Monday, 18 August 2014

"So what do you really do, Dr Les?"

The handsome Obi
Obi relaxed

“No…dog massage is not pampering your pet”.
“No…I am not a dog groomer”.
“No…I’m not kidding, I really do spend my days massaging dogs”.
"No...I don't whisper to dogs".
“Yes…I am a professionally qualified specialist for dog massage & muscle therapy”.
“Yes…our dogs do look chilled because they have been massaged regularly for the past year or so”.

These are some of the questions I have to answer when we take our AchyPaw Dog Massage service ( to dog shows and events and set up our tent. If I had a £ for every person who goes past, reads our signs and says….”Ooo…dog massage….I didn’t know about that” then we could buy an even bigger tent. But luckily I love to talk about the benefits of canine massage and myotherapy. I guess that is the academic in me, having spent 21 years at the University of Brighton training others. At the shows we attend I seem to spend a lot of time kneeling down stroking dogs I have never met before while chatting to their owners. I always start my conversation with the dog usually telling them how beautiful or handsome they are because, to me, they usually are and before I start to feel them I always ask the dog if it is OK to touch them. Seems polite to me. At one event I asked a dog that and his owner replied, “OK…but wait until my husband has gone”. She thought I was talking to her! I’m not sure who was more embarrassed…me or her. So now I make it clear that I’m talking to the dog.

It’s the same when I work on a dog, even one that has had massage several times before from me. I always ask first if it is OK to touch them. They may be in a bad mood that day, they may be extra tense, they may just be tired and want to be alone. This week I was asked to visit one of my favourite boxer dogs who has had many treatments from me. Obi is a big handsome dog who had a collision with a car some months back which crumpled his back. He also has lumbosacral disease and is in his senior years. But he still chases his ball and he still loves his walks. He just has to stop sometimes on a long walk while he and his owner sit down for a rest. Seems quite a good idea to me. Anyway, he loves his massage and usually ends up fast asleep snoring. 

The other evening when I went to his house he seemed slightly less happy and didn’t throw himself dramatically on my massage mat as usual. Instead he wandered around the room. I never force a dog to have a massage but wait, chatting to them, until they decide the time is right for their therapy. After 5 minutes or so, Obi came across to me and sat in my lap which means “OK Dr Les…NOW you can start”. Interestingly he seemed quite stiff in his rear end as he sat down and I could feel slight muscle wastage in his gluteals. When I asked the owners about it they agreed that they had noticed that too but didn’t want to put ideas into my head. Clearly Obi was not happy back there and so I started by working on areas I know he enjoys, like his neck which holds up his broad handsome head.

As he started relaxing and sinking into the massage mat I was able to work down towards the areas of issue. There is a lot of stealth involved in this canine therapy job. I know that if I’d gone straight for his tight back end muscles, he would simply have walked away. I needed to get his trust first. Using compression and kneading techniques I gradually eased out his aches and brought some fresh nutrients to his muscles and joints. Rather than focussing on that area for the rest of the session, I kept moving around to other parts of his body and returning – stealth tactics again. 

After the session he seemed a lot happier and wandered into the garden. However, he always comes to say goodbye to me which means so much as I know I’m leaving my dog client happier and more comfortable.

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