KENAI (AP) -- Looking around the room, with the large oil painting portraits of assorted dog breeds, scented candles flickering and mood music coming from the tape deck, it was easy to see why Forest Gump was deeply relaxed.
No. Not the character Tom Hanks portrayed, but Forest Gump the bouvier des Flandres being given a massage at the Kenai 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.
''I love what I do, and it shows,'' said Eddens, who 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.
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 appointments.
''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.''
Eddens even uses massage to help calm the pets that are being boarded.
''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.''
Techniques used at the spa complement holistic and traditional veterinary care.
''We don't overstep our bounds,'' Eddens said. ''We don't diagnose or prescribe anything, and we leave recommendations to qualified veterinarians.''
Massage may help speed healing of injuries by stimulating the area and increasing blood flow.
''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.''
Cost for pet services range from $15 a day for boarding to $35 an hour for massage treatments.
Word of mouth about the pet spa is spreading. Eddens currently massages around 13 to 15 dogs a week in addition to the grooming and boarding services she provides.
''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.''
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!''
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