Sextiped Valley column: Colorado dogs get ready for action
It wouldn’t be hard to argue that the last hundred years or so have seen more changes in the way humans and canines have lived together than all the previous millennia together. And the changes pull the relationship in two opposite directions simultaneously.
On the one hand, never has the emotional bond and pure companionship been more acknowledged and valued. On the other, modern lifestyles, whether urban, rural or suburban, have squeezed dogs from all but the strictly private segment of the human biome, except when under strict physical control. A dog owner who allows her pet to be off leash in public places, other than a few specially defined exceptions, is considered irresponsible and can be fined and stigmatized.
There isn’t much scope for today’s dogs to practice and express the talents, so carefully bred into them over the many centuries of their partnership with us, in their daily lives. Only a few border collies have access to creatures they can herd, using their phenomenal minds, stamina and athleticism. Hounds and gun dogs may get to hunt a couple of times a year, but must cope with boredom and inactivity most days of their lives. Terriers endure largely vermin-deprived lifestyles, forced to make do with chasing and barking at kids on bikes and skateboards, and sculpting earthworks in their backyards.
It’s an amazing adaptation, in evolutionary terms, that they manage to not only cope, but to mostly thrive in this much-restricted role of house pet. Partly, this is due to their innate social responsiveness to us. But some comes about because we, loving and appreciating them, have invented substitutes for many of our ancestral shared activities and have developed sports, organizations and venues to engage in them with our beloved companions. We’ve invented agility, fly ball, treiball, barn-hunt, lure coursing, nose-work, skijoring, dock diving, freestyle dancing, carting, Frisbee and myriad other organized activities, blending the dogs’ delight in indulging their natural talents with our own competitive and aesthetic inclinations.
So we shouldn’t be surprised by the recent (in the last decade) emergence of a new specialty in veterinary medicine: sports medicine and rehabilitation. And while it may have developed largely in the world of canine sports super-stars, its knowledge and resources are increasingly available to the thousands of weekend-warrior pets, to get in shape for, enjoy and repair injuries from overenthusiastic exertions — just as their human partners do.
Now we have our own local specialist, certified rehabilitation practitioner Dr. Terry McQuade. And in keeping with trends toward supporting broader opportunities for our dogs to be active companions, her new clinic treats both the athletes and the couch potatoes, as well as the dogs (or cats) recovering from illness or surgery.
Colorado dogs, like Colorado humans, appreciate the many activities that basic fitness is needed to enjoy in our beautiful environment. We have lots of physical therapists, massage therapists, gyms, pools and physical trainers for us humans. Now we have a place where our dogs can get expert help to get and stay fit — even if their humans are not always up to the job of providing enough exercise for them. Since Pawsitively Fit moved in next door, we’re already seeing many dogs — and even one cat — improve their well-being from the therapy pool, the underwater treadmill and balance balls, as well as cold laser and electro-stimulation treatments. Benefits include improved mobility and comfort, and a new zest for fun.
My 14-year-old Chumley, recovered from Lyme disease, has a new spring in his step and more flexible muscles. His restored appetite — and capacity — for adventure may just inspire me to go to the gym and get in shape, myself.
Laurie Raymond owns High Tails Dog & Cat Outfitters in Glenwood Springs.