Sarah and Sam are twin collie/spaniels with slightly different hobbies! Sam’s goal in life was to chase each and every seagull in Sussex, barking at the top of his voice. The smile on his face as he ran, weaving up and down the beach, in and out of the sea always seemed to bring the sun out. Sarah was not so fussed with seagulls – she discovered the delights of tennis balls. Being a good Dad (or so I thought at the time) I used to encourage her obsession by carrying a ball in every pocket and constantly giving in to her demands of ‘Throw it Dad…now”.
At just 7 years old we started to notice that Sarah was beginning to stiffen as she got up, or walked up stairs after a heavy ball playing session. As a qualified masseur I would rub her down after such a session, but didn’t really know what I was doing dog-wise (dogs are different from humans, they have more legs and muscles are in different places!).
Keen to help Sarah we found a basic introduction to Canine Massage workshop and took along Sam and Sarah for practice. Although they are siblings they are surprisingly different, Sam’s fur is soft, loose and you can pick up his skin. Sarah’s skin was like it was superglued to her, it wouldn’t lift, and her fur was like rubbing a loo brush. This we discovered was a classic case of the Good Dad being a Bad Dad, unintentionally causing injury by constantly throwing the ball. Because her exercise was largely jumping (rather than Sam’s weaving and running) she had developed a stiff neck and back.
We were shown a simple, but effective, myofascial release move – in this case, skin rolling and lifting the adhered skin to allow fresh nutrients to circulate – which Sarah loved. Instead of having to chase her around she began to demand a massage…daily, hourly, all the time. She developed a new obsession – but a healthy one this time.
After just one week we noticed the difference in her skin – it was getting easy to lift. After a month it was not just her skin and fur but her personality which had changed. She was now back to the bright eyed, happy, loving dog we started out with and not the grumpy tired dog she had become.
Several months later we not only had our girl back but I had developed a new path – canine massage. I gave up working in Academia where I had been for 20 years and qualified as a canine physical therapist setting up my own business, AchyPaw, with my partner.
We are now 7 years further along and during that time Sarah has constantly been my inspiration. Ok, she is wobblier and more silver faced but her strength to carry on and her love of life is awesome. She always embraces centre stage during our workshops and courses, proudly showing everyone how beneficial Dad Massage is. She even allows people to practice on her from time to time – letting them know when they are not quite doing it right.
Sarah really has changed my life, my career and has helped hundreds of other dogs and their Mums and Dads appreciate the benefits of canine physical therapy. She is my inspiration.