborn, she came to Massachusetts from the south into a wonderful family with her mind set on only using three legs. She had a pin placed in her stifle and another in her hips. This family contacted me from a flyer for an event I was holding at a local pet food store. One thing led to another and I began to work with Heidi. With each massage Heidi made progress. Her muscles started to loosen up and she occasionally tried to stand on all four legs. She has no muscle tone in this leg so baring weight at this point is nearly impossible. It was a little over a month of massaging (and also attending hydrotherapy), that Heidi can now walk on all fours at a slow pace. I have extremely high hopes for her, she will be running on all fours soon enough.
I had the opportunity to join in at one of Heidi’s hydrotherapy sessions. This was the ultimate experience because I received hands on feedback from the therapist saying “you are truly doing great work with her”. She was so impressed how far Heidi has come along in such a small period of time. For the dog all the vets had no hope for ever walking on all fours, I think she’s doing just fine now.
My experience for the Small Animal Massage Program Internship at Bancroft School of Massage was fantastic. I was able to learn and experience so much that it prepped me to succeed on my own. This internship was also a great way to market myself and take advantage of all the opportunities; I never turned down an animal. The amazing animals and owners which I met during my internships taught me a lot as well. Each animal had different outlooks, some more challenging than others. I experienced a shelter dog who was extremely timid and fearful, a dog with a broken leg & hip dislocation, the family pet, the over active, the young, the old, the abandoned, and a dog that had stem cell replacement surgery. One animal could be the easiest animal who just lays there for you, one may want you to chase them around the pound because he wants to play, or then there is even the more guarded dog which you have to work with slowly to gain trust. Helping dogs feel better mentally and physically is truly what massage and other holistic remedies are all about.
I would highly recommend that if you are interested in animal massage you attend this program. I believe you too will get the same wonderful experience and be brought together with a wonderful group of students and professors. Good Luck to all future students and I hope you all get to have an amazing internship experience such as I did!
~ Millie Czerwinski, CSMAT, RP
Visit Millie at her website: Sky's the Limit