From Gretchen Dietz, Former Employee
To Whom It May Concern:
To be a good teacher requires a broad range of skills. A good teacher must know her audience, she must know her subject matter, she must have a passion for learning as well as a passion for sharing what she knows, and all the while she must be able to adapt to the different learning styles present in her classroom. As a teacher with 25 years of experience, I’ve seen my fair share of awful teachers so when a good one comes along, I am honored to have the opportunity to recommend them. I’m even more honored to have a chance to learn from them.
This is the case with Sheila Wells, owner of Wellsprings K9 a hydrotherapy and massage pool for dogs. While I have known Sheila for only a short while, in that brief time I have personally experienced her skills as a teacher. After many years as a classroom teacher, I came to Wellsprings K9 as an applicant for a job. While I had minimal skills as an animal massage therapist and even fewer as a hydro-‐therapist, Sheila willingly hired me precisely because she knew I was an eager student.
That is a sign of a good teacher.
During my training, Sheila encouraged me to ask questions and patiently demonstrated the many aspects of the business from working with clients and their families to the daily schedule of pool maintenance. I learned about massage techniques and business management, medical record keeping and client scheduling. In addition, I observed her work with the dogs and their owners and to this day am impressed with her ability to calm, heal and reassure them both. While these are all essential skills for running a successful business, her real skill was in the patient and thoughtful way she taught me.
As a teacher, Sheila had faith in me. She challenged me each training session to try something new, to explore ways that might work better for me, and to think through problems that might arise. I never felt incompetent even though there was much for me to learn and unfamiliar skills for me to master. I was never shamed for making a mistake – mistakes being inevitable when learning something new. When I struggled to understand something, I was encouraged to voice my confusion. With patience and respect, Sheila provided me with numerous strategies so that I might choose one that worked best for me.
Before the creation of schools where students came together to form large classrooms with one teacher instructing them, there were apprenticeships. Young students worked one-‐on-‐one with the village cobbler or dressmaker or put in hours with the town baker or butcher. They learned their crafts by watching masters at their work and by being given opportunities to practice the skills involved whether it be building a house or constructing a hat. I feel extremely lucky to have been afforded the opportunity to apprentice with a master of her craft though in my case, Sheila is not only the master of canine massage therapy she is also a gifted teacher.
Spackle the Bionic Dog
Spackle races exuberantly across the pasture after his flying squirrel toy, nabbing it from the ground and shaking it hard before loping back and dropping it at Ian’s feet. Ian, sensitive to Spackle’s age and his compromised hips, fakes him out, pretending to throw the squirrel so that Spackle won’t have so far to run, then actually throwing it—not very hard—once Spackle’s on his way. It doesn’t really help; Spackle tears after the spinning toy with all his might as soon as it’s aloft. Shake-shake-shake and Spackle lopes back, dropping the squirrel for another go. After the third or fourth time, he brings the squirrel to me instead, even though he can see I am occupied filming playtime. Spackle knows that I, having dealt for years with physical infirmity in a more personal way than Ian, am much less likely to make concessions to perceived weakness. I fling the squirrel harder than Ian had, and Spackle leaps forward into the chase. He brings me the squirrel again. I point to Ian, and Spackle chases a couple more from him, then drops the squirrel at my feet. He looks up at me, head cocked, ears perked, hopeful. “Last one,” I tell him, and throw. As the squirrel falls, Spackle spins out and slides to the ground, but is up and shaking his prize a moment later. He returns slowly, knowing what “last one” means. He does not drop the squirrel. Ian reaches down to take it, and Spackle shakes his head vigorously, panting and smiling through a mouthful of orange and blue canvas.
Spackle was born in July of 2001, about one month before Ian and I married. We picked him out, the runt of a litter of 10 wriggly chocolate chips, when he was about two weeks old. We brought him home to complete our small family when he was 10 weeks, and we were newlyweds. “What should we call him?” we asked ourselves as we drove down to Renton to pick up our first shared responsibility. My childhood dogs had been named things like Gus and Mork; Ian’s things like Poochie and Shadrach. We started throwing out words, anxious to have something ready for our new charge, so that he would immediately begin learning who he was. “Pickle?” I finally said. “Close . . .” Ian responded slowly, and then “Spackle?” one of us proposed, laughing a little, but Spackle it was, we both agreed immediately. In 2000 I had bought an old Craftsman house in Wallingford, Seattle, now our shared home, and spackle had already been playing a valuable role in our lives.
Spackle the dog has been equally indispensable. We marveled almost immediately (i.e., within hours of bringing him home) that something so soft and cute, with his pinky finger-sized tail and his golden-hazel eyes, could be so destructive, chewing through the back of a handmade shoe Ian had brought back from the Peace Corps in Zimbabwe, shredding every toy we gave him, ripping through his beds and strewing foam all over the house. He even chewed through (injury-free) the polycarbonate lens of my sister-in-law’s glasses, merrily gnawing away under cover of the bustle of gift opening on Christmas morning. The most memorable of Spackle’s chewings, though, was the head of the toothbrush we used to distract him, at three months, during his first six-hour car trip to Idaho. In the case of the toothbrush, Spackle did not simply chew. He ate. Two days later he had scrubbed out his entire digestive system, and deposited, with a surprising lack of extra effort, a fascinatingly bristly, decidedly non-biodegradable, poop for us to dispose of.
Speaking of things that come out of the nether end of a dog, we learned early on (although it took us a surprising number of days before we figured out what was happening) that, in the morning, puppy Spackle’s stomach was a gaping ravenous maw that blinded him to any other bodily function, even though his bladder, a mere fraction of a degree less urgent, was a distended balloon ready to spray. For more than two mornings, and maybe more than three (well into the category of “idiot” for number of repetitions we needed to experience to learn), we fed Spackle breakfast in the kitchen. We had tried once, perhaps, to let him out to pee first, but he couldn’t think of anything but food—until he’d wolfed his first mouthful. Then, recognizing that he would be able to survive another day, he would pause, and his bladder would drain all over the floor. He could hardly be blamed; he had slept the whole night through with a bladder meant to be tiny. Sometime near the end of the first week, we realized that we could just feed Spackle outside on the porch, so accidents wouldn’t matter quite so much. And Spackle, seeing that the yard was right there, rewarded our forethought by never having a morning accident again. He would suck down a mouthful of food, run into the yard to piddle, then return to finish his breakfast at a more leisurely Labrador pace, i.e. in 1.3 seconds flat.
Just around the time his baby piranha teeth had fallen out and been replaced by his stick and bone crushing mashers, we discovered Spackle had hip dysplasia in both hips. While he was under anesthesia for his neuter, Dr Mortimer at Green Lake Animal Hospital took an X-ray, and found that the cups in Spackle’s hip bones were not completely covering the heads of his femurs. Ian and I, married only five months, found ourselves suddenly plunged into the adult world of Serious Choices About Finances and Care of Dependents.
I grew up on a small farm in Maple Valley, where many of the animals were there to produce food stuffs or simply be eaten. The cats were there to catch rodents, and the dogs were pets, but outside pets and, fundamentally, just more animals. Ian had had a city upbringing, with slightly more humanized inside dogs and cats, but they had all been mutts or adopted, not researched and sought after like our dog. Most importantly, much as we’d thought of ourselves as old hands at the dog thing after childhoods with Gus and Poochie and Mork and Shadrach, in reality our parents had done all the dirty work. Dirty work which, in my case, included Mork, at two or three, being put to sleep on my 9th birthday because of a large growth on his young neck.
So, although we were left breathless at the cost of the surgeries suggested by Dr. Kenneth Sinibaldi, the fine Seattle veterinary orthopedic surgeon Dr. Mortimer referred us to, we were thankful that we were in a position to pay that cost.
Dr. Sinibaldi performed two surgeries on Spackle, about two months apart, where he broke Spackle’s pelvis, realigned the hip sockets to cover the hips, then wired the pelvis back together. After each surgery, Spackle spent six weeks in a crate in our kitchen. We gave him Rescue Remedy in his water to help him stay calm, and gave him toys and sticks to chew, but mostly spent hours, one or the other of us, sitting at the open door of his crate, reading books, and petting our little brown companion. He was a remarkably patient patient.
This is where Sheila Wells and her massage and swimming therapy at Wellsprings K9 comes in. Sheila was recommended to us by Dr. Mortimer at Green Lake as the perfect person to help Spackle rehabilitate after his surgeries, or rather, resume habilitating for the first time, as he was still under a year old. After the initial couple nervous visits when he learned about the water treadmill, Spackle fell in love. He would sit up in the back of the car and squeak with anticipation as I exited the West Seattle Bridge and pulled down onto Delridge. Near the end of his rehab, he was strong enough to drag me up the driveway to his sessions. He was still a puppy, less than a year old, and still in training to be a good dog.
Now, at 11 ½ years old, Spackle is a very good dog. He is sweet, calm, affectionate, and much wiser than his age—even the 80 measured in dog years. We feel quite lucky to still have him around and mobile (there have been other, even more serious, scares in addition to his hips). When I noticed in December a markedly depleted ability for him to climb the stairs in our house, I suddenly remembered Sheila and Wellsprings K9, and looked her up. Dogs lose muscle in their hind legs anyway as they age, and with Spackle’s surgeries, he’s already behind the bar compared to a dog with no dysplasia. He loves to swim (my mother lets him chase balls in her pool), but water is cold here in the winter, and even if Spackle would like it, I wouldn’t. And he wouldn’t really, either. He’d get chilled and stiff, and his health would be all the more jeopardized. But Sheila and WellSprings K9 are perfect—he’s warm, he’s swimming, he’s getting massaged—and he’s having a much easier time on our stairs. It took a few visits for him to remember his puppy joy at swim therapy, and he long ago stopped squeaking to hurry the car along to his favorite places, but two visits ago he sat up expectantly and looked around when I exited the West Seattle Bridge and pulled down into Delridge.
Spackle knows how to get what he wants out of us, with looks, and touches of the nose, and a little bit of mental telepathy; and we’re willing to give him most anything in recognition of his gifts to us. Spackle perfectly fills in the cracks and seams in our lives, creating for our family of three a smooth, warm, lovingly cohesive household.
Mom and I climb out of the trusty 4-Runner and slam our doors. We head around to the rear and I unlatch the tailgate and leap back as an explosion of furry exuberance pushes past the hydraulics of the door and four dog friends tumble and leap onto the gravel road. We’re in the Clearwater National Forest, just off Jerome Creek in northern Idaho. Eight-year-old Spackle is a seasoned explorer of these woods, having first visited as a callow young pup of three months, and having spent a few weeks here every year since. Today we’re hiking—Mom prefers her own two legs to the four of the horses—on an overgrown Forest Service road, leashless and carefree. It’s late summer, and the free range cattle have worked their way up Gold Hill to our general elevation, where the air is cooler, the earth is wetter, and the grass is lush and green. The younger dogs are in a cross-country competition, ranging with leaps and plunges up the hillside or down the draw, chasing the scents of ground squirrels and deer. The elderly brown labs, Spackle and his friend Tessa, stick more to the trail. Spackle in particular likes to keep me in sight, although his jaunty step and his grizzled grin let me know he’s not worried—he’s sharing the joy of this peerless place. We haven’t gone far when evidence of the cows comes into view. “Watch out!” I warn Mom, giving a wide berth to a giant, fresh, soupy and richly pungent cow pie. I have never seen a cow pie so large, and I grew up with cows. It’s not a pie, it’s a lake. It’s at least two and a half feet across. I do a quick check for my charges—Sadie and Hoover off in the woods, Tessa chewing on something up the way, Spackle heading DIRECTLY FOR THE POOP. “SPACKLE, NO!” I shout, but it’s too late. He is in heaven, on his back, rolling, writhing, really putting his heart into it. This is one of the best things Spackle has ever seen. This is bliss.
Robby came to Wellsprings K9 in November of 2011. He was 15 years old and weak. While he could walk, he was rather unstable in his gait and struggled, some days, to stay upright. His family wanted Robby to swim to not only gain back some mobility, but also because Robby, in his youth, LOVED to go swimming. His family faithfully brought Robby to the pool once a week for swimming and massage. From the moment he entered the water, Robby relaxed and started moving his atrophied legs. Lying in the therapist’s arms, he soaked up the massage, but when it was time to swim, Robby let us know and turned his body back to the pool. Helping Robby enjoy one more year of life was a gift for all of us at Wellsprings K9.
Dear Sheila and the Wellsprings K9 Team,
Thank you for the extraordinary care you gave Robby. I loved watching him enjoy exercising painlessly every week.
Both Robby and I thank you for the many additional months of quality time we were able to spend together because of Wellsprings K9.
The picture (photo of same) of Robby was painted in May, 2010. Fran Dunlap artist at www.frandunlap.com
From Kim Rogers, former Employee
Dear Sheila, I’d like to express my gratitude for all that I have learned and accomplished while working for you at Wellsprings-k9. All the opportunities you’ve provided me have given me the confidence and motivation to start my own business doing mobile animal massage. You have paved the way for all of us future animal body-workers.
Thank you again for everything, and I wish you continued success.
Kim Rogers, LMP,SAMP
You and your crew took care of my baby French Bulldog, Sophie in April of 2009. She had just had surgery and hydrotherapy has helped her walk like a champ.
I know this is a very late Thank You (3 years later), but still I just have always wanted to thank you for getting my baby back walking, running, and doing zoomies, again=)
Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!!
PS – Oh! I forgot to mention something else. I think Sophie is the only Frenchie that knows how to swim, thanks to all of you. I take her to either Luther Burbank or Magnuson Park, during the summer months and I am beaming with joy when she heads into the water to fetch her toy and comes swimming back. Everyone that sees her is always amazed and says they never knew Frenchie’s could swim. =)
We were recommended to Wellsprings K9 because our Pug, Gussy was starting to lose function in her rear legs due to some spinal issues that are more common in pugs. We began bringing Gussy to swim, but she also got nerve stimulation and massage. Her condition had been getting worse pretty quickly, but the swimming and work from Shelia, Emily, and Gretchen helped level it off and Gussy continued to be able to get along by herself, which was amazing. Gussy passed recently, but we are forever grateful to the Wellsprings K9 team for helping us care for Gussy and keeping up a good quality of life that she deserved. Plus Gussy just LOVED going there and it made her (and us) happy to see her so happy. Thank you!
We so appreciate your work with Jake and your careful observance and recommendations.
I love that he enjoys coming there so much. There really are few things in his life that are so completely positive for him.
It’s truly a gift.
Sheila, I can’t thank you enough for all the love and care you have given Jake over the past few years. I know that your care added both years and joy to his life. Coming to see you was truly one of the highlights of his life.
All the best,
Melinda and Family
I am Lesa’s (Bogie’s “Mom”) granddaughter and I wanted to thank you for helping Bogie.
She was so sad when she first told me what happened. Now she is so happy with the improvement and always tells me how much she appreciates you.
Thank you for helping my Grandma be happy again.
Once again…THANK YOU!!!!!!!
Sheila and the caring staff at Wellsprings-K9 have been a godsend for my spaniel, Jessie. Their work has put and helped keep her in top shape throughout her years. My vets say she is one of the healthiest 14 year olds they’ve ever seen and that she has many more years left.
The Wellsprings-K9 staff has helped Jessie in other ways too. A pre-cancerous lump would’ve slipped by my notice if not for Sheila and the staff. They are also alert to other potential problems, which have been averted thanks to their care. Their work with her swimming saved her life when we were on vacation too. When chasing after a deer through the river, she got caught in a whirlpool, but calmly got herself out of trouble.
Wellsprings-K9 is one of the most integral parts of my dog’s life and I’m thankful for that.
Her foster Dad said had a good previous home. She’s definitely more of a girlie girl than Jessie, but that is probably because of her cushy and foofie Southern California lifestyle. The foster Dad thinks she’s a flat coated retriever, cocker spaniel, and Sheltie mix. She may have border collie in her, too.
She’s really sweet and the family likes her. Your cards, emails, and phone calls after Jessie’s passing will last my lifetime and mean a lot to me. Losing Jessie has been the hardest thing for me ever and I told her that while I may love other dogs in the future, she will be the only one that has my soul.
Looking forward to seeing you again soon and getting Tasha in the pool at Wellsprings,
Wanted to let you know that I took Tasha to see the vet last week and that he says that after last week’s treatment, her back is officially cured. She will only need to go in for maintenance every three months or so. You noticed the hip problem barely a week after I got her. Nobody else, vet or otherwise, believed it, but luckily I trusted and stood by your judgement. It took four or five treatments since September, but the vet fixed the compensation in the hip by fixing the back. Now, if only Wellsprings K9 had a chain/branch office in Portland. You and the staff are always in my thoughts. Jay
About a four years ago, our 7 year-old German Shepherd started lagging on her walks. She just kept getting worse so we went to the vet and he said Annie was suffering from arthritis. We started taking Annie for acupuncture and chiropractic treatments as well as giving her herbs and supplements. She got somewhat better but still had pain. We took her swimming in the summer and it seemed to help, but she got too cold. We finally came to Wellsprings K9.
Annie has been working with Sheila and the Wellsprings K9 team these past few years, but even after the first treatment she seemed better. Now she’s trotting when we walk and she’s happy. Her pain seems to be all but gone and I have so much hope now! I have confidence that she will be with us for many more years thanks to Wellsprings K9!
Lori and Brad
After three knee surgeries, Axle’s life force and muscle tone had atrophied alarmingly. He didn’t have much energy, was clearly depressed and the vet thought maybe one more surgery would do the trick. I decided not to have another surgery done as the chance of much success was limited. I knew he needed exercise to build up his muscle, but he didn’t have the energy to do much. Since it was winter, and the fact that he was scared to swim, made taking him to the lake for a good swim not much of an option.
After minimal research on-line, I found Wellsprings-K9, made an appointment with Sheila and it has been uphill every since. Axle, now eight, has returned to the living. Through consistent massage and with Sheila’s patience and skills in helping Axle learn to reduce his fear of water, he is steadily swimming his way into vigor and vitality.
What a joy to watch his depression fade and his legs develop muscle tone.
Cap Kotz, owner
Cappy’s Boxing Gym
1408 22nd Ave. Seattle WA 98122
My name is Sammy and I am a 6-year-old Basset Hound. This is my story.
Over the last few years my parents noticed that I have been resistance to go for walks or climb stairs. This was due to a chronic disc problem, and it was as uncomfortable doing these activities as it was painful. One day, all of a sudden, I could not feel my back legs and paws anymore! It sure was scary. I couldn’t quite figure why my back legs wouldn’t work for me.
My dad carried me outside to do my business and back to my bed for my meals that night and as soon as the veterinarian clinic opened, my family rushed me in to my doggie doctor, who then sent me right over to a doggie back specialist. The specialist first chose to try a conservative approach and began anti-inflammatory and pain medications.
My mom works at a great vet clinic and the vets there encouraged us to get an appointment with Sheila Wells at Wellsprings-K9 as soon as possible. The clinic refers many, many pets just like me to go and have hydrotherapy and have had loads of positive testimonials from clients. Now, I am very shy. To go and meet someone new is a big deal but as soon as I met Sheila, I felt very safe and secure. During my first comprehensive evaluation, Sheila with her vast knowledge, intuitiveness, experience and love for animals, strongly urged that I go straight back to my back specialist immediately and recommended that they may want do an MRI, as she was convinced that I had a very serious condition, which may have gotten worse since the back specialist had seen me. Never the less, she said it was very important to get back in to see them. Now.
They did a discectomy and laminectomy, as the MRI showed my disc had exploded. This was last December 2009.
In January 2010 I started back at WellSprings-K9 for hydrotherapy and massage sessions, and am still attending WellSprings-K9 on a regular basis. I have grown to love swimming (odd being that I am a Basset Hound but honestly I have always felt part lab.) My time with Sheila and her staff is so relaxing that I have fallen asleep with my chin on the edge of the pool when getting deep tissue work, stretching and range of motion on my body.
Each week I continue to get better and better, stronger and stronger. My gait pattern, strength, muscle mass, stamina and activity tolerances are increasing by leaps and bounds. I am able to walk and walk with my family and am back to my fun and mischievous self. I walked the whole 2.8 mile-loop at Green Lake in March, and in April I had fun frolicking and romping at the ocean. My doctors are thrilled with my hard work and progress and feel that I am 95% recovered. I plan to see Sheila at WellSprings-K9 every four to five weeks, for strength and stamina maintenance, just to check in and see that we are still on the right maintenance program and to get a good massage.
I cannot imagine a more perfect place than Wellsprings-K9. Sheila has been truly heaven-sent and I recommend Wellsprings-K9 swim therapy to all! When faced with the prospect of my two year old Jack Russell not being able to run or play for three months post-surgery, I was terrified how I would be able to both help her improve her strength while providing opportunities for her to expend some of her endless energy. Sheila to the rescue. Her tremendous knowledge and experience, paired with her love, patience, and understanding of dogs resulted in an experience far beyond my expectations. Sheila’s swim therapy sessions became the highlight of Stella Mae’s day because she got to play in the water with Sheila. Similarly, they were the highlight of my day because they were much more effective than anything I could do at home to help Stella Mae recover. Sheila was able to find Stella Mae’s natural interests and combine them with therapy techniques to effectively build muscle tone, increase range of motion and expend energy. It was an amazing experience and I cannot more highly recommend Sheila and Wellsprings-K9 to those considering swim therapy.
Cassidy Glass Hastings
We wanted to thank you for the wonderful care you gave D’jango over the last several years. We lost our beloved boy on August 8, but we really believe his swim therapy and massage prolonged his physical viability. I think we did the right thing by stopping the therapy when he didn’t want to do it anymore but, nevertheless, it kept him strong to that point.
Just thanks again for all you did for D’jango
Marcy Lamont and Jeff Skillman
Liddy was a wonderful dog I had for many years. She suffered a spinal cord injury that left her paralyzed in her hind end. We used a sling and dog wheelchair to walk her at times. Mostly she slid herself around the house with her front legs. Liddy was a large dog and it was not easy to help her with her mobility. She benefitted greatly from her therapy sessions at Wellsprings-K9.
Sheila and her staff at Wellsprings-K9 were so wonderful and took such great care of my Liddy girl. Wellsprings-K9 mean more than words can express, as the staff enabled me so much extra time with my girl that I wouldn’t have had otherwise.
In memory of my Liddy girl,
Thank you for all the good times Quackers and I had at the pool. The massages she got and the self-swims brought comfort and fun to her senior years. I miss her tremendously, but am so thankful to have had her as my doggie. Thank you for your part in bringing her so much joy.
My calm, easy-going, sweet and beloved Bailey is an uncommon German Shepherd with, unfortunately, some all too common, breed-specific immune system conditions. Bailey has Canine Lupus and Degenerative Mylopathy, a disease most closely corresponding to Multiple Sclerosis in humans. Leading veterinary experts now consider both as an autoimmune condition or disease. Where it will end for Bailey is a slow loss over the control of her rear feet and legs.
In the meantime, my dog and I are doing everything possible to mitigate the effects and outcome. I—and Bailey, surely, if he could speak like we humans—am happy to say that swimming with Sheila, Emily, Heather and all of the other swim therapists at Wellsprings-K9 helps him and he loooooooves it. Bailey is not your typical Shepherd and he doesn’t whine, cry, and prance like most … until he’s walking up the drive to Sheila’s door. But I think it may be the massage he loves best. I hear he becomes a giant, hairy, 70-pound marshmallow in the arms of his swim ladies.
Since swimming at Wellsprings-K9, his physical stamina has improved and he can again return to his favorite haunts where he sniffs out the goings-on of other dogs and critters of our neighborhood. He has improved coordination such that he can give back to his dog friend (a rambunctious and irrepressible three-year-old Standard Poodle) that the Poodle gives to him. He has greater awareness of what his rear feet are doing and how to correct them when they are not in the right position. He has lost weight, which helps overall health and wellbeing. Bailey’s human neighbors and friends comment on his improved health and appearance. His gait and stance have returned to something more healthful and normal.
Swimming has also improved his Lupus. He’s had no outbreaks since swimming.
But mostly it’s wonderful to see some of the youthful abandon and joy return to my 11-½ year-old friend. The staff are wonderful and their breadth and depth of knowledge beyond swimming physical therapy comforts, amazes, and pleases me. They are kind, generous, compassionate, and committed to dogs. What more can you ask? And shouldn’t we all be like this?