Is Fido feeling blue? Or perhaps uncharacteristically lashing out at loved ones?
Fido may not be psychotic after all, just reacting emotionally to a host of undiagnosed aches and pains.
Enter Dawn Eshelman, a 40-year-old pet-sitter who has become a specialist in the art of animal massage. After training as a sports massage therapist at the Institute of Therapeutic Studies in Santa Ana, Eshelman traveled to a Virginia school earlier this year to learn how to apply her art to animals.
She learned her craft on ex-race horses and is now earning $45 an hour for her drug-free approach to equine health. But in addition to working part-time as a sports massage therapist for a local chiropractor, she is applying animal massage techniques to dogs and cats.
"Dog massage isn't really a whole lot different than horse massage," says Eshelman, a former graphic designer for the Maui News in Hawaii who moved to Irvine two years ago. "It's just scaled down."
Eshelman has a regular stable of clients at Serrano Creek Stables in Lake Forest, where she says owners regularly employ the talents of chiropractors and even acupuncturists to give their horses a competitive edge.
Dog massage is most beneficial to older, arthritic dogs who may be developing behavior problems as a reaction to pain, according to Eshelman. One of her favorite clients is an aging, overweight Dalmatian.
"The message really helps her. It doesn't tone her muscles, but it moves out toxins that have built up in muscle tissues," she said.
For dogs and cats, her fees range from $10 to $25, depending on pet size and travel time.
"Most dogs are receptive to being handled," she says, adding that cats are a bit more unpredictable. "Some are receptive to it--some aren't."