At The Dog Dive, Park City’s pooches have a new place to paddle
Angela Dirkers, a massage therapist by trade, was used to the tilted heads, the quizzical looks, when she would tell people that she also practiced her craft on dogs.
Her new business venture is unlikely to elicit a much different reaction from those who are hearing about it for the first time. She recently opened The Dog Dive in Quarry Village, a swimming center for dogs where she specializes in canine water therapy.
"The best way I can get people to understand," she said, "is just like our grandparents do water aerobics in their elderly years to maintain their well-being, it’s the same application for our dogs. And we share very similar physiology, so they have the same effects on dogs."
The results of canine water therapy for aging or injured dogs or those with dysplasia can be startling, Dirkers said. Reduced pain and decreased inflammation in problem areas are primary benefits. She describes a dog who undergoes the therapy as being able to "turn back the clock." But there are mental benefits, too.
"It is a really good psychological release for dogs, as well," she said. "We can’t forget that they have a psychological aspect that influences their overall well-being, too. So with dogs that are in recovery, what better way for them to be happy and to regain confidence and kind of get back to their usual selves?"
Dirkers offers three kinds of sessions at The Dog Dive, which features an 18-foot by 10-foot indoor pool. The first is the therapy. Those sessions are one-on-one, tailored to each dog, and include massages Dirkers does on submersible massage tables.
While aqua therapy for dogs may seem unusual to some, Dirkers said the practice is common in many areas of Europe and is beginning to catch on in the United States, where it’s been done primarily on another kind of four-legged animal.
"Aqua-therapy for pets became popular with horses first," she said. "So the equine community is probably no stranger to this, of course on a much larger scale. But it’s really transitioning to being a popular wellness treatment for dogs as well."
The other two kinds of sessions available at The Dog Dive aren’t reserved for pups with health problems. One allows dogs to play alone in the pool, which gives them plenty of exercise and a satisfying dose of entertainment. The other session is similar — the only difference is the owner gets in the pool, too. Dirkers said that’s a great way to simply have a memorable day with your pooch or for owners to form bonds with new dogs.
Pricing for individual sessions range from $35 for 30 minutes in the pool with your pup to $90 for an hour-long therapy treatment, though multiple sessions can be bought at a lower rate.
Regardless of which kind of session clients choose for their dogs, however, Dirkers is committed to making sure each pet has a great experience. At The Dog Dive, she explained, pups and their parents will be treated like family.
"One of the things that we really focus on here is a very personalized, intimate, individual session," she said. "This isn’t a group swim facility — this is much more personal. With a business that operates that way, I am in a perfect position to treat my clients like they are family. They’re family, their pets are family and I can really build strong connections."
Dirkers first came to Park City nine years ago from Minnesota to ski, and like so many other residents decided to put down roots. The thought of spending her winters on the mountains was the primary allure, but Park City’s reputation as a dog-loving town also caught her attention.
Now, nearly a decade later, she sees Park City as the perfect place to begin turning water therapy into a popular treatment for dogs.
"People are fascinated," Dirkers said. "Some people have followed the progression of this concept for a long time and have waited for something like this. And then other people, I really have to introduce it to them. But for the most part it clicks with people. It’s a pretty easy concept to understand, so people here are loving it. It’s such a unique community that would value something so odd for a pet. But it’s something that people love here."
The Dog Dive
8187 Gorgoza Pines Road
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