Guide dogs get stress relief at convention
By JANETTE RODRIGUES
After she smoothed out a knot of muscle between his ribs, he yawned loudly -- muzzle agape -- and then licked his lips contentedly. Baxter, a 5-year-old golden retriever, was too relaxed to "woof."
"It's like Prozac for puppies," said Nancy Trzcinski, 45, of
Guide dogs like Baxter are getting some much-needed extra TLC during the
American Council of the Blind's annual national convention in
Guide Dog Users Inc., a nonprofit advocacy organization for the blind and
guide dogs, turned Room 462 of the Adam's
Canine massage brings to mind visions of spoiled lap dogs, pet spas and indulgent owners who set up play dates for Fluffy and friends.
But proponents say it relieves stress, restores mobility and helps maintain fitness and optimum performance in a working animal -- be it a herd dog or a racehorse.
"The gift of touch is a wonderful thing," said Mary Schreiber,
founder of Equissage, a leader in canine and equine massage therapy in the
Animal massage is not a new idea.
"It goes back thousands of years," Schreiber said from her home in
Alternative, holistic veterinary treatments such as therapeutic massage are
catching on with Americans, especially among those with working animals. The
search dogs who played such a vital role in the aftermath of the
"As well as causing pain and discomfort, a buildup of muscle tension impacts a dog's ability to concentrate," said therapist Campbell, "causing many to become anxious, hesitant and distractible or to tire easily."
None of which is desirable in a working dog, especially one whose job is to guide the blind and visually impaired around obstacles or across a busy street.
But nowhere is a guide dog under more stress than in the fast-paced, chaotic convention environment, which is often crowded with people and other dogs.
Guide dog users say their patient pups are called on to carry more of the load at a convention because the humans are in an unfamiliar place. In a normal environment, it's more of a 50-50 partnership, they say.
"I work Adrienne harder in an environment like this than I do at
home," said Glenda Born, 51, of
Adrienne, an 8-year-old black Labrador retriever with a salt-and-pepper muzzle, needed the massage.
"Right now, I'm going over the muscles that control the ears and
From the knots of muscle, she could tell Adrienne had been furrowing her brow a lot in near-constant, intense concentration.
"I'm working on the wrist because these guys pound the pavement a lot," she said.
Adrienne let out an occasional canine grunt of contentedness, but she didn't wag her tail, an action humans associate with a happy dog.
"They don't do a lot of tail-wagging during the massage," said
Campbell, who lives in
The Lab lay like a throw rug until
"If she sits on you, she's claimed you," Born said before she and Adrienne headed back downstairs to the conference.