Lap Dogs

By Roni Galgano

January 18, 2008 2 min read


Ailing pooches swim their way back to mobility

By Roni Galgano

Copley News Service

Even while unlatching the backyard gate, one can immediately hear what size dog is in the pool by the tone in Trish Penick's voice.

If it's a little dog, Penick's voice squeaks like Minnie Mouse, "Good job!" If it's a big dog, her voice drops several fathoms to a deep "goooooooood doooooog."

Penick, a San Diego resident and former physical therapist, runs a business, Cutting Edge K9 Rehab, turning backyard swimming pools in the county into hydrotherapy pools for dogs with amazing results. Many dogs literally can't walk on day one.

On land, most of these dogs move slowly because of a physical and/or neurological problem. But, in the water, they're suddenly liberated and can plow in all directions.

Not all dogs like the water at first. But with gentle but firm support, they make their leap of faith. Like a 6-year-old Shih Tzu named Munchkin. An embolism on her spinal cord resulted in paralysis on her right side.

"It gives me cold shivers to remember. Munchkin couldn't sit up properly or stand, she'd fall over on her side," said Jon Rivers of San Diego.

Persistance paid off as Munchkin started to love pool time. And she didn't mind that Penick held her wet suit with one hand and used the other to manipulate her legs. Rivers clapped her hands and cheered, "Just look at you!"

"I get tearful just remembering the gratitude in her eyes," Rivers said.

This little Shih Tzu, who had been in ICU for five days and then unable to stand, was walking in four weeks. Now she runs.

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