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Voyages - Dr. Sue Furman, Canine Massage

I have seen more than I remember, and remember more than I have seen - Disraeli

A s someone who has earned a PhD and counts Nobel Prize winners as acquaintances, Dr. Sue Furman is no easy touch — but she has one.

The 72-year-old is the author of four books — and working on a fifth — all but one devoted to the care, and massaging, of pets. Mostly dogs. "Some cats like it," she says. "But, cats are cats."

It all began with Max. Max was a German Shepherd pet who, as he grew older, suffered from arthritis. He was having a difficult time getting in and out of the car.

Voyages - Banjo - Canine Massage

"With my background in anatomy and physiology, I thought I ought to be able to help."

Indeed. she had earned a PhD. in Biological sciences from the University of Texas in Austin and a masters in Zoology from southern Illinois University.

"I've always been interested in animals," she says — including a pet garden snake she kept as an undergraduate in her college dorm until monitors discovered it. "I named him Archie, They told me either Archie had to go or I did."

And there was snooks, a Chihuahua her uncle gave her when Furman was five and who had lived until Furman was in graduate school.

Over the years, a significant number of dogs can thank what Furman learned while treating max. She also wanted to share what she had learned. She started writing. "If you are going to massage a dog, you better know where you are putting your hands," she says.

Today, many books later, under the business name of "Holistic Touch Therapy," she treats dogs at her home west of the city. Her client list is a small United nations.

"I've taught students from Arizona, Singapore, Greece, Australia, Puerto Rico, Canada, and from all over the United states," she says. "There aren't that many dog massage schools around. They couldn't find help anywhere else."

She also offers courses online with a PowerPointTM presentation that includes demonstration videos. Her weekly column, "Your Happy Pet," appears in the Victoria daily newspaper. She also has taught courses on canine first aid and CPR and taught at the Victoria zoo.

While her treatments are geared mostly for dogs, she also has treated horses. And, her technique works just as well on small dogs. "Instead of using your whole hand, you just use two fingers," she explains.

The best advice she can give? Start regular massages for dogs when they are puppies. "They get used to hands-on attention when they are young. It also helps them when they go to the vet. If the vet has to examine an ear, for instance, it's not something strange that's never been done," she says.

In addition, she has noted that dogs who receive regular massages tend to recover more quickly from accidents or surgery. "Every dog, I think, is an athlete," she says. "Some are more like I am. They are, sort of, couch-potato athletes. But, they still need to be kept fit.

"Knowing the anatomy of a dog, and what is going on in its body, it made sense to me. I have all these little tidbits about how many inches of nerve and blood vessels are in half-a-square inch of a dog's skin. When you are putting your hands on a dog, you are really affecting it. It changes the circulation and everything that's going on, and quickly.

"If massages help people," she asks, "why wouldn't the same be true for dogs?" Banjo, Dulcie and Mellow can answer that. They are Furman's three Irish Wolfhounds.

"People typically choose dogs which match the owner's personality," Furman says. "See these guys? All of them just lying around, laid-back, relaxed. I'm not sure, but they may be the only Irish Wolfhounds in the city."

The three dogs cover much of Furman's floor. They are leery of strangers. "It seems strange to describe dogs that size as shy, but they are." And loyal.

An indication of the depth of their relationship with Furman is gleaned from a doorbell and a doormat.

Her doormat warns "Dogs Welcome; People Tolerated." The doorbell is nestled in a sign that reads "To Release the Hounds, Press Here."

Considering her vocation, perhaps a change is in order: "To Relieve the Hounds, Press Here."

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