by Mary Helen Darah
PUBLICATION DATE: June 5, 2018

A visit to PetMassage
Jonathon Rudinger, founder and PetMassage ™, 2950 Douglas Rd., has gone to the dogs … literally. The former art gallery owner, registered nurse and licensed massage therapist, in the human realm, began working with horses in 1981 as an equine massage therapist. “I applied my massage people skills to the equestrian world,” recalled Rudinger. “I was doing an interview on television about horse massage when a dog come up to me and we connected. It was a defining moment for me. I had an epiphany that I knew I could use my skills with canines as well.” Rudinger went back for training and founded PetMassage 21 years ago. He currently focuses on massage therapy for canines.

Body, mind and spirit
I had a difficult time believing that my two-year-old golden retriever was in need of massage. She is anything but stressed. Her only distraught moments seem to occur when she can’t reach her squeaky whale under the couch, when the next-door cat taunts her and or if she begrudgingly has to get out of any body of water. However, I kept an open mind and discovered that de-stressing is not the only benefit of a good rubdown with a professional. “The benefits are exactly like humans,” explained Rudinger. “We as a culture are acknowledging that dogs have thoughts and feelings and deserve the same good diet, massage and bodywork and medical care as our family members. We never claim healing, but massage brings balance and wholeness. We do not compete with veterinary medicine. We complement it. Massage can increase circulation, flexibility, improve the quality of life, and is a wonderful way of bonding with your dog.”

First do no harm
Rudinger sees private clients that come in and purchase a massage for their pet. He also give his clients homework to work specific areas on their dog. “We ask that pet owners stay and observe while their pet is getting massaged,” he said. “If clients would like to learn how to work with their dogs at home, we have books, videos and our YouTube channel. We also have a weekly blog on helpful hints. The first thing above all help is do no harm and be gentle and loving.” My golden and I learned some helpful techniques. We are very active (boating, hiking, exploring the woods around our Canadian home) and she appeared to truly enjoy getting her legs massaged, especially after completing one of our long hikes. My children sent me a photo of a disgruntled golden retriever in a canoe with the caption, “If she had a man, I wouldn’t have to do this stuff.” Perhaps she was more in need of a rubdown than I previously thought.

Go to a pro
My golden is the last “kid” in my home. I would never have her “manipulated” by just anyone. I was happy to learn that Rudinger has taught over 300 workshops and is the president and founder of IAAMB (International Association of Animal Massage and Bodywork) that has members all over the world. “We are the world headquarters for the IAAMB and hold workshops throughout the year. We have a national franchise and are working with the vetting of the future owners of the franchises. They come here for training and continuation of their education in pet massage. You can also find PetMassage on its new YouTube channel where those interested can find short videos on massage techniques.” PetMassage also has an after-school camp program that is endorsed by the Girl Scouts of America so I felt my pooch was in good hands.

Ageless comfort
PetMassage is appropriate for dogs of all ages. “Many senior dogs are brought to me to relieve the aches and pains of old age,” stated Rudinger. “I have recently written my ninth book, ‘How to Massage My Senior Dog.’ Many senior dogs are sore and stiff like senior humans. They have long term scar tissue in their bodies, joint pain, and they may have some digestive concerns, skin problems, and they may not be getting along with the other dogs in their pack.” Rudinger also works on newly adopted dogs, athletes, or dogs in need of rehab. “I have worked with puppies who have just opened their eyes, young dogs, middle aged dogs and all the way to seniors, some on their way transitioning to death,” stated Rudinger.

The big reward
Rudinger would like to pass on his unique gift to others. “It is so rewarding to see my clients’ reactions as their dogs become stronger and happier,” he stated. “Every dog has a different history and needs. I acknowledge those. There is no cookie-cutter formula. I give the dog what they need. We have been doing this for many years and would like to have franchises around the country and world. I would like to mentor and pass on the gift of massage that helps dogs and their people live fully.”

I walked away from my visit at PetMassage with an appreciation for the profession and my highly loved (not spoiled) golden is living a full, less stressed and well-rubbed life.