Looking around the room, with the large oil painting portraits of assorted dog breeds, scented candles flickering soft light and the easy listening of the mood music emanating from the tape deck, it was easy to understand the wave of relaxation washing over Forest Gump's face.
No. Not the happy-go-lucky character Tom Hanks portrayed, but Forest Gump the bouvier des Flandres being given a massage at the peninsula's new spa for pets.
Kenai K-9 Spa is owned and operated by Terri Eddens, a certified master groomer with more than 35 years of experience. Eddens also holds the title of certified pet massage instructor from the Pet Massage Training and Research Institute Inc.
"This is my life," Eddens said. "I love what I do, and it shows."
Eddens runs the business from her home in Kenai. After her husband fell ill with cancer, she chose not to continue with a large retail grooming facility in Anchorage. Instead, she opted to stay close to her husband, while still pursuing her passion for working with animals.
Working from home hasn't just been a perk for her, but for many of her clients as well. It has allowed her to space out visits and reduce the amount of time pets are away from their owners.
At some high volume groomers where they do 50 to 60 dogs a day, they require owners to drop dogs off in the morning and then return for them in the late afternoon. At Kenai K-9 Spa animals can be scheduled for as short a duration as their appointment will last.
"The difference in their attitude and comfort zone is remarkable," Eddens said. "They don't have the stress of phones ringing, dogs barking and people yelling over it all."
The benefit of one-on-one care also is apparent in pets being boarded. Eddens enjoys the challenge of speciality boarding, which involves working with geriatric pets, those that need special medications or constant care, and those that just need round-the- clock supervision for one reason or another.
"Boarding can often be a traumatic situation for dogs because they're pulled away from their homes and families," Eddens said. "They're often nervous and frightened when they come in. By talking to them and massaging them, you see a change in their psyche. They lose their fear and gain confidence."
Whether it be relaxation or hydromassage, techniques used at the spa complement holistic and traditional veterinary care. There is no deep tissue or chiropractic work preformed. Massages involve multiple steps and are very individualistic.
"We don't overstep our bounds," Eddens said. "We don't diagnose or prescribe anything, and we leave recommendations to qualified veterinarians."
Word of mouth about the pet spa is spreading, and business is starting to blossom for Eddens. She saw a dramatic increase in business over the Thanksgiving holidays, and she expects even more at Christmas. She currently massages around 13 to 15 dogs a week in addition to the grooming and boarding services she provides.
It seems many of her clients appreciate taking their pets to a facility where the owner takes her time with the animals as opposed to the production lines of some large-scale groomers. Others come because their pets already have developed a fear of grooming from a bad experience elsewhere.
"I wouldn't trust my dog to just anyone," client Tonya Sparks said when referring to her part Sheltie, part Jack Russell terrier named Sheeba. "My dog's not afraid of her, because she takes her time and gets to know him."
"I'd never go anywhere else now that I've met Terry," Donna Burns said.
She's been taking her toy poodle, Saki, to Kenai K-9 Spa for more than a year.
"It's the best!"
"She's a whole different dog when she comes out," said Jane Dullum of her 10-year-old Gordon setter with medical problems. "She was getting stiff and standing up slow. The massages make it a whole lot better."
Massage is believed by many to increase healing of injuries due to the stimulation and increased blood flow to the area. A recent article in Dog Fancy magazine, "Keep the Joints Jumping," agreed that massage can provide welcome relief for dogs with aching joints.
In general, her clientele seemed to be at both ends of the spectrum in regards to why they take their pets there. Some live lavish lifestyles and felt their pets should, too. Other owners have never had a massage of their own, but believed doing it gives back a little to a pet that gives so much.
Cost for pet services range from $15 a day for boarding -- whether it be a Chihuahua or a Great Dane -- to $35 an hour for spa-massage treatments. Grooming costs depend on the dog's size, coat and how intense the owners want the job to be. Appointments can be made by calling the spa at 283-7249.
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