Wendy Rall shows some love to a Chihuahua.
PHOTO BY LINDA COBARRUBIAS
Carl the one-eyed, wire-haired Chihuahua-terrier mix slowly sways side to side as his upper body rests on a blue pool noodle in a tub of warm water. His body relaxes and lets go of tension while Wendy Rall, a certified canine massage therapist, keeps him calm during his first hydrotherapy session. Prior to Carl’s first session, Rall says, he was very stiff and had extreme arthritis in his joints to the point where his legs were unable to bend.
“By his third hydrotherapy session, he was actually moving his stiff little legs in the water,” she shares. “It was so exciting.”
When you hear about a canine massage therapist, you might think, I can just massage my own dog. But the certification training goes beyond ear scratches, ensuring therapists understand effective pressure points, specific treatments that different dogs may need, and how to help heal them to improve their overall well-being.
The hands-on therapy incorporates manipulation of the soft tissue structures of the body to prevent and relieve pain. In order to massage a dog, one must understand its physiology and anatomy, so no harm is done.
Rall, who has been working with dogs for 20 years on a volunteer basis, was turned on to dog therapy when her pup Planeta began to struggle with walking. Her deep love for animals and desire to help them on a daily basis in a professional manner is what inspired her to pursue it as a career path. She became certified three years ago and now offers dog services through her business, Rescued Tails Canine Therapy, including massage, hydrotherapy, cold laser treatments, music therapy, laser acupoint therapy, and kinesiology taping.
Rall offers in-home appointments in Greater Palm Springs, as well as massage therapy at Margaritaville Resort Palm Springs and massage, cold laser, and acupoint therapy at Barkingham Pet Hotel in Palm Desert.
“They benefit by improved blood and lymphatic fluid flow, pain relief, the tight muscles are relaxed, sprains can be healed, and stress is reduced,” Rall says, noting that massage can also aid in improving a dog’s digestion, strengthening its immune system, lowering blood pressure, and even building muscles. “There are extensive benefits, very similar to the benefits that humans experience.”
Rall with two of her dogs, Planeta and Reyna.
PHOTO BY ARIANA MUNOZ
Although most of her clients are senior dogs, Rall treats all ages. With puppies, her services focus on reducing anxiety. For older dogs, who are prone to develop arthritis or have other injuries, the treatment may be used to alleviate pain.
Depending on the degree of arthritis a dog has, it may benefit from therapy sessions once a month or once a week. “If they’re in rough shape, I’ll see them a few times a week for a couple of weeks, and then gradually set the appointments further apart,” she says. “But once a month minimum for even a mild case.”
After one therapy session, dogs with arthritis can start to see progress. It all depends on the condition and the health state of the dog, Rall says, and how much exercise they get on a daily basis.
“She’s very talented, and she’s made a difference for these animals,” says Lori Weiner, owner of Barkingham Pet Hotel California in Palm Desert and founder of the nonprofit California Paws Rescue, who has been working with Rall for about two years.
Barkingham is expanding its facilities with a Canine Wellness Spa, set to open this fall, where Rall will provide new hydrotherapy services using underwater treadmills. The machines will offer a gentler option for dogs with mobility issues to get their steps.
“I’m going to be doing watsu massages there, which is water shiatsu,” Rall shares. “That’s very relaxing and healing for the mind and body of the dog.”
Prior to moving to the Coachella Valley, Rall lived and volunteered in Mexico.
She was on a month long surfing vacation in Cabo San Lucas when she fell in love with the place and felt drawn to stay. “I began rescuing dogs from the streets, beaches, and barrios daily,” she shares. “As heartbreaking as much of it was, it was so heartwarming to help a dog to either heal and have a new life or to pass to the afterlife with love and dignity.”
In between surfing waves and rescuing strays, Rall helmed a boutique design firm and co-founded Mexico’s first surfing magazine, Planeta Surf La Revista. During that time, she was invited to join the board of directors for the Humane Society of Cabo San Lucas, and that led to her co-founding the Los Cabos Humane Society.
“I had no idea how one surfing vacation would change the course of my life!”
When Rall returned to the United States, she continued working in design, but it wasn’t fulfilling anymore. While trying to figure out what to do next, she remembered a Facebook post she had seen about canine massage therapy. After doing some research and seeing the effects on her own dog, she decided to change career paths.
Rall received her certifications from Canine Ripples, Holistic Animal Studies, International Association of Animal Massage and Bodywork, and Associated Bodywork & Massage Professionals. Each organization offers online courses and requires a certain number of training hours for certification. Areas of study include canine cellular biology; Rall also studied Swedish Shiatsu Washa.
“I scored 100 [on the final exam] and was told that that’s very rare to get a 100 score. That’s something I’m proud of,” Rall says.
Outside the office, she loves to dine out in Palm Springs and spend time with her fur babies. She has three dogs: a recently rescued American bulldog puppy named Trigger and two that she rescued more than 12 years ago in Mexico, Planeta and Reyna. She also has a Gypsy Vanner horse named Calvin.
When it comes to work, meeting new dogs is Rall’s favorite part of the job. The most rewarding aspect is helping them heal. “Seeing them able to walk again just makes me so happy,” she says.
Case in point: Carl, who has suffered from arthritis and stiff joints for more than a year. After one hydrotherapy session and five massage/cold laser treatments, the little guy is now able to run. Thanks to Rall’s love, passion, and dedication for dogs, Carl –– and many other dogs like him –– are on track to enjoy a more active and joyful life.
To schedule an in-house therapy session or to learn calming methods for your dog visit Rall’s website.