Swimming, exercise do a dog’s body good

Last February, The Herald wrote an article about Wag Wellness. The article included a brief mention of an 18-year old dog named Arthur. Arthur was a large, slow, set-in-his ways old man, who came to Wag Wellness for massage as his mobility had gone way down. His hind end was rock hard — almost as hard as his rock hard personality (“You can massage one side, but I’m not turning over”). His muscles were hypertonic and walking was a chore.

Still, after several weeks of massage, it was hard to keep Arthur down. His owner said that Arthur had resumed jumping up on the couch, and was raring to go on walks and greet the neighbors. Despite our greatest doubts, Arthur eventually swam — on his own terms — and his mobility continued to increase. Age, however, caught up with Arthur and a few days after his last swim, Arthur passed on. His owner, Ken – a devout doggie daddy, was devastated. Sadly, I didn’t hear from him (Ken, not Arthur who will be with me forever) for a few weeks. Then, out of the blue, Ken called.. He was coming back to Wag Wellness with a new dog — Ndnd. (I know…weird name…but it goes with Ken).

Ken and his wife, Anna, had gone to Homeward Pet looking, not for an Arthur replacement but still, for another large dog to go with their two small dogs at home. That weekend they found the perfect large dog – so to speak — a 19-pound Chihuahua named Peaches. Peaches’ “before picture” was taken shortly after leaving Homeward Pet. Ken likes to say Peaches/Ndnd’s original mug shot was just a head shot because that was all they could fit in the picture. (Apparently Ndnd’s previous owner, an elderly lady, had passed away, and to her food was love … and boy , did she love “Peaches.”)

At the end of March, Ndnd was quite the sight waddling into my spa. Slow, chunky, painfully unfrisky and depressed, she barely fit into a size small life jacket — though I’m sure she would have floated quite well without any flotation device. Ndnd began weekly visits to Wag Wellness. Her session always started with a massage to warm her up for the big event – the swim. The first week, Ndnd donned her life jacket, we got into the pool and began our workout. In the pool, I continued the massage with range-of-motion exercises and then swimming, limiting the amount of swimming due to the fact she had little to no endurance and having a heart attack on my watch could be a big business killer. She returned week after week, swimming for a longer period of time each week, building her endurance and whittling away the pounds.

Today, seven months later, Ndnd is a svelte 10-pound 6-year-old with more energy than she knows what to do with. She rushes into the spa, and hops on my lap for her massage/acupressure session. Barely containing herself, she excitedly puts on her bikini-size extra-small life jacket and is off for a swim – swimming long, hard and with great endurance. Her luxating patellas are barely noticeable due to her increased muscles and strength. She no longer reverse sneezes, or coughs due to the decreased weight on her trachea. And when done with her swim, she begins her fitness session – balancing on the balance disc, the peanut or rubber donut.

She’s unstoppable, amazing, and joyful – showing off her “six-pack core” and increased strength, mobility and vitality . She continues to come for regular swims and massages to keep her fit and to assure a long life of mobility and strength. There is one problem. The two older dogs at home are not impressed by her new large-and-in-charge attitude. But one of them is now coming to swim in order to maintain her queen-of-the-roost status.

The moral of the story is … well, there really isn’t a moral, but the point is one of the best things you can do for your pet is keep them fit. Regular exercise and a good diet are invaluable. Even in colder weather, dogs need to have regular exercises – whether in a pool, on fitness equipment or home, or just regular walks. If you dog has hip dysplasia, is overweight or arthritic or has other issues, swimming can be the answer – it’s a non-impact activity that is great for them. Swimming one minute is equivalent to one mile of walking. Add massage, acupressure and fitness exercises and you have a great way to keep your dog both happy and healthy.

Of course, I’m always looking for more dogs at my business. But my true goal is to empower you to participate in your dog’s health. If you would like more information about massage, exercises to do at home or swimming, please do not hesitate to e-mail me — ljford44@gmail.com — or call 425-501-9734.

Just keep watching for Ndnd in the doggie Olympics. She’s becoming quite the star.

Lynnie Ford is a state-certified small animal massage practitioner. Visit her blog, Wag Wellness, at www.wagwellness.com.

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