How long is a session?My regular sessions are up to 2 hours, but usually last around 45 minutes. The time is flexible based on what we're trying accomplish.
What do I get for my sitting fee? It includes my planning and travel time, editing and hosting your gallery on my website. You will also receive a 20% off certificate that expires 30 days from when I post your photos.
Where do you hold your sessions? Central Massachusetts is my normal service area, but I am willing to travel. In some situations, travel fees may apply. I don't have a studio, so all shoots are on location. I work with my clients to find a location that suits the needs of the shoot.
How can my shelter/rescue group get free photos? Just ask and I will work you into my schedule. I have a few rescues that I visit on a regular basis and I'm always happy to add more. I'm dedicated to finding forever homes for as many animals as I can. It is my hope that better photos will help animals stand out on websites like petfinder.com. I just ask that my watermark is left on the photos. The photo on this page is Jingle, a horse that found his home with the help of a rescue group.
How can you help my fundraiser? I offer mini portrait sessions. A portion of each sitting fee goes to the group (charity or team) and the clients receive a gift certificate to purchase prints from my website. I also donate gift certificates for silent auctions.
Do you sell digital files? It's a hard decision for photographers to let go of their files, but today it seems that people expect it. My files are for sale individually, but I urge you to go through me to have them printed. I have access to professional print labs which will give you a much better result than taking files to a one-hour lab in a big box store.
What’s the difference between petting and massage? Can an owner be taught to do it at home?
There are different styles to petting, but most of them don’t compare to massage; the average petting is rarely more than skin deep. Massage is the conscious use of pressure to affect muscles and connective tissues. I teach basic techniques of massage in my workshops so that owners can bond with their pets in a new way. For more advanced techniques, you should take your pet to a certified animal massage therapist.
Does the owner stay with you while giving massage?
I do most of my canine massages in the dog’s home. Most owners watch the first one or stay if the dog has anxiety, but some do work around the house and others check email or read a book. For equine massages, I like it if the owner can be present but I understand that in boarding situations, that's not always possible. I do need to have someone available to bring the horse in. I can massage on cross ties or someone can hold a lead rope. I have massaged on cross ties in an aisle, in a stall or even in a paddock - it will depend on the horse and the situation. Safety for the horse and people are the priority.
How do you put a nervous animal at ease? How can I guess if my dog will like it? How do you handle an animal that may be anxious or resistant to massage but will ultimately benefit from it?
I’ve worked with animals through rescue and photography for over a decade and I’ve learned to be very flexible as far as what to expect. When a person decides to have a massage, they are mentally prepared to lay on a table for an hour, but a dog might not understand why we aren’t playing or might not understand being touched all over. Most horses are used to being groomed and understand how to stand still for long periods, but some are still pretty wiggly.
I work at the animal’s pace and comfort level, starting with an area where they like to be touched. If moving to a new area concerns them, I can go back and “make nice” to reassure them and then try approaching other areas in a different way. Some take a couple of sessions to understand what I’m doing while others enjoy it from the start.
Part of my training was learning about animal body language and I’ve always been intuitive about what animals need from me, so I watch very carefully during a session to make sure that my clients are comfortable and happy. I will not massage an area if I feel that it will cause an animal to kick or bite me.
Do you lay down on the floor with the dog or do they sit in your lap? Do you use special pillows?
I do have a massage table, but I rarely use it. I also bought some dog beds to use for massage, but since I’m in people’s homes, I just use their dog bed or a rug (or even the bed!) The dogs are comfortable with their own scent and I don’t have to worry about bringing in germs. I’ve massaged in just about every room of people’s homes and even out in the yard on nice days. Most of the time I’m sitting up next to the dog, but I will get on my knees and I have actually laid down with a dog while massaging her because it seemed to comfort her.
What are the benefits of massage?
How long do you have? I could talk about this all day! Massage helps every system of your body function better. Massage obviously affects the muscles, but also all the nerves in the muscles work better too. The blood flowing through them is able to carry more oxygen which can promote healing. Massage causes the brain to release a variety of things that promote pain relief and calmness. Keeping the muscles in their proper state can also help prevent some types of injuries. Getting a massage is good for your overall health and not a luxury!
What conditions does massage treat?
This one is trickier to answer. As a massage therapist, I am trained to know what muscle is supposed to feel like and how to apply my techniques to maintain that. It is not in the scope of my practice to diagnose conditions or prescribe treatments for them. Massage has been shown to be helpful to animals who have asthma, anxiety, arthritis, issues with muscle tone, recovering from surgery or injuries as well as many other conditions. Massage is also great for healthy, active animals who may have areas that have gotten overused.
Does massage help with behavior problems, anxiety?
Some animals just don’t know how to relax. Massage releases chemicals in the brain that can allow that to happen. By learning some basic massage techniques and doing a few mini sessions each week, you can really affect how your dog or horse sees the world.
Can massage ease arthritis pain? My dog has arthritis in his rear which makes it hard to rise, would massage help him? He has a lot of sensitive spots.
The majority of my canine clients have been older dogs who definitely see relief from the pain of arthritis. When we are in pain, we tend to tense up which triggers other painful areas. Keeping these dogs relaxed allows them to regain more of their range of motion. I would expect an arthritic dog to have sensitive spots and would work to make him comfortable without causing him more pain.
One dog that I work with has arthritis and a partial cruciate ligament tear and he’s gone from not being able to walk around the block to being able to go over a mile and he can jump on the bed again. The best news is that he no longer needs surgery! I have also brought relief to older horses who suffer with arthritis.
Will massage help hip dysplasia?
Hip dysplasia happens when the head of the femur doesn’t fit properly into the hip joint. Massage can’t change that, but it can help with the muscle tone of the affected leg(s). Most dogs with an ailment like this will compensate by using other limbs to take the pressure off the painful one, so I pay special attention to make sure that the other limbs aren’t suffering in the process. I massaged a large breed dog with hip dysplasia that had knots in her shoulders and was acting much older than her age. After the massage, she ran around like a puppy!
Do you ever discover a problem while massaging (lumps, sores, ticks, etc)? If you encounter a sensitive spot do you investigate it, point it out to the owner, work around it?
I do notice things that the owner might not have seen and always point it out. Some are easy fixes – I’ve found ticks and once I found that a dog had a very light case of fleas and they were able to treat them before it became an infestation! Depending on what I find, I may choose to work around it or investigate, but I always inform the owner. I cannot diagnose things, so I will refer people to their veterinarian if I have concerns.
Do you work in partnership with other alternative healers? How does it relate to traditional pet medicine (can it be used in conjunction with, instead of)
I believe in an integrative approach to medicine which means that no one modality has all the answers and we should be blending Eastern and Western medicine. I think that by working together we can heal much more effectively and I’d love to be part of your animal’s team! For example, they are out of alignment, I can’t fix that; I’m not a chiropractor. A chiropractor will align the bones, but I can relax the muscles that help pull them out of alignment. A veterinarian who uses an integrative approach can determine if a pharmaceutical product would be best to relieve pain or if a natural supplement would be best. Massage is not a substitute for proper medical care.
What kind of training have you had?
I am certified in both canine and equine massage after taking two complete courses of study through Bancroft School of Massage Therapy. Each program was 200 hours and included anatomy, massage techniques and other training. We practiced on animals in class and I also had to document 40 massages for my internship for each program, so by the time I graduated I had massaged nearly 100 animals! I am working on becoming NBCAAM board certified.