Dog trainer Jenn Merritt's efforts to go that extra mile for her dog Big Sandy started her on a fantastic journey. In July 2001, Big Sandy had to have surgery to amputate her leg and tail. Seeking ideas on how to help her dog during recovery, Merritt asked friends for suggestions. Someone told her to e-mail Joe Strain, a local resident who was using a dog training method called TTouch. TTouch, developed four decades ago by renowned teacher and author Linda Tellington-Jones, uses touch, body language and movement to work with animals. Merritt asked Strain whether any of the TTouch techniques he knew might help Big Sandy. "I e-mailed Joe, and he e-mailed back and told me some very simple things to do with Big Sandy every day," Merritt said. They included doing gentle, slow, circular touches all along the incisions on the dog's body."She bounced back like nobody's business," Merritt said. "I was amazed."Merritt already was involved with the Orange County Animal Protection Society, which offers TTouch training. She asked to sit in on the next session."That was it," Merritt said. "I was hooked."TTouch uses physical touches, lifts and exercises to release tension and increase body awareness in an animal. That reduces fear and anxiety in the animal, allowing it to more easily learn new behaviors.Merritt learned the TTouch method and became a companion animal practitioner in 2006. She is in the process of becoming an equine practitioner. "I'm grateful to Linda and this work," Merritt said. "Everything has made me a better dog trainer but also genuinely a better person. I am much better able to connect not only with animals but also to connect with people, too. Linda is such a wonderful woman. We stayed with her in Hawaii, and I had trouble keeping up. She is a very magical person. Such light and energy about her. Such a unique perspective."Tellington-Jones travels the world teaching, lecturing and observing. She has created 18 videos and written 15 books and many professional articles. More than 1,300 practitioners worldwide use the technique, and her methods are used in teaching people as well.In what truly is a rare treat, Tellington-Jones will make a visit here this week. There will be several opportunities to see her in action and take home some new knowledge.On Wednesday, March 5, from 7 to 9 p.m., Tellington-Jones will demonstrate her Tellington TTouch Equine Awareness Method (TTEAM) at Clearwind Farm on Nicks Road in Mebane. The event is a fundraiser for the N.C. Therapeutic Riding Center. Tickets are $35. Call 304-1009 to purchase.On Friday, March 7, from 7 to 9 p.m., Tellington-Jones will demonstrate her techniques with dogs at the APS on Nicks Road in Mebane. Tickets are $20 and are available by calling 304-2300, ext. 233, or e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Tellington-Jones also will sign books, including her newest, "Getting in TTouch With Your Puppy," during her visit to the APS. Practitioners who are preparing to graduate from the TTouch training program at APS will conduct client sessions, under Tellington-Jones' supervision, on Saturday, March 8, from 2 to 4 p.m. and on March 10 from 10 a.m. to noon. TTouch client dogs and cats are needed for those sessions. Cost is $20, and participants must pre-register. Nan Kwock was starting to think about retirement when she learned about TTouch. She was impressed and decided it would be a great avocation."They had a demonstration at APS, and I liked what the instructor did with the dogs, but a cat came in terrified," Kwock said. "She got the cat out of the cage and worked with the cat doing TTouch. Two hours later the cat was a different animal."She set out to learn more."I was fascinated by the character changes in animals when TTouch is involved," she said. "Hyper dogs seem to get calmer. Very frightened dogs seem to be more self-assured."Anyone can learn about TTouch through workshops, books or DVDs and use the techniques with their animals, which is one of the wonderful things about it. You don't have to become a certified practitioner to use the methods. But Kwock knew she wanted to go through the training, and she has completed five of the six required sessions.She wants to work with older human populations and their dogs when she gets her certification, sharing TTouch methods along with the joy of learning to relay differently to animals.Tellington-Jones originally created her methods for use on horses, but she found they were effective with all sorts of animals; at the last TTouch session Kwock attended, the method was even demonstrated on birds.People studying to become practitioners sometimes travel widely in order to take the required classes. Happily for local residents interested in learning the method, APS offers classes right here."I signed up for a class at the APS, and it blew me away," Juel Duke said. She was amazed at the interaction of human and animal, and at the shift in attitude and behavior in the animal, during a TTouch session."I knew I wanted to do this," said Duke, who hopes to complete her certification next year. "It makes you feel good. It makes the animal feel good. I'd like to do a lot of work with animals who are very shy. They are the animals that don't get adopted."Duke has two dogs, Lucy and Stella, and when she first started in TTouch she sometimes would practice on Alamar, her rescued African Spurred Tortoise. "I could tell he liked it," Duke said. "He relaxed and didn't walk off." Another APS volunteer, Laura Livingstone, attended a horse demonstration workshop given by Tellington-Jones on her last visit to the Triangle, 15 years ago. As an equestrian, Livingstone was impressed by Tellington-Jones' compassion and patience with the horse and her ability to work with the horse as a partner in resolving problems such as balking at walking through water or entering a horse trailer."At that time they didn't even have small animal training, so I started playing around with it," Livingstone said. When the APS starting offering workshops, she got certified and has worked to promote TTouch's benefits.One way Livingstone has used the methods is in her work with foster dogs. "I would use it in conjunction with giving them baths and having their bodies touched," Livingstone said. "I wanted to make them aware of their feet. Some dogs don't even know where their hind feet are."She explained that TTouch helps animals achieve physical, mental and emotional balance."Part of TTouch has ground poles and a labyrinth that helps them learn physical awareness and foot position," she said. "It ties into agility. I think that is part of why agility helps instill confidence."What spoke to Livingstone 15 years ago at her first exposure to TTouch still resonates strongly with her: that the method is about accepting each animal where it is and opening up other opportunities for it.Keep an eye on the APS events calendar; Merritt will conduct an evening Introduction to TTouch workshop sometime in May. Contact her at Blue Dog Creature Coaching, 357-5396 or email@example.com. For information about Tellington-Jones and Tellington TTouch, see www.lindatellingtonjones.com.