• Susan, Dog Therapy Whisperer, at Your Service

    Susan completed coursework for canine rehabilitation in December. Canine rehab practitioners are seeing their ranks swell because of the increasing demand for working dogs in many industries.

    What do you do when you’ve been doing physical therapy for 30-plus years and have seen inpatient, outpatient, and all the patients there are to see? If you love dogs, you go into canine rehab. Inspired by such love, our own Susan Trchka completed coursework in canine rehabilitation in December.

    She spent the first two weeks of November in Coral Springs, Fla., at the Canine Rehabilitation Institute. Although the weather was nice, Susan was quite busy with her first two classes, learning canine anatomy and hands-on examination.

    When it was time to go back for her final class in December, Susan was self-deprecating, as is her custom. “I’m really looking forward to rolling around on the floor with those dogs,” she said, poking fun at her difficulty with kneeling. As there is truth in humor, so was there dedication in Susan’s heart. With her courses behind her, she must now take leave from Be Fit to start a 40-hour internship (on her own dime!) at a vet clinic. Then she will have completed her certification requirements.

    The case could be made that Be Fit owner Mary Lou Savino loves dogs even more than Susan does. Mary Lou has been adopting rescue dogs for years, and she also has pursued a canine therapist certification, taking some online courses through the University of Tennessee. However, she recently took some time off from classes due to the demands of running this business.

    Although there are no hard statistics for the “working dog” or the canine therapist job markets, it has been commonly reported that both are projected to grow.

    The Bureau Labor Statistics projects a 10-year growth rate of 19 percent for the Veterinary Technician profession. Furthermore, people consider dogs a part of their families and expect services comparable to what’s available for people when their dogs become injured.

    As demand for working dogs increases in fields such as national security, more of them will experience injuries that require physical therapy. Photo by MAJic2288

    Susan, whose own Maltese-Poodle and Maltese Shi Tzu have long ago replaced her children at home, cited show and sports dogs as an example. “For people who put their dogs in shows and in competitions,” she said, “they’ll go to the ends of the earth to rehabilitate their dogs.”

    Also, there has been a growth in demand for working dogs. For instance, since 9/11 the global demand for bomb detection dogs has outpaced supply.

    Mary Lou may yet become one of those canine rehab practitioners that families seek. She once rehabbed her own dog and has ever since wanted to make other dogs feel better. Actually, she joked, “that’s my retirement strategy: to retire and work on dogs. I may not use it for a while, but I am a doggy person.”

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