Bothell therapist helps injured and overweight dogs get fit
Jennifer Buchanan / The Herald
Lynnie Ford tempts Jordan, a corgi, with a tennis ball to make her swim laps during a January water therapy session at Wag Wellness in Bothell.
Ford (left) buckles a life jacket onto Josie, a Shih Tzu and Chihuahua mix, as owner So Scazafavo holds her.
Jennifer Buchanan / The Herald
Lynnie Ford cradles Josie, a shih tzu/Chihuahua mix, in the water as they work on swimming during a therapy session Wednesday night.
Josie's owner, So Scazafavo, began a program of pet therapy at Wag Wellness in Bothell. Josie can't twirl around like a ballerina like she used to, but she has regained some of the use of her hind legs and is doing really well, Scazafavo said.
"She sort of walks like a drunken sailor now," Scazafavo said, laughing. "But I'll take drunken sailor any day."
Scazafavo has Wag Wellness owner and founder Lynnie Ford to thank.
Scazafavo and others sing Ford's praises. These dog owners say Ford has helped bring their beloved pets back from surgery, arthritis, and, in some cases, a life of being crippled.
One of Debbie Fisher's cardigan Welsh corgis, Jordan, lost nine pounds under Ford's care. That was a good thing because after she lost the weight, Jordan blew out her back. After surgery, Jordan was 85 percent back to normal. Today, with further therapy at Wag Wellness, Jordan is back to operating on all fours.
"What Lynnie was doing for Jordan is beyond amazing to me," Fisher said.
Ford is a small-animal massage therapist and a canine fitness trainer. Ford also is a strong believer in water therapy for dogs -- so much so that she built a spa at her home so she could swim with her clients.
In a little houselike structure behind Ford's home is a 9-by-6-foot pool -- originally made for humans undergoing rehab -- resembling a big hot tub. The pool's temperature is kept between 89 and 91 degrees, soft music plays, and there are pictures of canine clients and mosaics on the walls.
This is where Ford swims with her clients. Weekly sessions are generally 30 minutes. Each client is outfitted with a life jacket so Ford can guide them around the pool.
During a recent session with Josie, the atmosphere was cheery and comfortably humid as Ford encouraged Josie in the water.
Ford said water therapy is often a last resort for many dog owners to get their dogs walking, fit and post-operatively back to a comfortable state. Hydrotherapy works to build the dog's core strength and helps them lose weight.
Ford believed in the treatment enough that she traveled to England in October to take a nine-day course. Now she is a registered canine hydrotherapist in the United Kingdom.
"It's been so positive, and I've had such good results," Ford said. "I just want people to know you don't have to give up on your dog."
Ford cautioned, however, that massage and water therapy don't take the place of veterinary care.
Ford said one of her clients, 18-year-old Arthur, could hardly walk from arthritis when she first began treating him. Today, with massage and swim therapy, he's jumping on the couch.
"He's 60 pounds and he goes in my little pool and he swims," said Ford. "I have seen amazing results."
Besides swimming with the dogs, Ford also incorporates massage and physical fitness into the pet therapy sessions, such as working dogs atop a tough-shelled plastic "doughnut" to build their core strength and balance.
"It's all about the dogs," Ford said.
Ford, 60, was on a totally different career path when a dog turned her life around.
Ford was a paralegal. Then, in 2007, her 4-year-old dog, Zeke, collapsed and died.
"He was absolutely my soulmate," Ford said. "And then I stopped and thought, 'What am I doing?' I realized, I love dogs and this is what I want to do."
Ford quit her legal job, took a 50 percent pay cut and went to work for a veterinarian.
Ford eventually got into canine massage and rehab. When not running Wag Wellness, Ford works full-time for Inglemoore Animal Hospital.
Eventually, Ford pursued water therapy. Building a spa in the back yard, with help from Ford's partner, Joyce, seemed a natural next step.
"I know this really does work, this type of therapy and massage," Ford said passionately. "I really believed in what I did, and it so astounded me how much it helped the dogs."
Jaime Dellachiara is also a believer.
Her 8-year-old dog, Wyla, has cancerous tumors on her spine and brain. Wyla has 150 friends on her Facebook page and has been a devoted client at Wag Wellness.
Dellachiara picked Wag Wellness because she wanted the dream team for her beloved pet.
"I don't know how long she has to live. Lynnie nurtures her body and spirit," Dellachiara said. "She keeps all those systems going."
Theresa Goffredo: 425-339-3424 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Lynnie Ford, 23029 13th Place W., Bothell. Prices start at $25 for a massage. For more information, call 425-501-9734 or email Ford at email@example.com.
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