So I took Cutter for his first spa treatment a couple of weekends ago and have to say I’m hooked! So much so that we went again this weekend, and are scheduled for another visit in two weeks.
You’ve never seen a cuter sight than my “Butterball” suited up in his life vest and floating in the water like some sort of aquatic dirigible (he’s not quite sure what to do), looking at me like this is just another thing to do, or as if we do it every day.
A little back story: Cutter will be 11 years old in June, and doing pretty well considering the fact that he’s been an epileptic for six years now. The past two years have been especially tough, as the seizures have progressed to multiples (called clusters) and he’s had to go to ER for several days a half dozen times now (cha-ching!).
While he remains radioactively cute, there’s no question that the heavy duty anti-seizure drugs he’s on (again, cha-ching) have taken their toll, as has Father Time, and Cutter is sedated and lethargic much of the time. I take him for walks (well, more acurately, strolls–he’s s-l-o-w) and he drags his feet to such a degree that I’m concerned he’ll rub his skin raw on his toes. People have suggested booties for him, but with his lack of coordination (he stumbles very easily) I’m afraid they’d cause problems for him.
What to do? Due to age and inactivity, he’s losing muscle mass and strength, and it’s hard for him to get up some days. And his stamina is just not there–a walk around the block is all he can handle, and he fades fast. Plus there’s the aforementioned toe dragging (his nails are worn down abnormally) and risk of scraping his skin raw.
Then I thought of swimming as a way to build muscle tone, and remembered that a world class doggie spa is just down the street from me. I made the appointment and brought him in, nervous at how he’d react. He’s not overly fond of water when we go to the river, and may step in a few inches or so, but that’s about it. The great canine therapist who worked with Cutter, Carol, put on his life jacket (talk about CUTEr!) and lifted him into the water with her. He looked at me with wide eyes for a minute but didn’t struggle in her arms as she sat with him and let his feet touch the bottom. She began to work his back with deep massage, noting how tight his muscles were over his hips. He visibly relaxed and she moved him to deeper water, so he was floating, suspended by his life jacket and supported in her arms–a big Rottweiler bobber. He was obviously loving it, and I could tell he was comfortable enough to fall asleep.
She moved him out to the deep water–where she could stand and he was at her chest level. He let himself be moved around without any fear, and just hung in the water, legs limp with relaxation, and didn’t do anything when she let him go and encouraged him to swim. Nothing happened until I opened the bag of cookies I brought with me, sitting by the poolside. He was uncoordinated and clumsy in the water too, but made his way to the pool edge for his reward and ridiculous amounts of praise from me. We did that another four times and he got better each time, and seemed to be getting the hang of it.
The indoor pool room is tropical in its delicious moist heat, and the pool is jacuzzi warm, and I was a little concerned it would be too warm for Cutter–but I think he enjoyed it as much as I did and only began panting a bit on the last swim-for-cookie.