Swimming as Therapy
by Heather Jones Skaggs
photos courtesy of Sherri Griffin
Sherri Griffin brings a new form of canine therapy to the Birmingham area – hydrotherapy. A journey with her dog Sassy, an Aussie who battled the last stages of Degenerative Myelopathy, a progressive disease like ALS, brought Sherri and Sassy to hydrotherapy.
“Sassy could no longer walk, but she could still swim with her front legs for exercise and just loved it,” Sherri says.
Through treatment with Sassy, Sherri traveled out of state during the winter for hydrotherapy. It was during that time that she started thinking about the possibility to become a hydrotherapist herself. “I wanted to be able to help other people who needed hydrotherapy for their dogs just like Sassy did and could not get it here in Birmingham.
“God was laying this on my heart to pursue.”
While Sassy swam for treatment, Sherri learned to swim dogs for therapy and began work on certifications. Sherri is now certified with the International Association of Animal Massage and Bodywork/Association of Canine Water Therapy (IAAMB/ACWT.) Sherri now swims clients in her pool and also does home visits in the Birmingham area for lessons.
By definition, hydrotherapy for dogs is the use of water to help treat and prevent injury and illness. One aspect is therapy for healing — the water reduces gravity on the dog’s body, which creates a much safer environment for recovery and regeneration. Hydrotherapy offers a dog an enjoyable relaxed and therapeutic recovery from surgery or illness. Then, there is therapy for prevention — it’s great for fitness, body conditioning, and a great source of aerobic exercise that is low impact on the bones and joints.
Sherri takes great care working with prospective clients on how hydrotherapy can best help their dogs. On a first swim, Sherri analyzes the dog’s abilities in the water and determines a plan to help the dog
“This is a VERY important part of my job. Keeping them safe while learning to swim for therapy and exercise.”
Sassy, who was the inspiration for Sherri’s journey, recently passed away, but her legacy to the health of other dogs will live through the hydrotherapy both she and Sherri experienced and grew through.