We know that touch -- a massage, a hand placed on a shoulder, a hug -- can make people feel better, both physically and emotionally. Touch has been shown to increase the levels of endorphines, chemicals in the brain that are natural stress and pain fighters. I witnessed an example of the healing power of touch last night with my dog.
Mila, my elderly dog, is just a month shy of her 15th birthday. She has both arthritis and hip dysplasia, both of which can be uncomfortable. She also pants a lot, which can be attributed to heat, pain or anxiety. Heat isn't a factor, as our house is a comfortable 73 degrees. Pain is a possibility, but Mila takes both an anti-inflammatory and a pain medication. The most likely reason for her panting is anxiety, according to the owner of the veterinary clinic where I take my dogs. He explained that elderly dogs sometimes feel anxious, which results in panting.
Last night, Mila was panting a lot. So I sat beside her on the floor. She has never been a dog to like a lot of attention, but she does enjoy our nightly time together. As I do every night at bedtime, I sat on the floor with her. Although she is very hard of hearing and didn't hear me speaking to her, I still believe she sensed my words on some level. I kissed the top of her head, held her face in my hands, rubbed her soft ears and massaged her neck, which she loves.
It wasn't long before the panting stopped, her eyes fluttered closed and her head relaxed further into my hand. After a few minutes, I got up. Mila rolled onto her side and fell into a deep sleep. She remained this way for an hour or more. Her panting never resumed until the next morning.
I do believe that touch can heal, or at least relieve anxiety. My old dog proved this last night.