Lately Porter's been...oh, taking longer to get up from a nap, less willing to run hard...in short, getting older; so at her last check-up, I had our vet take some extra time examining her legs and hips. He told me she's not quite to that point where she's officially arthritic and needs medication--although some x-rays might be in order in the near future--but that a little extra TLC in the form of a massage a few times a week probably wouldn't go amiss.
I've flipped though a few library books about dog massage in the past, but they were so basic it was ridiculous. I remember one instructing readers to rub their dogs behind the ears, for example. (Really? Dogs like to be scratched behind the ears? You don't say!) Despite that, from other reading I knew that dog massage was a real thing that dogs could benefit from, and I had a vague idea that there were people out there doing it for a living.
A quick internet search revealed I was right. Three clicks and an email later, Porter had her birthday present--an appointment with Julie at Paws and Effect Canine Massage.
I'll admit, I wasn't entirely sure what to expect. I can count on one hand the number of professional massages I've had myself, and although it's always great, I wasn't quite sure how the experience would translate. I had emphasized in my email that--although I wasn't opposed to Porter getting a good rub down out of the deal--what I really wanted was to learn a few things I could do for her regularly at home. It turns out, we didn't end up being disappointed on either account....
When we got there, I lifted Porter up on a padded table and Julie went to work. It took Porter a few minutes to relax--the only time she's ever on a table like that is at the vet's--but Julie was patient and gave her a chance to settle. She worked on one side and then the other, showing me, not only lots of good places to rub, but some gentle leg stretches too. She let me watch Porter's reaction when she hit places that were a little tight--her head popped up right away--and let me feel what the tight muscles felt like as opposed to the looser spots. She also told me what not to do, like rubbing too hard, pushing against bone, or pulling on legs and ankles. In summary, I learned a lot.
And Porter...well, I definitely got a few, "Mom, that lady is doing something weird to me" looks during the massage itself, but the spring in her step afterward was pretty amazing. After dinner we took both dogs up to campus to play. I let Porter off-leash as I usually do--even if she does go on a lark, as I said, she's doesn't really run hard anymore so she's easy to catch up with.
Ten seconds later she was half-way across the hill and I was sprinting after her. She had seen a squirrel and was chasing him like she would have in much younger days. I usually don't let either dog harass wildlife if I can help it, but tonight we happily made an exception.
Happy birthday Old Girl! (More pictures here.)