The lengths I go to for my dogs

S&S cut-out croppedI don’t anthropomorphize my dogs. I don’t dress them in clothes, paint their toenails, or put ribbons in their hair. I’m fully aware that kisses often mean “I’m hungry” rather than “I love you,” and that “home” to them is essentially a food palace—an elaborate silo designed exclusively to shelter them and protect their source of sustenance.

Still, I go the extra mile to make sure that Sunshine and Snow are properly cared for. Humankind has rendered them helpless. They depend on me to make the best decisions on their behalf, and I take that responsibility seriously.

My dogs eat a fully balanced moist grain-free diet supplemented with dollops or “real” food–meat, poultry, fish, green tripe, egg, yam, cooked carrots, squash, pumpkin, or other nutritious goodies—all of it laced with chicken broth or some other delicious juice. They get four outings a day, at least one of which is a mile-long walk. I minimize prescription medications and vaccines. I subscribe to the Whole Dog Journal and follow its advice almost religiously.

But with all this fussing, if you had told me three years ago that they would be getting a monthly massage and that I would consider it a good investment, I would have laughed out loud.

In January 2010, after a series of events that I will go into some other day, our vet prescribed massage for the two of them. That was the beginning of our relationship with Ann Montalto, canine massage therapist (

Ann & Sun C - smallAnn is a graduate of the Lang Institute for Canine Massage, a 675-hour program of study in massage techniques and acupressure for dogs that includes courses in canine anatomy, physiology, orthopedic pathology, breed characteristics, and gait and movement. In addition, she has years of experience using both cold and thermal lasers, dating back to her days as a registered nurse. She has been practicing canine massage for eight years.

At first my girls were skeptical, but soon they learned to love their monthly appointments. Now when I say “We’re going to see Auntie Ann!” they rush to the car and beg to get in.

The massages have transformed their personalities. They are more affectionate and relaxed. They are calm, easy-going, obedient, and rarely bark. By the end of the month, they begin to get a little antsy and I can tell they are ready for a tune-up.

So why do I go to all this trouble? They warm my heart and teach me about life. They are endlessly patient and forgive all my lapses. They are never mean-spirited. Their antics make me laugh. Their tongues heal my tears. They cuddle up beside me when I read or watch TV, and the heartbeat in those little bodies is one of the sweetest sensations I have ever felt. And who else on the planet would be so thrilled to see me when I come home?

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