I massage dogs.
I'm a certified Canine Massage Therapist.
(which means I get to pet LOTS of Golden Retrievers)
when I volunteer at
Delaware Valley Golden Retriever Rescue
This is a model rescue organization near Reading, PA, where everything is about the dogs.
Every single person working or volunteering here is totally invested
in finding the best matches and forever homes for every single dog.
The dogs are pampered with sling beds, peanut butter stuffed Kongs at bedtime, cheese treats in the afternoon, and carefully matched playgroups.
You may not know that Pennsylvania is one of the worst states for puppy mills, and DVGRR is in puppy mill country. Many dogs are turned in at the end of their most profitable breeding years, or when the litters get smaller, around 6 to 7 years of age.
These dogs arrive frightened, filthy, full of parasites, and mostly unsocialized, never having been out of a cage or walked on grass.
As you might guess, these dogs are not the ideal pet.
So DVGRR works with them, slowly, and with infinite patience.
They are fed premium food, music is piped into the kennels, they are given chew toys and soft blankets.
Finally, they are enrolled in "Project Home Life," a program where they are introduced to the atmosphere of a home, complete with TV, ceiling fans, sofas, tables and other things they will encounter in their new homes. They learn to climb stairs, go in and out of doorways (which is very scary, believe it or not), and work on housebreaking. They are read stories, and learn what living with a family feels like. They become adoptable in weeks rather than months.
Not all the dogs are "breeder dogs," many dogs are turned in because of financial or health problems, divorce, allergies, or unwise puppy purchases.
This guy is one of the "office assistants." Each office has one, which, included with walks and playgroups keeps the dogs from getting depressed and shut down from spending too much time in a kennel.
So, about twice a month I give massages to 8 or 9 dogs. I enjoy working with the breeder dogs, although I can't touch them at first and just spend five or ten minutes sitting in the kennel next to them. Sunny, who is often featured on my blog is a breeder mama who has been with me for over three years. Cassie, who passed from cancer in December, was also a breeder dog and I feel blessed that I was able to make her last years happy.
This is Kenny, a breeder dog, who arrived at DVGRR about 2 weeks ago. You can see the apprehension in his eyes - at first he did not make eye contact or take a treat from me - and I did not use a flash. I did not pet him, but mostly looked away and did not make direct eye contact. He was curious about the camera and briefly looked at me, afterwards he smelled my hand and the camera - a small step which made me very happy.
The same expression on Crystal's face - she has had many puppies. She did make eye contact with me, and took some treats from my hand! So, I lightly petted her chest and back and she very s l o o o w l y laid on her side and exposed her belly for a rub! Wow, really great for a first session.
There is also a store selling everything a pampered pooch would need, and, (not pictured) a new veterinary clinic where the residents can be spayed and have surgical procedures and dental care done without a scary ride to the vet.
This guy loved his massage so much that he stayed in this position for several minutes afterwards. He is so deeply relaxed that he forgot his ear was flipped over, and his foot was propped up on the chair.
What a wonderful day!
If you need a golden retriever or two, or just want to see some inspiring stories go to www.DVGRR.org