Let’s work together to help your dog live healthier

Does your spirit soar when watching your dog run, run, run at the dog park, or when they chase birds at the ocean, or do full-body shakes when you say the magic word … W-A-L-K? Are you someone who appreciates the short -lived sweet scent of “puppy breath” or loves watching your dog sleeping on his back, paws in the air, belly exposed, seemingly not a care in the world? When you come home from work do you give effusive pets, tickles, and love to your dog, and then greet the family?

If you identify with any of these questions, this column is for you. My name is Lynnie Ford and I love dogs. I was recently at a Canine Fitness class where the veterinarian said if we build our dog’s core strength, helping them stay mobile, we can add two years to their lives. I believe it, and my goal is to help you do it.

First, a little about myself. Five years ago my 4-year old dog Zeke collapsed and died. He was an oddly unique, one-of-a-kind best friend and I loved him dearly. (Though totally ball crazy, he was so mellow my children called him “Stoner Boy.”) I was devastated. His death, however, was the impetus to change my life. I quit my job as a paralegal, started working at a veterinary hospital and went to school to become a Small Animal Massage Practitioner.

I am now a State Certified Small Animal Massage Practitioner, a UK Certified Canine Hydrotherapist, a Canine “Fitness Coach” (I always wanted to be a “personal trainer”) and owner of Wag Wellness (www.wagwellness.com). I have four dogs including my new puppy Grover, whose father must have been quite the athlete himself as he is a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, and the mother is a much larger Brittany…hmmm.

My goal with this column is the same I have for my clients — to enable you to help your dog by supplying you with tools to do that – whether it be advice about massage for different conditions, the benefits of heat for arthritic dogs, exercises to increase hind and front end strength, the importance of weight control, and most importantly – how to build your dog’s core strength – the key to a longer, healthier life.

There is just one thing I must say:

I cannot and will not give advice regarding health problems. Are you ready…here it comes… Massage therapy, water therapy and fitness training do not take the place of proper veterinary care. Please consult your veterinarian for any persistent problems bothering your animal. (That’s a mouthful!)

That said, we are going to have fun. There are many exercises, games, even “Pilates” routines for dogs, that you can do at home to keep your dog healthy and strong. Future topics include the benefits of swimming, how to set up your own fitness course at home with everyday items, how to give your dog a massage without covering them with a towel and putting cucumbers on their eyes, and more.

As incentive, I wanted you to meet Wyla, who’s swimming with her birthday crown. Wyla was diagnosed with both brain and spine cancer over a year ago. I met her shortly after she had treatment at Washington State. She had lost weight, dragged her feet and was battling her way back.

She began swimming and massage once a week, went on all kinds of outdoor adventures to build her strength, and despite a poor prognosis, built her health and strength back. Unfortunately, she just suffered more seizures and had to have an MRI. The neurosurgeon said the tumors had grown – not a surprise. What did surprise him was that Wyla not only walked, but ran, played, chased, and swam right up until this current setback. The doctor confirmed her owners’ beliefs – exercise, swimming, massage, a good diet, lots of love, and more had prolonged her life. I love that dog – she is a fighter – as are her parents.

With a few simple changes, ideas, and “adventures” you too can be a fighter for your dog. Stay tuned. (For more information about Wyla, go to Team Wyla on Facebook – a truly inspiring story.)

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