Dugan – Water Therapy for Paralysis

I sought out canine water therapy for my paralyzed 11 year old pug. In the end, it was hard to say which of us benefited more.


Dugan had lost the ability to walk due to a degenerative nerve disease. My hope was that the warm water therapy would help him keep some muscle tone, encourage his failing circulation, and provide him with a sense of movement and relaxation. Pugs are not exactly water dogs, and Dugan himself was a bit particular about strangers handling him, so I was a little apprehensive that he wouldn’t take to being handled by a therapist in the pool. My fears were totally unfounded. Within the first five minutes of entering Cindy’s spa, Dugan was floating relaxed in her arms and had already planted a kiss on her face!

During our visits, Cindy quietly worked her magic with my little dog. And soon I realized with me as well. I would sit at poolside, quietly chatting with Cindy about the trials and tribulations of that week. Caring for a disabled dog can be challenging, both physically and emotionally. As you struggle to monitor and maintain their quality of life, people all around you question your compassion at not euthanizing a dog that cannot walk. Cindy’s emotional encouragement was reassuring, especially backed by her years of experience working with disabled dogs. She also shared practical ideas on his care that helped me improve the quality of his remaining days even more. And all this while working with Dugan in the water–massaging him to stimulate his nerves and circulation, stretching to help him keep his range of motion, and encouraging him to use what muscle strength he still had in his front legs to swim for the first time in his life.

Our weekly visits continued until Dugan’s death. Not only did Cindy help my dog physically live a better life, she also offered us a loving oasis on our often difficult emotional journey. From Dugan I learned so much about courage and love and grace and acceptance and loyalty and devotion and positive mental attitude. I will forever be thankful to Cindy for both improving my dog’s quality of life during his last days and for encouraging me to listen to the life lessons he was teaching along the way.