It’s the second longest continuously held sporting even in the U.S., behind only the Kentucky Derby. It predates the invention of the light bulb, the automobile, basketball, the World Series, and it has seen the passage of 25 presidents. It was formed by a group of gentlemen in 1877 and named after their favourite bar in their favourite hotel to show off the abilities and accomplishments of their dogs. The Westminster Kennel Club’s annual dog show in New York is dedicated to the sport of purebred dogs.
It is a remarkable group of people who participate in these dog shows. Things have evolved so that there are a variety of special jobs within dog shows around which people have created entire careers. There are the owners who pay top dollar for their purebred bundles of joy, and there are the trainers who bring the discipline to these dogs that enable them to “show” well and behave in these events before thousands of spectators and hundreds of other dogs. And finally, there are the handlers who do the work of “showing” the dogs at these events.
Brian (not his real name) is one such handler. He specialized in the large dog breeds and loved the work he did. He was so good and regularly had the dogs that would win these competitions all over North America. It was not a particularly lucrative job, but he loved the work he did.
About two years ago, Brian was driving on a road that was under construction when another vehicle failed to yield to the traffic in the construction zone and hit Brian’s vehicle from the rear. Although restrained by a seat and shoulder belt, his head and neck moved well beyond their normal physiologic range and he suffered a terrible whiplash injury. Additionally, his mandible travelled down and forward, and then snapped back and upward so quickly that he suffered a crush injury of the articular disc in his TM joint.
He had headaches, ear pain, dizziness, tinnitus, neck pain and immobility, shoulder pain, and more. It hurt to bring his back teeth together; chewing gum, steak, or raw vegetables brought about spasms of pain. He was disabled and could not pick up a medium-sized dog, let alone the big ones he loved so much.
Physiotherapy was helpful, but he was not recovering. His personal injury lawyer knew about the work I was doing with these kinds of injuries (based on studies with world-renowned physiotherapist Dr. Mariano Rocabado, who recognized what he calls the 50:50 rule, in which the mandible and neck interact so intimately that each must receive equal treatment if a person is to recover from physical trauma to this region), and he referred Brian to me for evaluation and treatment.
Personally, I prefer non-invasive reversible therapies as a first course of treatment. After a thorough examination, which included a detailed history, current complaints, objective observations, and other appropriate diagnostic tests, we embarked on a team-based, multi-disciplinary treatment regimen, working with a chiropractor, physical therapist, massage therapist, physician, and me (via an intraoral orthotic). In a reasonable period of time, we managed to return him to a normal, pain-free range of motion.
It was a great commitment to meet and be treated by so many people, but Brian believed that he was seeing the right team of people to help him, so he took the attitude of not being the victim but rather the instrument of his healing. He took charge of his health and took this experience as his opportunity to make real changes in his life.
Brian underwent an amazing transformation. He changed his diet, began working out, and he not only recovered, but also went on to lose 100 pounds and looks amazing! He is once again a handler for the big breeds and back into the competitions, wherever they may be held. I have found this change to be inspiring.
It is incredible that we get opportunities every day to make a difference in someone’s life. And, on a regular basis, I find that some of our patients are so inspiring that they change our lives, too.
And that makes it not so much of a grind now, doesn’t it?
Larry Stanleigh, MSc, DDS, FADI, FICD, FACD