In her native UK, Louise Anderson tended to human injuries, running a chain of clinics for fire, ambulance, and police workers, even treating the aching backs of gardeners toiling over London’s 350-acre Hyde Park. When she relocated to Rhode Island with her American husband (who grew up vacationing in Westerly), she decided to combine her physical therapy skills with her lifelong love of animals and founded Rhode Island Pet Rehab.
“My clients come as vet referrals for issues ranging from injury recovery to arthritis. The first visit is always about gaining the pet’s trust. We meet in a relaxing setting with non-slip floors, soft furnishings, treats, and toys. When I touch them, the trouble spot is always the last place I go. Dogs have all sorts of tells, some will pant when you reach their problem area, others turn around suddenly and give you that look that says, ‘Watch what you’re doing!’ so I take all the time in the world.”
On occasion, Anderson enlists her “angel from heaven” rescue dog Teddy. “He’s like a therapy dog for dogs,” she laughs. Depending on the circumstance, Teddy can offer a reassuring presence, instigate play, or sometimes even act as stand-in: “When a pet is just too scared or too sore to receive treatment, I demonstrate on Teddy and have the owner practice the exercises on him, too.”
Each session is videoed so the pet owner can be certain they are getting the massage techniques correct at home. One of the stages involves aqua therapy, which has Anderson in the water at Burlingame Pond, even in the winter. “I wear waders up to my armpits!”
The work is deeply rewarding, especially when pets who have lost the use of their back legs get fitted with a cart with wheels. “One man carried his pit bull into the room and then was brought to tears when he saw his dog take off running for the first time since his paralysis.”
Anderson also gets referrals for pets who need to get in shape. “We had one dog client who needed to halve his weight before he was eligible for surgery – we got him down from 120 pounds to the optimum 60 pounds, by which point the strain on his joints was eased and he no longer needed his hip replacement.”
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