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COL Do you have a license to massage that dog?

I'm not a professional and won't try it at home

I can understand why the state of Washington has a new law establishing standards for animal massage. If you don't create professional standards, you're just going to have unauthorized people all over the place massaging animals without a license.

You see it all the time here in Idaho, where professional animal massage has yet to become a big deal. Consider Ruby, for instance. I drink coffee several times a week with Ruby, among others, including Dave, with whom Ruby lives.

Ruby doesn't drink coffee because she is, of course, a dog -- a dog of uncertain background but apparently from affable breeds. Strangers can't resist Ruby.

They have their hands all over her. They stop at the coffee cart for a latte, spot Ruby and come over and start petting her and patting her and even massaging her.

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You try that in Washington state now and you might be breaking the law. They have licensed animal massage in Washington state. A state that doesn't license and certify animal massagers risks a lot of incompetent animal massaging.

You're going to have a lot of people using circular motions on the back muscles of an Airedale when, as any fool knows, those muscles call for raking the back with vertical strokes of the knuckles.

And of course, you get too rough with a Chihuahua and you could break the poor little thing in two.

Mind you, I do not question that animals love to be massaged, as Washington state's professional dog rubbers and kneaders insist.

They tell stories of once-hyper dogs made so limp and loose by massage that they can hardly stand up. They just become contented puddles of dog on the dog-massage table.

There is something about massage that goes down well with humans, dogs, cats, horses, maybe even chickens. Apparently, if we get stressed out, our muscles tighten. If someone massages those muscles and relaxes them, we tend to relax mentally as well.

Perhaps there is something of our beginnings in that tendency. It is normal for chimps and other apes to sit around grooming each other. Maybe our inner ape misses some of that. A lot of humans like to be stroked and kneaded and hugged.

For some reason, the same is true in spades for dogs. Dogs are pack animals, as are we, but they seem especially to enjoy being teamed with human beings.

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Beneficial arrangement

It's some ancient, mutually beneficial arrangement that makes both humans and dogs feel better. There is something reassuring to a dog about being petted and patted by human hands, even if that person is not a trained and licensed professional animal petter-patter.

It's true of cats as well as dogs. And some people, licensed or not, are better at massaging cats than others. We have a friend who comes by the house and massages our cat.

She is a genius at scratching a cat in all the right places in all the great ways. The cat sees Leila sitting at the table, bounds into her lap and is soon making a fool of himself as she goes to work.

He gets kind of drunk on massage and finally reaches the point where he literally starts beating his forehead on the edge of the table, as if saying, "Oh, man, that's good."

I don't know a lot about dog massage. I am not a professional and will not try dog massage at home. Humans and horses and cats -- and maybe even chickens -- prefer to have you work in large part with the muscles of the back and the limbs.

Dogs are another matter. Many of them seem to prefer having their stomachs patted. A dog, enjoying a vigorous petting, will often roll over onto its back and, in a gesture of trust and servitude, invite you to pat its stupid belly.

Do they teach that at dog manipulation school? And do some humans also enjoy that sort or thing?

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Actually, most of the female humans I know are into hugging. To them, there is something about being squeezed that makes them feel better.

I regularly squeeze a woman in the privacy of my own home. But I have a license for that. I am not a licensed dog massager but I am a licensed woman squeezer.

Bill Hall is a syndicated columnist from Lewiston, Idaho.

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