(Please note: This article was written in 2002, so numbers of years referenced below is relative to that date.)
Over twenty years ago I was introduced to and given the opportunity to work in an Equine Hydrotherapy program. It was then that the seed of my dream to someday open a canine water therapy program was planted.. I sought out every educational opportunity to expand my knowledge of equine and canine health, nutrition, massage, T-Touch, Reiki and physical therapy. I have been blessed over these years to have studied with many wonderful and inspiring teachers. Their lessons are with me every day.
Twelve years ago, I finally opened my Health Retreat for dogs – a unique boarding opportunity for our canine friends. I also opened a health store offering nutritional support and alternatives for optimum canine health.
Ever since I can remember, I have been crazy in love with animals. Obsessed with horses and Olympic dreams from an early age, I became an active competitor in horse events – dressage, jumping, and 3-day eventing. In my early twenties I helped to manage a training barn. I became increasingly fascinated with acquiring and rehabilitating horses off of the racetrack. We created a program of exercises to strengthen and rebuild, working with them both physically and emotionally in order to prepare them for a different lifestyle and way of going.
My dream of opening my water therapy center was always at the forefront of my mind, but it was my dog Ava who finally gave me the big push eight years ago to build La Paw Spa. One night I awoke to find her struggling to get up on the bed. I realized, in horror, that my formerly athletic, beautiful girl was completely paralyzed from her shoulders back. We broke ground the following week and built our water facility. We opened to the public four months later.
Ava had a beautiful recovery, which further reinforced for me the healing powers of warm water. Ava led the way on this journey that we are on, which has led to countless opportunities to witness healing on levels that I had not even foreseen.
It is well known that swimming and non-weight bearing exercises can build muscle and increase range of motion, in sometimes miraculous ways. The physical healing that occurs in water is well understood. However, there are other aspects of healing that occur in water that are less understood. When I began working as a Watsu (Water Shiatsu) therapist, the emotional and spiritually therapeutic components of water therapy became increasingly clear. Warm water, with the safety and comfort that it provides, leads to an emotional peacefulness and sense of well being for all involved. This component alone is often what is needed to reverse a negative path.
A dog can tap into a part of your heart that few can reach. When our canine friend is hurt or paralyzed, there is a feeling of loss, fear, and despair that reaches to depths that seem unbearable. I have an empathy and understanding of this borne out of personal experience. It is so important at those times to keep our faith, remaining thankful for the learning and bonding that is about to occur. It is often in times of tragedy that life gives us our greatest gifts. The chance to unwrap this gift each and every day is what makes my dream (and the reality) of the spa so satisfying.
Thank you for taking the time to visit our site and for loving so unconditionally the animals in your life.
Note added in 2005: La Paw Spa has been operating for 11 years and was the first Warm Water Therapy Program of its kind in the United States . Since its inception, Cindy has been featured in numerous national interviews and publications and has helped over 50 other pools get set up in her immediate area and around the world. She has put together a variety of training programs (see training opportunities) and is completely committed to helping others who would like to provide this kind of service to others or who would like to expand their own relationships with the dogs in their life. Cindy’s awareness and sensitivity to the emotional components of dis-ease is one of the numerous and special things that makes La Paw Spa so unique.
Note added in 2005: Ava is now in her 13th year and is doing great and continues to teach and inspire all that know her. She plays on the beach every day and can jump on the bed each night to
snuggle…. an amazing soul who many, during her 4 months of paralysis, would have never believed that 8 years later she would be such a vital happy force in this world… I am eternally grateful and not a day passes that I don’t sing praises to all the powers that be for Ava in my world.
Note added in 2007: Ava passed away in April at the age of 14. It was a day like any normal day and I had no idea it was coming…. I had cuddled up around her after a day in spa and was telling her about my day as I always did… her head was up on my shoulder and my nose was pushed into her soft ears…. I then realized that she has stopped breathing… a perfect passing without any notice or pain. I am thankful for such a transition although the loss of her body here on earth has been an adjustment almost too huge to bear at times. I owe her everything……
“Those of us who surround ourselves with lives more temporary
than our own, live within a fragile circle that is easily and
often breached. Yet knowing this, we still would choose
to live no other way.”
— Irving Townsend