The Northborough-Southborough Villager
|August 22, 2002
Paid to pet
SOUTHBOROUGH ó Groovy, a 9-year old female calico cat, lies in a trance-like state as her owner, Lynne Flanagan, gently caresses her. Flanagan uses full-body strokes, starting at the tip of the felineís nose, down the back and off the tail.
" Itís important to cover the whole body, " Flanagan says as she continues to massage Groovy. " Donít ever start in mid-stroke. You want to acknowledge the whole body. "
Flanagan isnít simply giving a family member some special treatment, itís her career. She is a certified pet masseuse and started her business, Paws That Matter, earlier this year.
Receiving her bachelorís degree in education and a masterís in business administration, Flanagan worked in the corporate world for several years before finding her " calling. "
" I had a fine job but my intuition said I needed to make the move. My head just wasnít in it, " Flanagan said. " I thought and soul-searched in what I could do in working with animals. I knew I wanted animals to be a part of my everyday life. "
She said she thought about the traditional jobs ó pet technician, groomer ó but didnít get the feeling that is what she wanted.
Flanagan asked herself what it was about animals that she enjoyed.
" I love to pet them. "
She began searching for places around the area where she could learn pet massage, especially with cats and dogs.
" I researched everywhere I could, animal publications, the Internet, " Flanagan said. " There was no school or certification in New England that could teach me pet massage but I found a place in Toledo, Ohio. "
She began home study and field work, first massaging her pets and then moving on to her friendís cats and dogs.
" This gave me a lot of good experience and led me out into the world. "
Flanagan said in Massachusetts the highest level of pet massage is certification but she will be seeking an advanced certification.
Only in business since January, Flanagan has been getting most of her business from word of mouth. Now she travels from Boston to Worcester giving house calls to animals needing a massage.
Flanagan said she likes going to the owners homes so the animals are in their own environment.
" I like to find a favorite spot they like to be in so they are more comfortable. " She picks a quiet spot where there are not people coming in and out and there are no other individuals in the room except for maybe the owner in the first session.
" I want them to concentrate on me. "
At her first visit she also likes to spend a little time talking with the owner so the animal gets used to her voice. She puts soothing, classical tunes on and begins by making sure the animal is comfortable with her.
" Theyíll understand itís OK that my hand will be touching them, " Flanagan said. She also assesses the animal before proceeding, noticing sensitive spots and stiffness.
Flanagan said her massage includes the teeth and gums. " This helps keep the teeth clean and stimulates saliva which provide for better digestion.
Flanagan spends an average of 30-35 minutes on each animal, unless of course the big eyes look up begging for just a few more minutes.
" Sometimes they wonít want me to stop, " she said. " They acknowledge and appreciate it. "
Flanagan said massage is beneficial for puppies and kittens as well as older animals, and for injured and healthy pets. Benefits include the overall well-being of the pet, heightens sociability, accelerates the healing process, strengthens the immune system, improves the condition of the skin and coat, builds trust and makes for a healthier, more well-adjusted pet.
" It is immediacy, " Flanagan said. " Animals live in the present. They donít remember what happened this morning. They are enjoying the moment of being touched. "
She said one of her clients called and said her greyhound, Sheba, was not her usual self. Sheba had recently lost part of her tail and was lethargic and unresponsive.
" It was depression, " Flanagan said. " She was mourning the loss of her tail. "
She worked every week massaging Shebaís tail and soon Sheba was back to her normal self. " In almost every case I will find an improvement, if not eliminate the problem. "
Flanagan sees the emotional benefit of massage in her own cat Groovy, who recently lost his feline companion to cancer.
" Massage has eased the transition of being alone, " she said. " There is definitely an emotional component to massage. "
Flanagan believes there are four steps in having a health, happy pet: quality food and exercise; proper veterinary care; a loving, comfortable home; and massage.
" Some pet owners still think its really crazy, " she said. " They feel a massage for their pets is indulgent. But it is enormous benefit to the health of the pet so therefore itís not indulgent. "
Flanagan did stress that massage is not a replacement for veterinary care.
Along with massage, Flanagan feels she also has a role in educating pet owners on the benefits of massage. " Pet owners need to be aware of the problems the environment has created which affects the well-being of animals, " she said. " I want to get the word out and share the information. "
Although pet massage for cats and dogs is something new, Flanagan said in 10 years it will be common.
" (Pet owners) just need to hear the idea exists. "
Anyone wanting a massage for their pet or wanting information can contact Lynne Flanagan at 508-229-8302 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
PAWS THAT MATTER
"The right touch for your pet."