CAMDEN — The benefits of hydro therapy have been known for a long time. Kate Griffin, of Hope, decided that dogs could benefit from the same therapy and opened Water Bark Wellness at 59 Union Street in Camden. Griffin said the facility is Maine’s premier indoor aquatic center for dogs.
Though the center has only been open four weeks, Griffin said it was something she had been thinking about for a long time.
“In 2009 I had an old arthritic chocolate lab that could have greatly benefitted from this type of therapy,” she said. “I took her down to Portland to visit a canine physical therapist. After acupuncture and different pain medications nothing was really helping her.”
Griffin said the therapist told her to get the dog swimming.
“I started swimming with her faithfully,” she said. “And I started looking online about warm water swimming and the benefits it has on dogs. The seed was planted.”
Griffin said her first step was to get certified as a veterinary assistant and she worked at the Camden Hospital for Animals for two years and a half years thinking all the while about this down the road.
“I thought the job would give me more credibility to do this,” she said. “I saw the need every day. It’s a nice way to provide a non-weight bearing activity for dogs who might have hip or elbow dysplasia, degenerative joint disease, soft tissue injury, or are just old and arthritic.”
The salt water pool’s temperature is 90 degrees. It measures 8 X 16 feet and is 33 inches deep. The salt is a lot more gentle then bleach chlorination, according to Griffin and is sanitized constantly with UV light.
“The water is warm and it helps the blood go through all the joints really well,” said Griffin. “It helps to warm up the body and there are less muscle spasms. It feels good and you get better range of motion, better flexibility and a better quality workout.”
Griffin said she did not have to get a special certification for an indoor pool for dogs. She said she went to the code officer and did all the correct things to open this type of business. Griffin is also a certified canine swim coach.
“I went out to Washington state to get certified a year and a half ago,” she said. “I’m headed out to Vancouver, British Columbia, in the near future for more extensive training. You study conditions and afflictions dogs can have, body language, understanding how the pool works and of course handling the dogs in the pool.”
All dogs large or small are required to start off with a life vest. It give Griffin something to hold onto and ensures the dog is having a safe swim. The dogs do not get in and out of the water, but stay in the pool for the whole session, which is 20 minutes long. She said even when the dog is resting it’s a great opportunity for a little light massage and stretching.
“After I know they are a good swimmer and candidate I’ll put them in the pool with just a harness on,” she said. “It allows me a little more control and pull, and lets the dog have a more intense workout.”
Once the swim is complete there is an area to rinse the salt water off the dogs if the owner decides to do so and plenty of doggie towels to dry off with. There is even a blow dryer.
The therapy is good for all dogs big and small. Griffin said it’s good for dogs that just need to burn calories, maybe from being overweight and it’s good for agility dogs that might benefit from some cross training.
Griffin said she has a lot of clients arriving weekly and are seeing benefits. She also said she gets referrals from area vets. She said it was actually talking to area vets that made her decide to go through with the idea.
The first session is a 45 minute session and is a questionnaire about your pet.
“We also go over the vet’s paperwork that gets faxed to me,” she said. “It’s the vet’s assessment form that clears your dog to swim. That appointment the first time out is $45. The next sessions are 30 minutes long and cost $35 and when you swim nine times your 10th is free.”
Water Bark Wellness is by appointment only. Hours are Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday form 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Thursday’s from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. and Saturday’s from 8 a.m. to 12 noon.
On the web: http://www.waterbarkwellness.com/