HISTORY: To date, we have experienced three hydrotherapy visits with our 11-year-old German Shorthair Pointer “George”. Hydrotherapy is so much more than paddling around a warm pool (about the size of three hot tubs placed end to end). When done properly, hydrotherapy has resulted in success after success with dogs who were injured beyond a vet’s expectation for healing, for dogs crippled by arthritis or damaged vertebrae, for dogs like our George whose disease has slowly wasted away his muscles. I’m told hydrotherapy is even used to build up the chest and overall muscle tone of show dogs. But until I experienced it, I figured it wasn’t much more than gentle movement in warm water, presumably for a dog’s entertainment value more than health. The first two hydrotherapy visits we had were with [a different Seattle area facility]. The last visit was with [Wellsprings] in West Seattle. Although both used the same style of therapy pool and were great to work with, I’d like to personally and very heartily recommend [Wellsprings] in West Seattle. Unlike [different Seattle area facility], Sheila does not have a cedar-walled, sky lit building in the country to house her swimming tank, Instead, Sheila focuses on the word “therapy” in her demeanor, her approach, and her utilitarian facilities.
THERAPY: When I contacted Sheila, she asked that I come to the first visit with my swimsuit, prepared to learn. And she wasn’t kidding. Almost like “yoga” for dogs, Sheila began showing me range of movement parameters for George, guiding my hands to feel where his tendons and muscles had shrunk and were thus too tight to function properly during normal walking positions. She pointed out basic stretching movements on his body, again guiding my hands to help me work with George’s limbs through the stretching process — much the way an athlete prepares to exercise; During the “swim” portion of the therapy, once again it was a hands-on experience, with her showing me where to support George to enable him best movement for exercise, along with the various tips and tricks to keep George’s workout comfortable and productive. George did so well, we were able to turn on the gentle swimming jets, to give him a bit of a resistance workout at the end.
Talk about a grinning dog…. (George, meanwhile, was really digging her… covering Sheila with kisses at every pause in the session.)
At key resting points during and after the swim, Sheila showed me specific massage techniques to use for George, including how to detect and treat mild muscle spasms. When she wanted to make sure I understood a specific technique, she’d use my back and neck to demonstrate… (ahhhh!!!) In just one hour, Sheila’s dedication, her gentle way with George, and her natural teaching abilities had me converted. I signed up for sessions for the next 6 weeks. A side benefit of Sheila is her cost = notably less expensive than [different Seattle area facility], and significantly less when you sign up for two “swim” sessions per week(which we have done).
The result? George is showing his old enthusiasm for life again. His endorphin level has probably been running on empty for the last 6 months, from being so unable to move. After the visit with Sheila, George moved better than he has in months. We’re headed back this evening for our next visit with her… and look forward to seeing continued improvement in the weeks to come!