This story is told by their proud Dad – Brett Eliason with pictures by Mom Tonya Eliason.
We live in North Bend with our three dogs: Boudreaux, Dargo, and Mac. Our dogs are part of our family and we treasure our lives with them. Not surprisingly, we go through periods where we seem to be spending a lot of time commuting to the Vet for various health reasons. We were going through one of those periods early last year with Dargo. One of our favorite Vets is in Fall City, Snoqualmie Valley Animal Hospital, so we commute down Hwy 202 from North Bend to get there. It was during one of these commutes that I noticed a sign that read Heavenly Pet Spa.
I was curious as to what a Heavenly Pet Spa was, so did a little online research and found their website. I read through the site’s description of their warm water therapy and bodywork for dogs and was intrigued, but also felt like this was something for an incredibly pampered pooch. We take our dogs to local lakes and rivers every day. Boudreaux, our thirteen-year-old Black Lab, loves to swim. He has no problem jumping in to the water any day of the year, no matter what the temperature. I felt that the spa was more for a pampered dog whose owners didn’t have access to our lifestyle.
Last July our boy Mac, who is a classic looking seventy-pound shaggy mutt, started to have severe pain issues in his lower back due to a degenerative disc. We took him in to see a Veterinary Neurology specialist and it was eventually determined that Mac needed spinal surgery. The surgery entailed the removal of the disc, and implants in the form of plates and screws across the lower three disc regions to help support his spine and hips. The surgeon, Dr. Sean Sanders, highly recommended Hydro Therapy as part of Mac’s rehabilitation when he was deemed ready for it.
That was enough of a prompt for us. I reached out to Teri Sahm, owner of Heavenly Spa, and asked for some more information about their programs. Teri got right back to me and let me know that we’d be welcome to come and visit the facility and see first-hand what they do. We were in the middle of Mac’s initial post surgery recovery, so we opted to just jump in headfirst.
Boudreaux came to us from an abusive background. He quite literally found us and moved in. He’s been with us for many years now. He is our oldest; our best guess is around thirteen years of age. Boudreaux has always gone at life with gusto. He has never had much concern for his own wellbeing as long as a ball or retrieval buoy is being thrown. Over the past few years he has shown signs of arthritis in his spine, as well as possible disc issues. We have tried everything from veterinary prescribed meds to acupuncture and chiropractic work. Though we had seen some improvement with acupuncture and chiropractic treatment, Boudreaux hated the sessions. He was extremely stressed out every time we showed up at the Vet’s office. We decided that the benefits were not obvious enough to keep putting him through that emotional “trauma”.
So, Boudreaux became our test subject for our first visit to the Spa. We showed up for our first visit and were greeted by Teri, and Boudreaux’s therapist Claire. We were made to feel right at home. Claire got down to business asking about Boudreaux’s history and physical issues. She pointed out the muscular atrophy that was apparent to her in both his back and his rear legs and let me know that she’d go right to work with him.
Claire was great with Boudreaux. She was very careful initially to get him used to the pool and it’s ingress/egress. She made sure he was comfortable with what was going on and allowed him to become confident in his surroundings as she slowly built up her regime with him.
It literally only took two weeks and we noticed a HUGE difference in Boudreaux. His musculature was very obviously redefined and getting bulkier. He was running ahead on hikes, and much less prone to stiffness and soreness. And, he loved going to the spa!
Mac had been abandoned at a nearby lake. He had a lot of health issues that took us a couple of months to work through. He’s been with us for a couple of years now and has been happy and healthy up until a few months ago. Mac is around nine years in age.
Out of nowhere Mac developed massive pain in his back end. He was shrieking and dropping to the ground unable to get back up on his own. As mentioned earlier, it turned out to be a spinal disc issue that he had to have surgery for.
Without hesitation we started taking Mac to see Claire once he was cleared to begin physical rehabilitation. Mac was not a big swimmer prior to starting his time at the Spa. Claire asked to see his file from the surgical procedure and asked after Mac’s history. Once again she slowly introduced Mac to the pool, and began to work on him, getting him used to the environment and to her.
Mac has made an amazing recovery. He is pain free now. He holds his tail higher than ever, and is always found romping and playing around the house. He loves his time at the spa, vocalizing his excitement as we near the place. One of my favorite visuals is of Mac laying on the edge of the pool after he is done with his therapy watching contentedly as the others get their time.
Dargo is another rescue that came from a beginning filled with abuse and neglect. He had many emotional and self-confidence issues when we first brought him home. We’ve had Dargo for a couple of years and he has come a long way. Dargo is three years in age.
I first took Dargo to the Spa because he was getting upset being the only dog left behind for our weekly visit. He just hung out for a couple of sessions and watched Boudreaux and Mac during their therapy. I had read about the benefits of learning to swim and the resultant confidence building in rescues on the Heavenly Spa website. We decided to get Dargo involved as well.
At first I had to carry Dargo in to the pool. I’d carry him out to the middle and have him swim back in on his own. He was nervous about entering the pool, but did fine swimming back. We went on this path for a couple of months.
Claire suggested a couple of approaches for getting Dargo to enter the pool on his own. Finally, with a special peanut butter biscuit in hand, Dargo followed me in to the pool. He swam the length of the pool and back and when he walked out of the water his head and tail were held high and his chest was puffed way out. He was so obviously proud of himself, as was I. Dargo now enters the pool with minimal coaxing and swims out to fetch his new favorite toy.
We’ve only been going to the spa for a few months now. I have witnessed an amazing amount of physical recovery in both Boudreaux and Mac. They have a much greater quality of life due to the therapy at the Spa. Dargo’s confidence has grown. All three dogs love attending their weekly sessions. I have to admit that I very much enjoy the sessions as well. I get to interact with my dogs in a very relaxing environment and gain joy from their excitement and improvement.
On a side note, Boudreaux will only do a few swims in the nearby rivers and lakes now. Apparently he feels his swim time should only be conducted in a heated environment! Hmmmm, pampered pooches?