CAMDEN — A vision years in the making has finally become reality for Kate Griffin.

Griffin, a certified canine swim coach from Hope, recently opened Water Bark Wellness, an aquatic fitness center for dogs, at 59 Union St.

The center contains a 128-square-foot saltwater pool that is heated to 90 degrees.

“Warm-water swimming is really, really beneficial for several different reasons,” Griffin said, noting it warms up the muscles, aids in reducing muscle spasms and helps blood circulate to the joints.

Griffin, who first opened in mid-January, said she has been getting some great responses from owners who regularly bring their dogs to see her. They are noticing their dogs are feeling and moving much better and have “pep in their step again.”

In 2009, Griffin had an old chocolate Lab who had arthritis, and she tried many different techniques, such as acupuncture and anti-inflammatory medications, to reduce the dog’s pain. She eventually met with a canine physical therapist who recommended Griffin get the dog swimming, and that is when she began researching the benefits of hydrotherapy.

She learned there are many facilities in the western part of the United States and in Europe that specialize in such techniques, but she could not find anything located on the East Coast.

That is when she decided to pursue the business on her own.

She received her certification as a veterinary assistant to be able to better understand canine conditions and ailments. She worked for more than two years assisting the late Dr. Jim Laurita and Dr. Stacey Contakos at the Camden Hospital for Animals.

“I saw dogs come in every day that would have benefited from this,” Griffin said of the hydrotherapy.

Eventually she also became certified as a canine swim coach and is planning later this year to travel to Vancouver, British Columbia, for further training.

However, Griffin stressed that this type of fitness is beneficial for dogs of all ages and conditions. While it is good for older, arthritic dogs, there are also benefits for overweight animals, those recovering from an injury or a surgery or “for dogs that just want or need to get their wiggles out in a safe and enjoyable non-weight bearing environment.” It also is good for dogs that are socially challenged and need a private place to swim or to help puppies become better swimmers.

The sessions are private and by appointment only; before the dog’s first visit the owner must fill out a questionnaire form and the dog must be assessed by a veterinarian to ensure it is able and healthy enough to be in the pool and up-to-date on all vaccines.

Griffin stays in the water with the dog the entire session and also requires mandatory rest breaks during their time in the water.

For more information, Water Bark Wellness can be reached at 230-8455 or log on to