When we pull a muscle, we go for an ice pack and some anti-inflammatories. When our pets do it, they fight through the pain without complaint. They may limp, but pets will continue to try to please us by doing whatever we want them to do.
The lucky ones have pet parents who call Maria Duthie, an animal massage practitioner who will use her special touch to work out the pain of sore, overused or injured muscles.
I recently had the opportunity to witness Duthie, owner of Annisage of Medina, giving a massage to Flip, her 10½-year-old Australian shepherd.
Flip, who easily jumped up onto a massage table, was as relaxed as a limp noodle while Duthie used her hands to touch his pulse points and her ears to hear his breath.
“It’s all by feel. I pay attention to his breathing. If he takes a deep breath I know the muscle is relaxing,” she said.
His pulse told her whether his blood was circulating properly through his body and whether he has proper muscle tone.
She uses both senses to view how each one of Flip’s 600 muscles are working as she keeps his neck, leg and back muscles loose and pain free.
“He loves to be a model,” Duthie said. “He’s quite the superstar.”
Due to the dog’s medical history, Duthie works on him a bit each day, paying special attention to his arthritic feet.
Flip, despite the fact that he was diagnosed with lymphoma at the age of 2 and took a fall from a hayloft five years ago, still competes in agility. Oh, I should probably mention that one of Flip’s elbows is kept together with a wire, a plate and eight screws.
But Flip isn’t the only star in the family, nor is he the only one who has forged ahead despite a medical condition that would defeat most of us.
Duthie, whose unique ability to commune with animals through her fingertips has taken her around the world, is legally blind and has been since birth.
It wasn’t until the end of the interview that Duthie admitted she sees only moving shapes. She doesn’t trade on what some think is a disability because it simply isn’t one for her.
I spoke with Duthie shortly after her return from the World Agility Championship in Belgium where she kept the contenders for the American Kennel Club in top shape before and during the competition.
“There are several reasons to try massage for your animal. The show of resistance or the lack of willingness to move in a particular manner could be a sign of muscular discomfort. Through the proper use of massage techniques, muscle tenderness and spasms can be released,” Duthie explains.
The pain of muscle stiffness or strain can even cause the animal to react with unfavorable behaviors, she said.
Duthie, who originally hails from Wisconsin, is certified in Integrated Touch Therapy. She received her initial training through the Optissage program in Circleville. She has studied animal science at the University of Florida, exotic animal management at the Santa Fe Teaching Zoo program, and animal behavior at Indiana University.
She has owned horses for more than 20 years and has worked as a stable manager, groomer, trainer, and exercise rider in a number of stables with a variety of disciplines.
Duthie has treated dogs, cats and horses in many places, including Ecuador, Tanzania, Austria and across much of the United States. In South Africa, she worked on rhinos and cheetahs and was once (gently) grabbed by a gorilla. At Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, she worked on horses for several years and taught a class on horse massage to local guides.
“I had to learn Swahili to teach them,” she said.
Duthie captures her travels through her photographs and recently entered some of her work in the Medina County Fair.
She provides massage therapy at the Medina County home she shares with her husband, five horses, four dogs, two house cats and three barn cats.
Upon request, Duthie will train animal owners how to massage their pets. A massage treatment is $30 for each 30-minute session.
Duthie, whose loving family joked she would never get rich in her chosen profession, believes riches don’t necessarily stem from money. To make an appointment, contact Duthie at 440-669-6023.
Other animals in the news:
Imagine the Pawsibilites Rummage Sale — 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Aug. 23-24 at the Stow-Kent Plaza, 4301 Kent Road, Stow. Donated used and new household items will be on sale. One hundred percent of the proceeds will be used to help rescue and find homes for Summit County’s neglected, abused and abandoned animals at the shelter.
Dog Paddle & Pet-A-Palooza — 1-5 p.m. Aug. 25 at Ledge Pool and Recreation Area in Hinckley Reservation, 1151 Ledge Road, Hinckley Township. Activities include swimming with your dog, obstacle courses, dog groomers, pet stores and pet therapy. The Medina County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals will have adoptable animals at the event. B.A.R.K. (Buckeye Area Regional K-9) will demonstrate safety. Thank Dog! Boot Camp will feature owner/dog workouts and the Buckeye Dock Dogs will demonstrate their Big Air dock jumping. A donation of $5 per dog is requested with a portion of the proceeds going to the Medina County SPCA. For more information, visit www.clevelandmetroparks.com.
Kathy Antoniotti writes about pets for the Akron Beacon Journal. She is unable to help locate, place or provide medical attention for an individual animal. If you have an idea or question about pets, write her at the Beacon Journal, P.O. Box 640, Akron, OH 44309-0640; call 330-996-3565; or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.