......or how a grumpy dog turned back into a Diva dog who loves massage
We have two collie/spaniel dogs – brother and sister, Sam and Sarah. We were warned that they would develop obsessive behaviour so knew what to expect. As it happened they developed different obsessions. Sam soon discovered seagulls – which is fortunate as we live right by the beach and sea. His goal in life is to chase each and every seagull in Sussex, barking at the top of his voice. Why? We have never figured that out. He hasn’t a hope of catching them unless he develops wings. But the smile on his face as he runs, weaving up and down the beach, in and out of the sea is enough reason (and pleasure) for us. Sarah is not so fussed with seagulls – she discovered the delights of tennis balls. Being a good Dad (or so I thought at the time) I used to encourage her obsession by carrying a ball in every pocket and constantly giving in to her demands of ‘Throw it Dad...now”.
One day we noticed that Sarah was beginning to stiffen as she got up or walked up stairs after a heavy ball playing session. I’m a qualified masseur so automatically used to rub her down after such a session but didn’t really know what I was doing dog-wise (dogs are different from humans....they have more legs and muscles are in different places!).
We attended a very basic dog massage introductory workshop and took along Sam and Sarah for practice. Although they are siblings they are surprisingly different. Sam is a ‘normal dog’ – you can pick up his skin, it is loose. He has soft fur. Sarah was quite abnormal. Her skin was like it was superglued to her. It wouldn’t pick up. And her fur was like rubbing a loo brush. This was a classic case of the Good Dad being a Bad Dad and causing unknown injury by constantly throwing the ball. Because her exercise was largely jumping (rather than Sam’s weaving and running) she had developed what would be called a stiff neck and back in human-terms – a VERY stiff back. Because her skin was so adhered like Velcro, her fur was suffering as well and was becoming coarse and loo brush-like. Although we were only shown one technique, skin roling, this helped to lift the adhered skin to allow fresh nutrients to circulate.
Sarah loved her massage and instead of having to chase her around, began to demand a massage...daily, hourly, all the time. Yes, she developed a new obsession – but a healthy one this time. After just one week we noticed the difference in her skin – it was getting easy to lift. After a month it was not just her skin and fur but her personality which had changed. She was now back to the bright eyed, happy, loving dog we started out with and not the grumpy tired dog she had become. This change was not only visible to us but others as well. The groomer and dog walker both asked what we had done with the ‘old’ Sarah as this ‘new’ model seemed so much better. The groomer in particular said that when she used to cut Sarah’s fur it was like sandpaper but is now like running a hot knife through butter.
In the meantime, I took, and passed, a diploma course in canine massage plus a number of more advanced workshops and courses - as many as I could find to expand my toolkit of techniques and skills.
Fast forward several months later and we had our girl back. She started to drive her brother mad by constantly teasing him again. At night she slept with both eyes closed in a total relaxed state. She still gets a ball – but on my terms and for limited times only and rolled along the ground not thrown so she would have to jump. The Bad Dad has learned to be a Good Dad. And all this through canine massage and myotherapy. OK...we now have a Massage Diva but we can live with that. She even seemed to become younger - while out walking she prances, she struts, she waggles her tail, she rounds up the rabbits for her brother....she makes me smile!
This is what convinced me to start dog massage and to qualify as a professional canine myotherapist. Yes, I still get strange looks from people when they ask me what I do and I reply that I am a professional dog massage therapist but their opinion changes when I explain what it does and how it helps. And now my skills are being put to use on more dogs and give them the same new quality of life our Sarah has. Plus I now deliver my own workshops and courses to empower other dog owners with some of the tips and skills to bring the massage diva out in their dog.
The chance to spend my working days with dogs was impossible to resist.