Tales of Tails: Tank gets a massage

By Hersch Wlson

Our dog Tank gets a massage every week.Tank on his way to “La Masajista Perro!" Courtesy photo

I’m going to let you contemplate that thought for a moment.

I, by the way, don’t get a massage every week, or every year for that matter.

But I’m not bitter.

He came home from his second massage last week and I wanted to talk to him about it, but Laurie (my wife) said, “Leave him alone, he needs to nap. And you need to finish composting the garden.”

O.K., I’m a little bitter. But I understood the pecking order in our family. It’s always Laurie, then daughter No. 1 (Brynne) her fiancé (Luke), then Nellie, (Berner No. 1), then daughter No. 2, (Sully), and finally, Tank and I battle each other to stay out of last place.

With this new massage thing, Tank had clearly scored a coup and moved up.

It all began when a close friend of ours decided to get her canine Therapeutic Massage Therapist Certificate. She had completed her initial week-long course and now was required to work on three dogs as case studies prior to getting her certificate.

Because she technically wasn’t working under the supervision of a veterinarian, we will call our friend by her chosen code name, “la Masajista Perro.”

I went along to observe Tank’s third session. The first thing I noticed was how excited he got has we turned on to her road. By the time we pulled into the driveway he was whining. He sprinted out of the car to the front door and sat.

Clearly, he had already bonded with “La Masajista.”

She opened the door and we went in. After Tank explored the room for a few minutes he sat down on the living-room floor and waited expectantly.

“La Masajista” began with long strokes along Tank’s flanks and back. “I think of massage as ‘Intentional Petting.’ Any dog guardian (she prefers not to use ‘dog owner’) can do this part. It’s soothing to the dog and a few minutes a day can really help the bonding process.”

I wrote that down and then looked at Tank. Yep, his eyes were half closed, his tongue was lolling out and he was beginning to sigh with pleasure. He reminded me a lot of myself during the few times I’ve actually gotten a massage.

As Tank rolled over on his back, legs splayed to the ceiling and the massage continued, “La Masajista” talked about the various uses of massage — other than Tank being passed out on the floor in pleasure.

“Dog massage is used as a complement to other therapies, which is why it’s important to have a veterinarian involved. But the three important areas it’s used for are to help socialize puppies, to help with the weekend warrior syndrome, dogs that are basically lazy all week and then go out and play hard with their humans on the weekend.

I interrupted, “That’s what I need. A massage every Monday.”

There was a pause, “La Masajista” and Tank looked at each other. I saw a barely perceptible eye roll from Tank. Apparently — like everyone in my family — neither of them appreciated my humor.

Then she continued, “The third area is in increasing blood flow to muscles in older dogs.”

At this point, she had both her hands on Tank’s hips. “Huh,” she said, “He has really warm hips.”

“Is that good?” I asked, noting Tank was looking at me with a little swagger, as if to say, “Do you have warm hips?”

She went on, “It could mean that he has sore hips. You should probably ask his veterinarian next time he has a check up. The other really good thing about massaging your dog is that you really get to know their bodies. Then, when something is wrong you’ll notice it quickly.”

At this point, Tank got up, stretched and walked to the door.

“La Masajista” laughed and said, “That’s the thing about dogs. They’ll let you know when they’re done.”

We left “La Masajista Perro” standing by her door. Tank immediately sprinted into our house when we got home and got to nap.

I wasn’t jealous . . .

If you’re interested in therapeutic massage for your dog, my recommendation is to see veterinarian Sue McKelvey, at Bounce Back Integrative Veterinarian Rehabilitation in Santa Fe.

If you’re interested in massage for yourself, you’re on your own . . . just don’t tell your dog.

For more writings by Hersch Wilson on dogs, firefighters and life go to herschwilson.com. Contact him at hersch.wilson@mac.com.