Wednesday, May 8, 2024

 

HARBINGERS of SPRING


It was mid February and I was out for a walk on a snowy and cold monochromatic day that seemed to defy movement and color. Everything was still—so still. Suddenly out of the corner of my eye I caught an impression of deep blue as several blurs of movement flashed past me. Five male Virginia Bluebirds, resplendent in their cobalt blue topcoats and tails They were busy scouting out appropriate territory for their ladies to nest in. 

In a few weeks the women will arrive. When they do, the males will sing and sing in an attempt to attract a female to their nesting site, and to keep other males out. If the female feels that the selected nesting site is suitable, by April she will begin the arduous task of building a nest. Comprised of dry grass or pine needles, the nest is shaped like a cup.

Photo courtesy of Skyler Ewing
Male Eastern Bluebird

Each day the female lays a single egg, until three to six are nestled snugly in the nest. Usually the eggs are a delicate turquoise, but sometimes are white. Once all the eggs are laid, she begins incubating them. She is a very conscientious mother, and exhibits great devotion to her task. In twelve to fourteen days the eggs begin to hatch


Photo courtesy of Skyler Ewing
Eastern Bluebird Eggs

Each day the male and female are kept busy stuffing hundreds of fat juicy insects into the mouths of the ravenous young.  Eighteen to twenty-one days after hatching, the baby birds are ready to leave the nest (fledge). The male continues to care for them, teaching them to hunt for insects. The female begins building another nest prior to laying eggs again. This will be her second brood. Depending upon the availability of food and other factors, there may even be a third brood! The bluebird nesting season can extend from the middle of April through the end of July.

Bluebirds are timid birds that will always acquiesce to other birds when there is competition for a nesting site. This factor and the existence of urban sprawl has contributed to their precarious population levels. This is why bluebirds need our help during nesting season. Providing them with a place to nest helps to ensure their population level.

Bluebirds prefer open spaces, such as open (not wooded) yards and pastures. Place a bluebird nest box in a location that is nearby (50 to l00 feet) a tree or shrub so that the fledglings can easily reach it when they first leave the nest box. If the tree hangs over the box, predators can easily drop onto the box., retrieving eggs or young. Raccoons, Opossums, snakes, Ravens and cats are just a few of the predators bluebirds face. Nest boxes must be placed on a metal pole (not a fencepost or tree) 4-6 feet above ground, and fitted with a predator guard to provide the bluebirds with protection. Bluebird nest boxes are available at “Wild Birds Unlimited” in Central Park, but if you prefer to make your own, the Virginia Bluebird Society has simple box designs at: www.geocities.com/virginiabluebirds. It is important to have the nest box in place by early February or sooner. Otherwise, the bluebirds may not find it in time for their nesting needs.

 Photo courtesy of CheepShot, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
Male(L) and female (R) Eastern bluebirds

Virginia Bluebirds usually do not migrate and travel together in flocks when not nesting. During the winter they will often roost together in empty tree cavities, which are becoming increasingly harder to find as urban sprawl continues to spread. Sometimes as many as 10-15 birds can be found roosting together, in an attempt to conserve body heat. Another benefit of nest boxes is that the bluebirds will often roost in them during cold nights.

Bluebirds are adaptable in their diet—they prefer insects, but will eat berries during the cold winter months when insects aren’t available. They will not eat seed, but are very interested in mealworms. Why feed mealworms you say?  Feeding mealworms can entice reluctant birds to use the nest box. However, this is only a supplementary food and should not be fed more than once or twice a day. Suet and fruit are also important to offer at all times. And remember water—not only do the birds need it for drinking, but bathing in it keeps their feathers clean and in proper alignment for flying. Provide them with a shallow dish of water in an area several hundred feet from brush so that predators cannot hide and pounce on an unsuspecting bird. 

Now that the bluebirds are getting ready to nest, I know that there is hope. Winter is winding down and spring can’t be far behind!

Saturday, May 4, 2024


 HOW MASSAGE and BODYWORK INCREASE HEALING from CRANIAL                       CRANIAL CRUCIATE SURGERY


 One sunny Saturday morning Solo and Mike were returning from a walk. Solo trotted along and gently waved his plumed tail, tennis ball proudly held in his mouth. Periodically he would drop it and Mike would bend down and pick it up, only to have Solo anxiously begging for it.

“I’ll only give it to you if you hold onto it this time” Mike remonstrated.

Solo responded with a wide grin and frenzied tail-wagging. Mike proffered the tennis ball and Solo enthusiastically grabbed it out of his hand.

Once they reached home, Mike noticed that Solo was oddly moving. He would hold up his right hind leg, only briefly touching his toes to the ground. After several days of this, Mike took Solo to the veterinarian. 

 Solo had ruptured his cranial cruciate ligament. The cranial cruciate ligament attaches the thigh bone (femur) to the shin bone (tibia). Its primary role is to support the knee (stifle) during movement. If this ligament is partially or completely torn (ruptured) this results in pain and instability. In an earlier article, I mentioned that Cranial Cruciate ruptures are a contributing factor in the development of arthritis. 



On the left, the diagram shows an intact Caudal Cruciate Ligament. On the right, it has ruptured.

A Cruciate rupture is a condition that requires you to contact your veterinarian immediately. If your dog has a simple tear, it can tear further and further with any additional movement. A complete tear (rupture) requires surgery, whereas a partial tear may not.

Following surgery to restore the mechanics of Solo’s leg the veterinarian suggested a series of home exercises (and in some cases canine rehabilitation) to return Solo to his former activity level. Find out if Canine Rehabilitation would be helpful for your dog's recuperation by clicking here.

Massage and Bodywork were both a part of Solo’s recovery. Massage stimulated his body to produce chemicals that would increase the quality and speed of healing.

Candace Pert, PhD., in her book, Molecules of Emotion shows how a waterfall of chemicals is released when touch receptors in the body are stimulated. When skin receptors are touched, they transmit messages to the brain. Once the brain receives these messages it initiates the production of chemicals that feed major body systems such as the blood, muscles, nerve cells, tissues, and organs.

Massage is a vehicle that stimulates the skin receptors and releases the chemicals necessary for the body’s optimum performance. The scar tissue that results from surgery is necessary to restore stability to the stifle (knee). Scar tissue left unaddressed can cause many problems in the dog’s body. This is because as the incisions begin to heal,  the body sends many types of cells swarming to the site. The body is unable to lay the cells down in an organized fashion and they end up being distributed willy-nilly, in bunches and clumps.  To get them to lay down in an organized fashion, fascial work (CranioSacral, Myofascial Release) is necessary.

As Solo’s leg was healing, various parts of his body were stressed as he compensated for his inability to move as he had previously. This created a dysfunctional movement that was imprinted in his fascia. 

Fascia is a bodystocking of connective tissue that exists from the brain to the toes. It exists just under the skin and extends three-dimensionally throughout the body. Fascia surrounds every muscle, bone, organ, and all other structures and innervates many of them. Visualize grabbing an area of your T-shirt. Now notice how surrounding areas are also affected. In your dog’s body, as time goes on more and more areas of the fascia will become affected unless you intervene. If this compensation is not addressed, it becomes increasingly debilitating and the dog has difficulty functioning.  

 Scar Work

Another benefit of bodywork is to increase movement. Untreated scars can reduce the ability to move the body optimally, by adhering to the fascia. Scar work can help scars to release so that mobility can be increased. If the dog has more than one scar on the body, the scars tend to grow toward each other, further restricting movement in the area of the body affected. Bodywork can interrupt this process and restore mobility.

Fascia is the bodystocking found just under the skin and exists 3-dimensionally throughout the body.

                                                                                                                                           

All cells in the body which comprise organs and other structures, emit an electrical charge. The electricity in the body is necessary for optimum health. Scars interfere with the transmission of electrical waves. Bodywork can help to interrupt this damaging process, aiding in re-establishing optimum flow. Massage and Bodywork are two extremely accessible tools that provide a myriad of benefits in healing.

Benefits of massage include:

  •  Produces beneficial chemicals that nourish organ systems, increasing the quality of healing.

Fascial work (Craniosacral Therapy and Myofascial Release) addresses the following:

  • Aids in laying down cells (that will form scar tissue) in an organized fashion

  • Increases movement where the scar is located

  • Frees adhesions in fascia and promotes movement in adjacent areas

As your dog recovers from cruciate surgery, you will find massage and bodywork helpful tools to get him or her on the road to recovery.


  • Re-establishes electrical flow that has been interrupted by the presence of the scar

For more information, please contact Jill Deming at jilldeming8@gmail.com

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