Monday, December 28, 2009

Job Postings: Administrative Assistant and All Around Super Star

We're looking for a new admin. Do you know someone who is interested in some part time work? It can be mostly work from home, and ranges from 30mins to 4hours per day. No weekends. I can't pay much, its more of a labor of love.

Here's the requirements:
* Experienced with dogs
(perhaps trains his/her own dogs, has dogs, perhaps is a dog walker, or someone in school...)
* Interested in canine holistic services, dog massage, dog swimming, etc.
* Dependable
* Great with people on the phone and on email
* Comfortable with small details as well as the larger picture
* Technically savvy with Google Calendar, E-Mail, MS Word, Excel, any graphics programs, and other web-based tools
* Attention to detail detail detail
* Willing to work independently with little instruction
* Experienced admin or office administration a plus but not required

Example Tasks:
- Sending reminder emails for appointments
- Sending follow up emails
- Answering voicemails
- Answering emails
- Setting up appointments
- Filing and entering data from intake forms weekly
- Errands for facility (hanging fliers around town, distributing
fliers, picking up copies at copy shop, etc.)
- Writing draft newsletter monthly
- Entering receipts and invoices weekly

Please submit a resume to with subject: TRC Admin Application (and your name in the Subject!)


Monday, November 16, 2009

Drip ... Small rivers & disappointed dogs

Our Pool broke in the beginning of November ... My first experience of true panic with the new business!

We made the mistake of installing the pool ourselves, and didn't think about the fact that once the pipe (flexible pvc) filled with water, it would be... heavier. :) Oops. So, after a few months of not being supported the elbow bracket holding the pipe to the pump just broke. We couldn't find that size of bracket at the local hardware store, so Susan & Ellen & Derek figured out to put a tennis ball into the pump to slow the leak down a bit. Eek.

So...we had to cancel all our swims and we finally got a repair person to help us out. He had some interesting times trying to get the plumbing repaired. Even the night of our big "Caring for your Aging Dog" seminar -- had to clean up a bit more leaking! Well, a couple of days and two more leaks and temporary plumbing falling apart and a bit of freaking out.... Finally it was fixed.

And, the great part is that this repair guy is going to set up a new filter for us, too! So, we'll be closed for Tues-Fri 12/22-12/25 to install a new system adding another 420 sf of filtration. Yay!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

New Products at The Rex Center

We have a very small retail area, but are featuring some new products and thinking about more.

  • Planet Dog Toys:

  • Thundershirt TM is a proven solution for many types of dog anxiety...thunderstorms, fireworks, separation, travel, crate, and more...Whatever the anxiety, Thundershirt's gentle, constant pressure can help calm and focus a dog. No drugs, Easy to Use, Satisfaction guaranteed!

  • Nina Ottosson puzzle toys -- Let your dog search for treats by lifting blocks, pushing blocks, moving discs, pushing buttons, etc. ... Show the dog how to play.

  • Speaking For Spot book by Dr Nancy Kay, ACC Sonoma - With warmth, candor, and humor cultivated over 20-plus years of working with dogs and their human companions Dr. Kay provides an insider’s guide to navigating the potentially overwhelming, confusing, and expensive world of veterinary medicine.

Some products that we're thinking about. Lets us know what you think!

  • K-9 Carts... I took a workshop with the owner of K-9 Carts and witnessed the fitting of two handicapped dogs with this cart. It was amazing, the dogs were thrilled with a little bit of freedom. We're thinking about starting a custom fitting shop and/or rental program.
    Benefits include:

    • Excellent rehabilitative aid for encouraging your pet to return to walking on its own.
    • Keeps your pet happier and healthier as it is able to exercise and join in family activities.
    • Our wheelchair designs encourage leg movement and, in many cases, a return to full rear limb function.
    • Your pet is able to urinate and defecate while in the cart.
    • Nursing care is easier for the pet owner.
    • Stable pelvic support system keeps spine and limbs in alignment and promotes healing.
    • Takes stress off the rear legs.
    • Your pet can use the cart with its legs either down, in the walking position, or up in the support slings, non-walking position.
    • Your pet has the ability to use its rear legs while still being totally supported in the rear.
    • Supporting the rear keeps your pet’s front legs stronger.
    • Encourages normal leg movement when legs are fully supported in slings.
    • Lightweight, eases the strain on your pet.
    • Well balanced cart makes motion easier and safer.

  • Help Me Up Harness features both a front and rear harness lift system for owners helping their dogs with mobility issues. I've seen this in use and it seems fabulous and not too complicated to put on.
  • Double Back Harness is another that has an extra piece to hold the dog's hind end - this one is designed for mountaineering.
  • Web Master Harness is a great harness to help with mobility - and I've seen this in use a lot with dogs who have a hard time getting up from laying down or who might need a little extra support getting around.
  • Walkabout Harnesses is another harness that a local SF-Dog person recommended.

Monday, October 19, 2009

"Couch potato or Physically Fit Senior?" Canine Elder Care: Exercise

Your elderly dog may seem perfectly content lounging around and dozing on the couch all day, and you are probably tempted to let him do so – after all, his stiff legs and achy joints make movement difficult. However, aging dogs can greatly benefit from regular exercise. Just tone it down a bit.

If you once enjoyed spending time with your furry friend outside, like going for walks or jogs, you still can, and should, keep participating in outdoor activities. Depending on your dog’s abilities, you can go for a short walk around the block. While on a walk, let him look and sniff around. The stimulation is wonderful for keeping the mind active and healthy, and can keep him from getting depressed. Playing fetch is another activity that you can still do with your dog – only play for less time than you would with a younger dog, and don’t throw the ball too far. Most dogs will do anything to please their guardians, even overdoing it to keep up with what they think you expect of them. [More info]

For dogs with osteoarthritis, daily moderate exercise can even help delay the continued degeneration of joints. Warm-water swimming is an excellent activity for older dogs with arthritis because it allows them to get a workout that encourages full range of motion of the limbs while being gentle on the joints. Simply being in a warm-water swim spa will create a therapeutic experience for your dog – just think of how a warm bath or hot tub relaxes and soothes your sore muscles.

Making sure your dog moves a little everyday will help prevent atrophy by keeping the muscles toned. Also, as your dog’s metabolism and activity levels decrease, you may notice some extra weight creeping around his abdomen. Regular exercise will help him maintain a healthy weight, which will be great if he has arthritis. The less the burden on the joints, the better!

Check back in the next few weeks for more interesting ideas for keeping your senior dog in less pain, while also being active, sharp-minded and happy.
Long-time dog lover Britany Lueras has a degree in journalism from San Francisco State University and contributes her writing talents to The Rex Center.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

La Paw Spa training at The Rex Center

We had the privilege of hosting a Cindy Horsfall of La Paw Spa at The Rex Center last week and conducting two classes -- a Level 1 beginner course and an Advanced workshop.

Level 1 "Heart of Canine Water Therapy" class

We had 4 people, plus Cindy and a bunch of dogs -- 26 as a matter of fact. They went to Mendocino for two days to learn about water, connect with each other and Cindy - and learn and experience watsu (water massage) for themselves. Then two days later, came to The Rex Center to spend 3 days in the water with dogs!

From Cindy's website ... "I call my training program the 'heart' of canine water therapy as it is just that - the heart - the connection - the foundation from which you can build your practice. It is the consideration of the emotions behind that client seeking out your program, the fears behind the obvious. I will strive to inspire you to embrace the bigger picture - to support your clients fully - both the dog in your arms and their person at pool side. This work is a lot more than it seems ... deeper that it appears ... and so we go to the heart in our training.... "

Each day got progressively harder. I didn't have a lot of 'easy' clients who were available during the day - so day 2 had a lot of new dogs! (A bit harder than expected, oops!)

Here's a picture of the class with a bunch of beautiful shelties ages 15, 6 and 1.5 years old. They did great...

Afterwards, their mom said:
You should have seen Cody, the oldest, BRISKLY TROT, GALLOP, and RUN after puppy Scout in the house after we got home. The fastest gate for him has been a slow trot and mostly just walking. The therapy looks like it was quite beneficial for him tonight, so much so, that I forgot to give him his rimadyl. He’s sleeping now, so I’ll wait until his breakfast to medicate.

Scout and Gina are wild – Gina is chewing on her bully stick and Scout JUST NOW crashed and burned!

Congrats to the four new Level 1 water therapy grads!

Advanced workshop

In the mornings on Thursday and Friday, we had a bunch of additional dogs to work with for a more 'advanced' session with Cindy. Three of us swam with a bunch of new dogs - and we tried to screen for level of difficulty, but ended up with only about half the dogs being really 'difficult'. I learned some new stretches and vocabulary on how to teach others...

Here's a testimonial!

This morning Lula, my dog, volunteered as a "dog professor" in a class for canine water therapists at the Rex Center, a facility in Pacifica that offers aquatic services as well as training classes, workshops, etc.

Lula gives the place four paws up, and I do as well. The facility has a warm, inviting, and professional ambience, and the heated indoor pool is set off in a nice quiet area. The swim therapists were a pleasure to meet and work with. As Lula has never been in a pool before and never actually swum, it was a new and a bit frightening experience for her. They handled her calmly and deftly (as well as affectionately, which always does a guardian's heart good), and by the end of the session she was much more comfortable, looking around and checking out the pool and the room and licking the face of the therapist holding her.

When my last dog, Ruby, was disabled in her final year, we drove all the way down to San Jose to go for aqua therapy because there were no viable options closer. It's great to see places appearing closer to SF that offer this valuable service.

Lula says, "Check it out."


Monday, October 5, 2009

Goodbye, Diamond

Diamond the Dogue de Bordeaux (French Mastiff) went to the "Rainbow Bridge" today this morning after having complications from her back injury. Diamond's family has been bringing her to The Rex Center for a couple of months now since she's been home after her injury that left her hind legs immobilized. She had a great time swimming because it gave her the mobility that she no longer had on land. We played in the water, let her straighten out her back, moved her back legs and cheered when she swam and her tail wagged.

All of us at The Rex Center got the chance to swim with Diamond and we'll all miss her.

Our memorial at The Rex Center is a set of Pet Prayer Flags -- and we're going to write the names of dogs that we've lost or that our clients have lost on a ribbon and tie them to the strings in between the flag. Having a memorial is important closure for all of us. We'll burn a candle, say a prayer or offer reiki to help her passing and to comfort the family.

In the Bay Area, we're lucky to have a lot of great resources for pet loss support too. I think its a very hard thing to talk about grief and losing an animal. I've met and talked to Betty Carmack (SF SPCA) and think she's wonderful. I've talked to Dr Nancy Kay via email and think that all of these groups are likely great and supportive. Here's a short list:

(Thanks for the comment (below) that this UC Davis phone line is no longer in operation
"Pet Loss Support Hotline: (800)565-1526 or (530)752-4200 Monday-Friday 6:30-9:30pm (West Coast time) is staffed by volunteers from the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine")

And, of course there's always the Rainbow Bridge poem. I still like it.

Just this side of heaven is a place called Rainbow Bridge.

When an animal dies that has been especially close to someone here, that pet goes to Rainbow Bridge.There are meadows and hills for all of our special friends so they can run and play together. There is plenty of food, water and sunshine, and our friends are warm and comfortable.

All the animals who had been ill and old are restored to health and vigor; those who were hurt or maimed are made whole and strong again, just as we remember them in our dreams of days and times gone by.

The animals are happy and content, except for one small thing; they each miss someone very special to them, who had to be left behind. They all run and play together, but the day comes when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance. His bright eyes are intent; His eager body quivers. Suddenly he begins to run from the group, flying over the green grass, his legs carrying him faster and faster.

You have been spotted, and when you and your special friend finally meet, you cling together in joyous reunion, never to be parted again. The happy kisses rain upon your face; your hands again caress the beloved head, and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet, so long gone from your life but never absent from your heart.

Then you cross Rainbow Bridge together....

Author unknown...


Monday, September 7, 2009

Who Swims at The Rex Center? A day in the life...

I've been asked quite often - "Who swims at The Rex Center?" Or sometimes in the form of "Is that for xxx dogs?" Where xxx could be "old" or "injured" ... So, I thought I'd describe one of our recent days - just to give a flavor of who does come to swim at The Rex Center!

(names are changed)
"Heike" is a 9 year 'young' German Shepherd mix. She's swimming because she has bad hips but also to help her lose weight. She started a few months ago and has been coming almost every week for a 50-minute assisted swim. The first few weeks, she didn't want to swim - but enjoyed the massage and tread water a tiny bit. Now she jumps in on her own and cries for her toy to be thrown! She's lost over 15 pounds and is doing better running and walking at the park when she's not swimming.

"Chris" is a 10 year old extra-large PitBull mix. He enjoys the massage and swimming because of arthritis in his back and a knee surgery a few years ago. He doesn't swim willingly, so the swim coaches have to hold him to carry him back away from the steps - and let him swim back to mom who's waiting outside the pool at the steps. He has such a long body that its sometimes a challenge to hold him. He gets a great workout with one of us holding onto him and making him tread water. He comes every week and his movement out of the pool is improving.

"Talon" came for the first time this weekend. He's a German Shepherd with fear aggression issues around other dogs. So, he doesn't get to go out to parks much and could really use the exercise to help him lose a bit of weight. Since we offered to clear out the place, his mom was able to bring him to swim and hopes to bring him a few times per month. He relaxed and was carried around in the pool in order to swim.

"Woodrow" is an 6-year old black lab who just loves to swim. He has some undiagnosed issues that causes him to limp after running with his dad. So, his Aunt is bringing him up to swim. He is in "open swim" - where he just swims and his Aunt throws his special stick for him to get. They use the jets because he's a powerful swimmer. He comes every other week for a fun dip and good exercise.

"Letty" swam for the first time this weekend, too. She is a mixed breed dog who's slightly overweight and has (according to her vet) "weak front joints". She's only 5, so her mom is trying different things with diet and is hoping that swimming will help her legs and help her gain some strength. We did massage to help get her used to being in the water and carried her out into the water to let her swim back.

"Keith" is a young Chocolate Lab who swims every week. He is ENTHUSIASTIC swimmer - he shouts in his parents ears the whole way to The Rex Center (they even showed me a video of him barking/yoewling). He alternates between 'open' swim by himself and 'assisted' swim to help him relax a little. If we wait too long between swims, he will bark - and loud! He ignores the "No Diving" stickers that are affixed to the pool. ;)

"Nico" was our third new dog during this day. He was reportedly 'not fond' of water. But, he's on the older side and is having some hip and ankle issues. He wasn't clamoring to get out after the first few minutes, and hung out a bit for massage. After being carried out into the pool a few times, he started swimming very smoothly and would park himself back on the steps. He seemed unfazed by being in the water, so hopefully he'll have just as much fun the next time.

"Shaynah" is a young Mastiff who had an undiagnosed problem where now she's lost mobility of her back legs. She's been coming weekly for about a month. Being in the water lets her straighten out her spine, hold her hind up with her one leg that is has a little bit of mobility and swim - and be free to move on her own a bit! We've seen her movement wax and wane - some weeks she wags her tail, others she doesn't. This week, she even used one of her back legs to push off of her swim coach!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Frannie the former service dog swims

It isn’t uncommon for older dogs to end up in animal shelters, and Frannie, an 11-year-old lab mix, unfortunately didn’t escape such a fate. Frannie used to be a service dog, but her owner could no longer care for her and so she was surrendered to a shelter. But about two weeks ago Frannie’s luck changed.

After spending an unknown amount of time in the shelter, Muttville, a non-profit organization that finds foster homes for senior dogs deemed “unadoptable” by animal shelters, gave this sweet-faced girl a second chance. To add to Frannie’s good fortune, The Rex Center donated two swimming sessions to the older dog rescue. Sherri Franklin, the founder of Muttville, called around to the foster parents to see who would be interested and available for such an opportunity. When the call got around to Jadie, Frannie’s foster mom, she jumped on the chance to see how swimming could benefit Frannie.

Canine aquatic fitness is a wonderful and therapeutic way to provide exercise for senior dogs because the water presents a safe environment in which the dog weighs about 10 percent of what they do on land, creating less stress on joints. Additionally, “water can decrease inflammation, increase circulation and in its safe and supportive ways, increase range of motion as the non-gravity environment can enhance stretches and movement,” according to an article by Cindy Horsfall.

Swimming can also help build muscle, and in the case of Frannie, she really needed to rebuild her hind leg muscles that had deteriorated from being neglected. A vet told Jadie that Frannie had probably spent quite some time sleeping on a concrete floor, causing the calluses on her elbows and knees. She was also under weight, which was a cause for her evident muscle loss.

For her first swim session, Ann (Frannie's swim coach) focused on getting Frannie acquainted with being in a new place—after all, she had just gone from living wither her owner, to living in a shelter, to living in a foster home. “It was more of an evaluation-type of swim, especially since no one knew too much about her,” Ann said. Frannie, as most dogs in new situations, was hesitant to get in the water, but she allowed Ann to hold her. “We didn’t want to rush her. We wanted to develop that bond with her,” Ann explained.

After a gentle entry and introduction to the water, Ann gave Frannie a light massage and gradually moved further into the pool. Ann held Frannie in her arms to create a safe island, and also encouraged her to stand in the water—by supporting Frannie’s feet on her legs. By using slow, gentle massage strokes and creating an environment where it isn’t always about the swimming, Frannie could benefit by stretching her warmed muscles and balancing with the support of the water.

When Frannie got out of the pool, Jadie noticed that she appeared energized, and in between visits “her back legs seemed to be better.”

During Frannie’s second swim session, “she hesitated at to get in at first,” Ann commented, “but then she really enjoyed it. She let out a couple of really deep sighs.” Because Ann had taken the time to establish a bond and a level of comfort in the pool during the first session, Ann was able to get Frannie to swim a few lengths of the pool very gracefully and confidently.

Although Frannie only had two swims at The Rex Center, Ann still had short-term goals for her. “We met, and maybe even exceeded them,” she said. The main goal was to get Frannie to make sure she was comfortable and then could swim, and that was accomplished in two 25-minute sessions.

Before coming to The Rex Center with Frannie, Jadie wasn’t familiar with canine aquatic fitness, but was able to see how beneficial it could be for older dogs through the improvements she saw in Frannie. “This was extremely generous of Cathy and Ann to donate their time. It really is making a difference for Frannie.”

Frannie is still up for adoption. Please consider an older dog the next time you adopt!

Written by Britany Lueras, Edited by Cathy Chen-Rennie

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Prince from the SF SPCA

Its August... so its been a little bit slow at The Rex Center. We decided to take advantage of the break and donate a swim to a SF SPCA dog.

They sent a cute little Rottweiler Pug(?) mix named Prince. The SPCA sent me a picture (via twitter! @sfspca) that he was looking forward to a "splish splash!"

He came for a short swim and got the privilege of swimming with both Susan and Ann! Susan said, "Prince is a sweet older man, strong swimmer! Prince did very well being handed in the pool and swam really well."

The volunteer who brought Prince, Deborah, sent us this lovely email.

Hello Cathy,

Thank you very much for inviting one of our shelter dogs to enjoy a Rex Center swim session.

When I picked Prince up at the shelter he was anxious to get outside and I took him for a walk to do his business. During the car ride down to Pacifica his energy was nervous and fidgety.

After the swim session, when I got Prince back into my car, he rolled around on his back in a very delighted manner then lay down on the back seat, put his head on his front paws and turned his head slightly to one side. His energy was so relaxed, contented and happy that it was contagious. He was a different dog.

When we walked back into the shelter he had a wonderful energy, not at all frantic like his usual energy. His walk was brisk and happy. I could feel his happy, peaceful energy. He seemed so content.

I believe the Rex Center experience is more than exercise. It is a nurturing healing experience as well. The positive encouragement, the soothing reassurances and affection he received from the two women who held him so lovingly, stroking him, kissing him was transformative.

The two women, I believe their names were Susan and Annie gave so much of themselves to Prince during the session and he loved all of it. Swimming between them in the warm water was meditative and soothing to his soul as well as good exercise for his body. They showered him with love, affection and reassurance.

The ambiance in the pool area was incredible. The music, the lighting, the mood, ever last detail was taken care of.

I will admit that on the way down, I thought, why spend 80 dollars to take your dog swimming why not just take him to the beach or a lake in the park but after experiencing the session at your center I would say that it would be money well spent and a great gift to any dog whether they needed the exercise or not. Although the exercise was outstanding, it was just so much more than that.

Thank you so much for giving this gift to Prince.
I am not surprised that he got adopted after his visit to your center.


Deborah Heller
SPCA Dog Behavior Volunteer

(Pictures from Deborah can be found here.)

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Opening The Rex Center (Article for "SPLASH" Canine Water Therapy Association Newsletter)

When the idea of opening a canine aquatic fitness center transforms from being a dream into being a reality, it can take a lot of time, planning and patience (not to mention money and determination!). For me, the journey of creating The Rex Center began when my Shetland sheepdog, Vaastu, was diagnosed with an atrophied femur at 11 months old and had to undergo femoral head ostectomy.

After his surgery I scoured the Internet for ways to help Vaastu recuperate. I found lots of different things about “water therapy,” such as working with a hydro treadmill, but I mainly came across information about swimming. I soon found a facility in Menlo Park called Scout’s House where I began taking Vaastu for canine rehabilitation (including a water treadmill). At the same time, I also started working with him in my backyard after I bought a 7x7-foot hot tub. I wasn’t too sure of what I was doing, so when I found Cindy Horsfall of La Paw Spa in Washington, I was thrilled. Cindy has been doing water therapy for over 15 years and offers classes that teach the techniques used for canine swimming. My excitement dissipated after I contacted her and learned that her classes were full. Fortunately, as providence would have it, she called me at the last minute to let me know a spot had opened up.

Cindy’s class was wonderful for me. It was transformative in many ways that I didn’t expect. I learned so much about intention, and about water. During the class, Cindy started encouraging me to think about offering “canine aquatic fitness” (as we call it in California) in my hot tub for small dogs. After taking the classes, I decided that I really wanted to do something like this—have a warm water pool facility for dogs! But I also realized that having the facility in my home was not going to be for me. I prefer to keep my space private.

So, now I had a dream, but didn’t know how to really turn it into a reality. People thought I was crazy, but I knew that my dog needed warm water swimming and that others in the area needed it as well. My partner Susan was supportive, but worried that we wouldn’t be able to afford it. Susan and I talked to some vets, and they were enthusiastic and thought warm water swimming would be a great service to have for the area. I also talked to quite a few other people in the Canine Water Therapy Association, looked around at what other businesses were doing and just kept thinking about it without doing much.

This is where the help of Veronica Boutelle of dogTEC came in. dogTEC is a company that consults with people who are changing careers and starting dog businesses, such as dog daycare and dog walking, and helps them establish their business, craft marketing strategies and helps set them up for success. Although Veronica has worked with clients across the country, she wasn’t too familiar with the type of dog business I wanted to start, but was willing to take the time to learn more about dog swimming and canine rehabilitation.

Veronica also helped figure out how many dogs I’d have to swim per day and how much I’d need to charge in order to be profitable. She was able to determine that my facility wouldn’t be able to make enough money for me to support my family with me as the only employee doing dog swimming 5 days a week. After sitting down with Veronica once, she came up with the idea to incorporate day care and dog training into the business plan.

In June and July of 2008, Veronica and I began working on coming up with the name based on the scope of the business. She suggested that if I was having trouble with creating a name that I should email everyone that I knew for ideas. She also contacted creative people that she knew, and a lot of good ideas came about although most of the names had already been taken or were trademarked. Susan came up with “The Balanced Dog”—which we almost used—but the domain names were already taken and there was a “Balanced Dog Training” in Atlanta.

Eventually, someone came up with “The Rex Center -- All Dogs Allowed”. (Just like a park and recreation center—with a pool and a recreation room—but normally dogs aren’t allowed). We went with it! Because I am not an artist, and wasn’t coming up with any super inspired ideas for the logo, Veronica recommended a designer to create the look. Veronica proceeded to introduce me to Melanie Barti to design my logo. This has helped in the long run, because Melanie has designed the business cards, brochures and the soon-to-be website. Based on the description of the business, Melanie came up with 4 fantastic logos. We chose one, and then she tested out different colors and fonts.

Because we were doing dog daycare, we targeted finding a facility that was a minimum of 2,000 square feet. I decided to focus my property hunt in Pacifica, where there are 5 vets, one of them being a holistic vet. It’s 15 minutes south of my house in San Francisco, and could attract people from the “Peninsula” (south) as well as from the “City” (San Francisco). I did enough homework to know where to look within the city, and looked in certain areas designated for level 2 or 3 commercial use, only.

During my 6-month facility search, I came upon a “perfect” building that was in the process of being built. I could add drains, extra doors and ventilation, all before the building was completed! But, could I afford to buy a facility? Veronica and I went over the benefits of buying a property versus renting one. Given the economic climate in August 2009, the answer was no.

In the meantime, Louisa Craviotto, a fellow canine water therapy member who has also been looking to open a pool in Northern California, and I searched for “the perfect” pool. She talked to Florida North about their pool for sale, but found out there would be issues with shipping it to California (extra “tax” from the state to the tune of $18,000). We documented many pool manufacturers in the ACWT Yahoo! Group database. One day she came across a listing on Craigslist for a used swim spa. Turns out, it was a personal pool being sold by a spa dealer in Santa Cruz. I bought the pool in September despite not having a site to place it. Luckily the guy agreed to store it until December 1st. This was incentive for me to find a place “now”!

Finally, in October 2008 I found the location that would be the future home of The Rex Center and had the pool delivered the following month. The next step was to begin the process of obtaining a building permit through the city’s planning commission. It took me about 3 weeks to figure out how to apply for the use permit, and because I was not a vet, I would have to go through the full city planning process.

The business proposal began with gathering the names and addresses of property owners within 300 feet of the property and tenants (residents or businesses) within 100 feet so that they could have the chance to respond to the new plan. Then we had to create site maps, drainage maps, elevations, and other numerous documents and make 5 copies of each. When I was finally ready to send the proposal off to the city in mid November, I had about an inch and a half worth of paper! At this point, the city planning staff had a full month to respond—either with a rejection or an approval allowing me to move forward with proposing the plan to the city planning commission. During this month, they also sent the documents to all other offices that were concerned, for example, the fire department.

After 29 days, I got a response: my application was incomplete. I had to go back and change the plans to include a drain, which would cost me $6,000 to have installed. I had to figure out if this was something I could afford. Within a week, I resubmitted the application, and it was accepted for the planning commission’s next monthly meeting, which would be held in January because of December’s holidays. Another month of waiting…

As I was going through the approval process with the city, I reconnected with Veronica and we began working on marketing. Most of it was practical, common sense, but it was nice to hear it from someone who is knowledgeable. We worked on my brochure and website copy with a marketing writer. Then, we put together a packet of articles and a nice cover letter to give to vets. She recommended a “glossy folder”—so that it would hold up nicely—a logo label on front, and a couple of vet articles and a news article. Louisa and I worked on reading vet articles and news articles, found a few that we liked, included those and the Association of Canine Water Therapy code of ethics.

Also in the meantime, in November, I went to the Rocky Mountain School of Animal Acupressure and Massage and completed their two intro classes in canine therapeutic massage and canine sports massage. I also took a Reiki class with a fabulous teacher who is also an animal communicator. I made many more friends in the canine massage world, along the way. Each of those massage certifications required case-studies, so I started using The Rex Center on the weekends to meet my massage ‘clients’.

Fast-forward to January… I went to the planning commission meeting (finally!) I was number 9 on the agenda, and by the time it was my turn I had been there for nearly 2 hours. It was nerve-racking because each applicant ahead of me had been turned down. Thankfully, my proposal was approved, and unexpectedly, a local business owner stood up and gave The Rex Center his support. What a relief that all of that waiting and time spent filling out paperwork had paid off!

The next two months were spent doing construction permit applications. I hired a neighbor who happened to be a drafter to draw up plans. We went back and forth with the building official—who had told us all about his Border Collie. ;) By mid March, when the building permits had been approved, I was able to have the ADA (American with Disabilities Act) required doors installed. I also had the ramp leading up to the swim spa and the deck around the pool built, along with the railings and walls. Susan had the major painting was done by May 1st. On May 6th The Rex Center underwent its final inspection and I was ready for business!

Now that my dream has become a reality with The Rex Center’s official opening in May, we had just under 75 water sessions in May! Louisa is working with me while she still looks for a place to open her pool—so The Rex Center is open on Wednesdays and I swim with dogs on Saturday and Sundays. There are the lovely old dogs who just need the water and massage. There are young dogs whose owners want them to learn to swim. I even helped a Portuguese water dog “study” for his apprentice water dog title!

It’s almost too early to say if this is everything I expected. There are small successes like converting an inquiry into an appointment—and getting a first timer to come back a second or third time. Susan is taking Cindy’s class this month—and while she’s not in school this summer will begin opening the center more often. In mid-June, we’re doing an open house—inviting the local vets and everyone we can think of. There are so many things coming up that it’s too long to list. Keep an eye on our Twitter stream and website!

Thanks to Britany Lueras for helping me write this article.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Photo shoot

My web and print designer _really_ wanted me to do a photoshoot in the water, because all of my pictures weren't the best . . . and she really wanted a dog that was half in and half out of the water. She lined up (a) a pool! (b) a photographer with an underwater setup and (c) dogs to swim! She warned me the pool (outdoors) would be cold, so get a wetsuit. . . I ran around town - thank goodness I live in a surfing town - to find a
wetsuit in my size - no such luck but managed to get one special ordered just in time. (arrived Friday for a Saturday shoot.) I told the guys what I was doing - and they recommended a shorty - cause the regular wetsuits they sell are for 50 degree water (i.e. the Pacific Ocean in San Francisco.) [remember this number. . . a long wetsuit would have been good for 50 degrees. . . are you thinking what I'm thinking?]

So, Vaastu, Stella and I arrive at Mel's friend's house - its a lovely day, the sun in shining, we're all ready. . . . Her friend lets us in and shows us around -- and says 'hang on, let me go check the
pool temperature. I have one of those old 70's solar panel heating systems - so its _drained_ for the season. Hope Mel warned you it would be cold!' She returned and cheerfully said, "the pool is 48 degrees." EEK! I got the short wetsuit 'cause the other one would have been too warm! What?

Oh well!

It all worked out, we took short stints in the water -- the only sunny spot in the pool was in the deep end, so I ended up treading water or swimming away from Vaastu (sheltie) like an otter on my back to make him follow me but to try to get myself out of the shot! Only Einstein the Lab liked swimming in the pool. The two times I tried to get Stella to swim (she likes swimming now - even took herself down the river at my friend V's house) she splashed furiously and got out. I think it was too cold for her! I didn't freeze too badly, my arms and legs turned a very bright red - but I got out and warmed up in the sun quite often.

In the end, we got some awesome pictures!

Friday, January 9, 2009

What is Reiki . . . Practicing practicing

What is Reiki?

Reiki is fabulous, interesting, powerful. Its energy work that can be used for healing physical and emotional issues.

Here's a more thorough answer (

The name Reiki, pronounced ''Ray-key'', comes from the Japanese words ''rei'' meaning spirit, and ''ki'' meaning energy. It is usually translated as ''universal life energy.''

Reiki is also a Japanese holistic energy healing system that is gentle and noninvasive and yet yields powerful results for the body, mind and spirit.

When using Reiki to heal, the practitioner simply sets an intention to facilitate the healing process of the client and allows Reiki to flow in whatever amount the client wishes to receive and for whatever he or she needs most.

It is ideal for use with animals because with Reiki, since effectiveness is not dependent upon physical contact, the animal controls the treatment, accepting Reiki in the ways that are most comfortable, either hands-on or from a distance, or a combination of the two.

Easy for anyone to learn and use, Reiki can do no harm, even when used by the most novice practitioner. It always goes to the deepest source of the problem and always supports a path towards balance and harmony.

I've been practicing Reiki ever since I got back from my Reiki and subsequent massage classes. As part of another class, I've been journaling about working with various animals...

Sumba the Pomeranian (back of picture) just lost his sister Dewi (front) last week. I asked Reiki to flow and said to myself that this was for Sumba's health, wellbeing and higher good. I just lay down, with my hands open and felt them warming up. I kept myself into thinking about Sumba, about his ability to let go and wondering whether he was missing Dewi. After about five minutes, he came into the room and walked right up to the side of the bed. So, I picked him up and let him wander around on the bed. I went back to just offering reiki, not really moving. He settled into the pillow just about a foot next to me. After another couple of minutes, he got up, went to the foot of the bed and coughed a few times. (He also has a collapsing trachea and occasionally coughs to get it unstuck.) Then he lay down again and fell asleep. I also told Sumba (in my head) that he could take this Reiki energy as he needed it and use it for what he needed it for. I felt the Reiki in my hands and breathed into giving him Reiki from the other side of the bed for another ten minutes.

There was a spider in our shower yesterday so I just sat on the floor about two feet away and offered it Reiki. He (I called it he, not sure really, didn't check) started out close to me in the shower and was staying very still. After a quick minute (maybe 30-seconds), he started crawling over to the other side of the shower away from me -- I got the sense that it was too intense and he had to get out of my sight. He stopped on the other side of the shower where I couldn't see him because of the shower door. I closed the session after another minute or two, as I felt the energy sort-of close off.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Happy New Year! What's up with The Rex Center?

Happy new year everyone!

Its been an interesting month or two since I’ve written an update. Lots of major changes and events -

What's happening with the Rex Center facility?
- The application for our city planning request was accepted and we were told that 1/5 was the next available meeting. Next week we get a 10 minute slot to present to the city planning commission and pending that they approve (that is the recommended action) then we start construction! We have to find a plumber, but think we have an electrician and contractor lined up. We have to add drains to the floors and re-arrange how the pool is setup so that we can get ADA approved ramps up to the deck of the pool.

- My dog trainer (Natalie 3RsAgility) that I've been apprenticing with at Sirius puppy training is planning on staying in the bay area so she's going to lease the facility to teach agility fundamentals and we've asked Sirius to consider The Rex Center as a location for Puppy classes too.

- Susan's got a plan for paint and lovely colors thanks to a book from my friend Alessandra! We're going to use a blue that is a couple shades darker than the logo, a light yellow, an orange, and a grassy green! Bright and cheery but still sporty.

Any other business plans?
- The text for our website is done and its off to Mel Barti, our designer, so hopefully our website will be done in a month. She's even included our logo and one of the business card designs in her portfolio (under Brand Identity).

- Veronica at dogTEC has been helping me figure out a marketing strategy and critiquing a packet of related articles that Louisa (The Swimming Dog) and I have put together.

What's happening with Cathy?
1. Took canine massage and Reiki classes at the Rocky Mountain School of Animal Acupressure and Massage! I discovered that massage (on land) is interesting and got some great knowledge and techniques, but also found that I didn’t love it as much as being in the water and working with the dogs there. Many of the good things are similar – such as using your intention to inform the dog of what you’re doing and working on noticing reactions from one spectrum to the other. The classes also taught me two very good head-to-toe routines. I’m now working on case studies for those massage certificates. (6 dogs each for 6 weeks, documentation, documentation, etc.)
2. I really loved the Reiki class and have continued practicing on myself and my animals. I am also taking further coursework with Kathleen Prasad of the Animal Reiki Source in San Rafael. She offers an internship that I’d like to do in the future, so hopefully I will get to meet her eventually. (She co-authored a book called Animal Reiki.)
3. Swimming dogs . . . I've now swum with the aformentioned Natalie's agility Bichon Frise! He's a sporty little 9-year old who was having some health problems. After his first swim, he was crazy excited and mom was very happy. :) We've had a little hiatus because his chiropractor was concerned about his neck and swimming. But hopefully we'll get into the 'pool' (a.k.a. the 7x7' spa in my back yard) soon. Natalie's also been lining up her agility students/friends to come swim at The Rex Center -- if only we could open soon!!
4. I've become an aromatherapy fanatic. I took an aromatherapy class in Colorado (along with the Reiki & Massage) by Frances at Frogworks. I have bought a zillion oils and we had an aromatherapy party where we made sugar and salt scrubs, lipgloss, and 'signature scents'. So far, the massage dogs and our dogs have been benefiting from oils too -- Stella likes Frankinsence, Sumba Vetiver, Dewi was getting Eucalyptus, and Vaastu was attracted to Thyme. . . I've been using Spikenard for sleeping better . . .

What else??
- Dewi -- referenced in "The Swimming Pomeranian" -- went to the Rainbow Bridge in early December. She slid downhill pretty quickly with collapsing trachea to the point where she would turn purple multiple times a day.

- We have two new housemates -- two 19 year old college students. They are renting the room downstairs. So we've re-arranged our house so that most of our living space is upstairs now.
I like my new office. Its connected to the main area of the house and I have more cabinet space for mixing oils and a small sewing setup. Hopefully it doesn't explode with stuff soon. :)

- Started a new job in December! Its always a bit brain taxing to learn a whole new industry -- so apologies for the update delay and no holiday cards this year! I've been fairly exhausted with all the changes and things to do plus learning a lot!

Gotta run, Sumba needs to go outside!