Article from Limited Edition by Sandra Carter

Doggy Heaven

A MASSAGE — blissful. Knotted muscles eased out, spine gently lengthened, tired limbs soothed. Caffrey rolls over and gives the masseuse a big sloppy lick. And Susan Davies cuddles her in return. This is a partnership of two happy bodies — Susan who adores dogs, and Caffrey whose first experience of a massage leaves her panting for more. Susan is here to see if she can help ease the arthritis and post-operative stiffness taking the joy out of life for Caffrey, a soppy seven-year-old springer spaniel. Her daily run through the woods at Downley Common is becoming more of a hobble than a carefree sprint. This is a familiar problem for Susan, who worked as a sports masseuse at Beaconsfield Squash Club before retraining to be a qualified dog masseuse. She says: “Dogs can benefit enormously from massage. Just as with humans, it manipulates the soft tissues — muscles, tendons, ligaments — to help relieve pain, improve flexibility, increase circulation, reduce tension and spasm and restore mobility after injury or surgery. “It helps too with painful or debilitating conditions such as osteoarthritis, back problems or hip dysplasia.” Massage is also used on show and agility contest dogs, stimulating them to perform to their peak, or relaxing them if they are nervous. Susan’s first task on meeting Caffrey — after finding out her background from her owner — is to gain her trust. I have little empathy with dogs myself, so I’m amazed to watch a dog-lover make friends. It takes very little time before Caffrey is lolling sloppily in whatever position Susan wants, on a rug on the floor, playing happily. Susan finds it works best to visit canine clients in their homes as they relax more easily, though she also offers the service at her Beaconsfield home. She has been watching Caffrey as she bounces around welcoming this stranger and noted his gait, confirming her owner’s comments about an injury and arthritis. She’s also noted the vets’ drugs being taken. She emphasises that canine massage is never a substitute for vet care. Then the massage begins. No soft lights and mood music needed to give Caffrey a thrill. Her eyes open wide, ears flop, tail wags as Susan uses classical massage and physiotherapy techniques to begin gentle treatment, leading on to some deeper massage and incorporating some stretching and myo-fascial release.

“Tight pecs, honey?” purrs Susan as she eases out the tension of the day, before moving on to deal with some knotted muscles.

The doggy body is not so different from humans’, it seems. They don’t have a collar bone, but their muscle structure is the same.

And so is their enjoyment of a massage, if Caffrey’s happy body language is anything to go by. As Susan leans back after finishing the massage, Caffrey gives her a look that says: Why did you stop?