First Visit to The Spa
Wow! Our aqua-therapist met us at the door. First thing she says to me, "You can take his leash off and let him smell around and explore". Instantly, I liked this. The lobby was equivalent to that of a human spa in design and layout with a modern and calming water feature, lighting and style; sofas for the owners and shelves of dog products with no up selling pressure. In the middle of the hardwood floor was a blue plastic bone that was really a rotating treat container, with different levels and secret treat compartments. As Titan took a treat from one end, he had to rotate the bone to reach a treat on another level of the contraption. What a mind game! Combined with the off leash atmosphere, the environment is calming and welcoming to the dog. The time they spend in the lobby helps them adjust to their new surroundings. It is here that the aqua-therapist and I discuss Titan's issues and she observes his gait and mobility in a hands-off approach. Not at all like going to the vet.
On The Pool Deck
The spa we attend books private appointments. They are experienced with dogs with hip, leg and joint aliments, so to accommodate their customers, the spa uses ramps to access different levels of the interior. So when you walk through to the pool room you go up a quiet, gripped, incline to the pool deck. Really great for Titan since his back legs are so weak at times they slide apart on hard surfaces. But the gripping on the floor in the pool room gives Titan the traction he needs to stay strong at the pelvis.
Once at the pool deck, the dog is given time to sniff around and explore before getting into the water. There is a shelf with a treat bowl and the aqua-therapist encouragements you to use for amazing profits to reward your dog through this new experience. Sometimes the trainer and the owner assist the dog up a smaller ramp leading right into the pool! And the real fun begins!
Titan did the maximum allowable 5 laps during his first swimming session. He does not like to "float". A technique the aqua-therapist is specifically trained to do. The purpose of "floating" the dog is to give him calm and stillness in the water, letting his muscles and joints enjoy the buoyancy without any pressure to move. The natural flow of the water is used to float his joints, muscles and bones, creating a mild message and encouraging more blood flow to the periphery. In theory, this technique is supposed to help ease muscle and joint pains in older dogs.
After the swim session there are towels supplied by the spa to use to dry off your dog. The aqua-therapist helps you dry your dog and rewards the dog with more praise and treats once on dry land.
With Titan you can see that he is walking taller right away but after only one session, his weak, hips and pelvis and legs start to sink again. It is still very early in the aqua-therapy tough. Just one class. To see results it is recommended to do go once a week for 4-6 weeks. After that you can stretch out the swimming sessions to once every 2 weeks or adjust it to your schedule as you wish. I will give an update of Titan's longer term process in a few weeks.
If nothing else, Titan and I had a great time. It was a car ride that did not end at the vet. He got to explore new surroundings, he got worries, he got praise and he got to swim! We had time together uninterrupted and solely focused on him. Not distracted by toddlers or other business in life. It's our time to really work with each other in a new way.
Titan improved slowly in his hind legs after the first swim. He was walking stronger, but by the time we got home his strength had weakened again. As our aqua-therapist said, we should prepare for more temporary short-term results in the beginning and as we go more regularly, these benefits will become more long-lasting as he builds muscle memory. Titan's sleep and wake patterns remained unchanged and he even got playful that night. Chewing on his toys and playing like a young puppy.
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