New leash on life: Oakland animal shelter uses the power of touch to calm traumatized dogs

OAKLAND (KPIX) — The Rocket Dog Rescue urban sanctuary in East Oakland is the last hope for the dogs everyone else has abandoned — even other shelters. Pali Boucher is its founder and guardian angel.

“We are the last stop for these animals,” Boucher said. “That’s it for them.”

Originally from San Francisco, Boucher knows what it’s like to be alone in the world.

“I grew up homeless,” she said. “My mother was homeless and I grew up on the streets.”

Since 2001, Boucher and his team have rescued over 6,000 traumatized and severely neglected dogs.

“A lot of times we’ll go to a shelter or situation and wait for the other rescues to take the animals they can take and we’ll take the ones that are left,” she said.

A few weeks ago, Boucher received a call about five puppies being rescued from a blazing fire. Tangled and confused, they were huddled in a corner, paralyzed with fear.

“If they hadn’t been brought to us, they wouldn’t have survived,” Boucher said.

One of them, a terrier-poodle mix named James Bond, barked at anyone who dared approach. That’s why Boucher tries an unconventional approach to increase his chances of being adopted.

She brought in Anne Snowball, a therapist known for her magic touch.

A veteran animal expert, Snowball uses a method called Tellington Touch, or T-Touch. Originally developed to calm horses, the T-Touch is a light massage technique using circular clockwise movements.

“You apply just enough pressure to move the skin in a specific circle pattern plus an extra quarter turn,” Snowball said.

There is no conclusive evidence to prove that it works. But some studies have shown that T-Touch can reduce blood pressure, heart rate, and anxiety.

“Just a few minutes a day is what you can do to restore and gain so many of those beautiful qualities that these animals have,” Snowball said.

At first, James Bond seemed a little nervous, but within minutes he went from shaken to restless.

For Boucher, it’s a moment of victory for everyone involved.

“I’m there for them, but it heals my soul,” she said.

About Chuck Keeton

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