I met Alyson Snelling in the fall of 2015. We have some mutual friends in the animal welfare world and I was instantly intrigued by her job. As an athlete, I am a huge fan of human massage and reiki. (If you’ve never had a reiki session treat yo’self and get back to me.  You’ll loooooooooove it!) Also, I’m a huge fan of dogs, too.

I believe we met on-site at Strut Your Mutt. Alyson mentioned she had set up an exhibitor booth the weekend before with a similar audience, but that the participants openly (and quite rudely) scoffed at the idea of canine massage. In the professional dog walking/pet sitting industry, I’m quite familiar with the general perception that my job is a joke.

As Event Director for Strut Your Mutt, I was eager to get feedback and was pleased to hear that our event was a much different experience for her; participants engaged with her demos and were interested in learning more about her services. I credit that to the amazing event that is Strut Your Mutt.

Sidebar: See you at Strut Your Mutt – St. Louis 2017; date & location TBA (from the rooftops) soon!

It truly excites me when I meet people who combine unique skills with passion  for a good purpose. Alyson does that with Ash & Oak Canine Massage.

Another obstacle I’m familiar with is drumming up business in a community where people may not take you or your services very seriously.  When I told Alyson and her good friend, Lynn Roulston (my most favorite pet photog ever, from Lynn Terry Photography), that I was starting STL Dog Blog, Alyson asked if she could swing by for a canine massage demo and if I would write up my thoughts and share. Uh. Yeah!

Alyson came over to my house to give my sweet boy, Baby Lenny Lew, a massage. I had gotten home 10 minutes prior, to find that the keypad on my front door broke, so I had to shimmy through an unlocked window to get inside.  I was frustrated and irritated and my dogs were feeding off my negative energy. Leila and Annie were happy to meet their new friend, and Lenny was a little out of sorts, which is totally normal for him. He usually barks at guests and hides behind me, but he wasn’t so upset with Alyson. He really responded well to her chill disposition.

Alyson set up her yoga mat and blankie on the floor at which point, all three launched a thorough investigation in her gear. Eventually they calmed down.  More accurately, Annie calmed down and left the room; Leila was jealous that Lenny was getting all the attention from their new friend and pouted next to me on the couch.

Lenny’s got a pretty clean bill of health, but is naturally skinny (he’s a Skinny Lenny) and has some pretty high anxiety. I’ve never known him to calm down with anyone as quickly as he did with Alyson. She explained to me that she first checks the dogs for lumps & bumps, hot spots (a sign of inflammation), muscle tightness, etc. I had a flash of panic when she mentioned the lumps & bumps because boxers are cancer magnets. She said he felt fine, but that there was some tightness in his hips. Whew!

A lot of people associate canine massage with sick, dying or old dogs, but it can be useful for all types of dogs. (Just like massage and reiki are for humans). Canine massage can be useful for working dogs like service dogs, K-9 officers and search & rescue dogs, who regularly exert a lot of energy and dogs like Lenny with high anxiety.

Alyson is legit, with the credentials to back her up.  She is Nationally Certified through the National Board of Certification for Animal Acupuncture & Massage (NBCAAM) and an attuned Animal and Human Reiki Practitioner.

I’ve noticed my big girl, Leila Marie, slowing down as she nears her 10th birthday (stop aging, Leila!) I plan on scheduling some sessions for Leila with Alyson for general maintenance. She was kind enough to let Leila crash the end of Lenny’s session for some love rubs and smooches.

For those of us who go the extra mile for our dogs, like hiring dog walkers, joining dog parks, spending a little extra for the better dog food, and such, I recommend checking out Alyson and Ash & Oak Canine Massage as one more tool to optimize your dog’s physical well-being.