Thursday, March 22, 2012

Hops In the Right Direction: Tailored Canine Massage Techniques from Canine Massage Chicago

Last night, Prada was lucky enough to have an appointment with Aimee Schneider, instructor and lead therapist of Canine Massage Chicago.  Aimee and I met several months ago at a charity event in downtown Chicago. 

Having had dogs with altered mobility herself, I knew Aimee would understand my specific concerns of staying on top of any discomfort Prada may currently have, as well as promoting healthy muscles and joints for long-term physical wellness.

One cancelled appointment and lots of emails later, we finally managed to meet again.

The cool thing about Canine Massage Chicago is that not only do they offer pet massages, they also offer Pet Parent Classes where they teach you how to tailor a massage to your dog specifically.  Aimee started by skimming her hands all over Prada's body, taking note of places where she felt particularly hot (lots of places, as it turns out) and particularly cold (no cold spots on Prada, but they are pretty common for the differently-abled dogs).  Prada's main hot spots, as it turned out, were in the left side of her neck (the side of the amputation), her remaining front shoulder, and her right back leg--all the areas that are bearing extra weight or doing extra work because of the amputation.

As she proceeded to massage those areas, she explained in detail what she was doing and what she was feeling, so that I can replicate those techniques later.  She tried a lot of different things to figure out what Prada really liked, what she merely tolerated, and what she didn't care for at all.  Some dogs like soft, gentle touches, but Prada prefers a firmer hand.  And when Aimee discovered that Prada enjoyed being bounced (like you would a baby) while getting the massage, that worked even better.

Honestly, I don't know how well I can describe some of the tricks Aimee taught me, because so much of it depended on her showing me where and how.  We massaged with our fingers between Prada's ribs, working our way up to her spine.  I learned how to "pump" her thighs, moving my hands like a bellows to encourage not only muscle relaxation but also blood and lymphatic circulation.  I learned to rock Prada's shoulder forward and back to relieve the tension of it pulling to the center of her body and the extra stretching that pulling causes the back side of her shoulder.  I learned the reason Prada sort of squats close to the ground all the time, with her hind legs a bit spread--her glutes were very, very tight, and she was trying to get comfortable.

Oh, and Prada enjoyed herself too.  Aimee played with her in between bouts of massage (since my dog is a bit ADD and has a hard time holding still, much less paying attention) and let her meet her pugs, Ethel and Apollo.  She slept so hard on the drive home that I had a hard time waking her up enough to go potty before heading inside.

I've talked before about the importance of massage for dogs with altered mobility, and I've done a fair bit of research online, reading articles and watching videos.  And I know what I've been doing in the past helped Prada; there's no doubt of that.  But, after this one-on-one with an expert who knew what my goals were and was able to show me exactly what my dog needed and liked...  Wow. 

This is a game-changer. 

I really believe the things I learned are going to improve even more Prada's quality of life, and we're going to get some fantastic bonding done along the way.

This is Jemma, chihuahua mix and puppy-mill survivor.  The kneecaps on her back legs are backwards and inoperable, but she doesn't let that stop her!  She can go up and downstairs, and she loves to play with other dogs, but her favorite thing of all is to cuddle.  So, you know, if you wanted to practice your massage techniques, she'd be a willing guinea pig.