By Gretchen Dietz, Tallgrass Canine Blogster
When Katy jumped onto the dining room table, I knew I had my hands full. An 11-month-old Boxer-Pit bull mix, Katy was a sweet girl, but clearly in need of some training. Her guardians were exasperated, worn out by her energy and constant need of attention. While they were working with a trainer to help teach Katy some manners, they also needed a dog walker to, as they said, “Tire her out!” So they called me, a professional dog walker.
Katy had been “dismissed” from three doggy-daycare facilities and while the guardians continued to take her to off-leash parks, she’d run into “situations” that didn’t end pleasantly. The next step was a dog walker and so we set up this initial “Meet and Greet” only it was difficult to meet a dog on the table. So after a bit of cajoling, I attached a leash to Katy’s squirrelly, energetic body and we settled in the living room with my foot firmly planted on her short leash.
As the owners told me what they needed from me as a dog walker, I placed my hand on Katy and silently got to work calming her with specific acupressure points. Within minutes, Katy was fast asleep with her short snout resting on my foot.
“How did you get her to do that?” her guardians asked.
“Acupressure,” I said. “It’s one of my other services.”
When I left my teaching career to become a dog walker, the plan was to spend my days playing with dogs. For the first year or so, that’s what I did — walking six to ten miles a day with leashes in my hands and in all kinds of weather. I felt confident handling dogs, but there were times when I wished I had a few more tools in my toolbox.
In the beginning, I didn’t actively seek out a certification in small animal acupressure. I sort of stumbled into it. After establishing my dog walking services, I sought a certification and then license in small animal massage, started work at a swim therapy pool and then, because of my own dog’s issues, got interested in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). I found out about Tallgrass Animal Acupressure Institute from another massage therapist and after my first introductory class, I was hooked.
My growing skills have also made me a better dog walker and my dog walking skills have made me a better acuprressurist. For instance, when meeting new dogs like Katy, my acupressure skills help me connect with the dog on a different level and a challenging dog like Katy provides me an opportunity to develop my acupressure techniques and knowledge.
Even on a daily basis with my long-term clients, I always check in with the dogs’ bodies just to feel the subtle differences in their energy. Areas of heat or stiffness cue me into how a dog might be feeling on a particular day or alert me to potential health problems, which I can share with the guardians. In turn, when I share those observations it opens up a conversation about alternative healthcare and other avenues families might pursue when seeking care for their dogs.
While I may have stumbled into the profession, that stumble has not only been invaluable when working with my dog clients, it’s also helped me build my business. My love and growing knowledge of TCM and of the community of local holistic animal services, provides me with important resources that my clients appreciate. After all, being a dog walker isn’t simply about tiring a dog out. It’s about a relationship with the dogs and with their families. They trust me to care for their beloved family member when they are at work and with acupressure skills in my toolbox, they now trust me to care for their dog beyond just getting them off the dining room table.