We Tried It: Doggy massage
Eric Lyttle gives his pooch, Kasey, some therapeutic pampering.
To be fair, my dog is a bit of a homebody. It's not completely her fault. Aside from the periodic walk around the block, my 7-year-old springer spaniel's world rarely extends beyond the walls of our home or the fenced-in backyard. So a trip to Marcy Wright's house was a big day for Kasey. I'm guessing all that barking with the dog next door is Kasey still talking about it.
Wright is the owner of Pawsitive Kneads, a canine therapeutic and sports massage business that she runs out of her Dublin home. Neither athletic nor in need of therapy, Kasey was an imperfect test dog for a participatory story about doggy massage. Her qualifications also were complicated by a strange home filled with the scents of the many previous four-legged visitors and muscles that were neither sore nor taut massaged by a woman she'd never met. I didn't expect Kasey to relax. And she didn't. But that's neither an indictment of my dog, nor Wright's abilities. Kasey was little more than a prop as we talked.
Wright has been a practitioner of canine massage for 12 years. "I don't do people," she says preemptively. Wright readily admits that, initially, some thought it a bit wackadoodle to pay her to pat their labradoodle. "When people ask what I do, I used to say, 'You aren't allowed to laugh,'" Wright says. "When I first started doing this, people didn't understand. But it's come a long way with the growth of the whole holistic community."
Wright has trained her own dogs to run agility courses. At competitions, she found a customer base. "It's like any athlete-they're taxing their muscles, tendons, bodies," she says. "I'll offer a quick warm-up massage of 10 to 15 minutes before a competition, or a cool-down massage afterward to get the lactic acids worked out."
But even if your mutt's not Usain Bulldog, Wright says canine massage has instant benefits in improved circulation and energy balance for any dog, as well as case-specific applications, such as helping relieve pain in older, arthritic dogs or helping to foster trust in dogs that are shy or have been traumatized. Wright says she's worked with dogs orphaned by both Katrina and 9/11. "Once they figure out what's going on, after a couple of visits, most dogs really like it," she says.
In addition to her private practice, for which she charges $40 per 30-minute visit, Wright also works with a couple of local veterinary offices, as well as being a paid staffer at MedVet Columbus, helping carry out vet-prescribed rehabilitation programs to help speed healing, increase motion or prevent muscle loss for dogs that have been injured or undergone surgery. "We're very proud of our integrative medicine and rehabilitation therapy programs," says Dr. Sue Wagner of MedVet. "There are not too many places like us that offer it."
"I love doing it; it's just great," says Wright. "After a couple of sessions, you can just see the dogs start to get it. It's just, 'ahhhh.'"
Fortunately for me, my dog already does "ahhh" pretty well all on her own.