Mr. Murphy happily bounds into the Trailhead Physiotherapy Clinic in Baptiste Village, just outside of Bancroft. The English Golden Retriever is all legs, tail and fur but once he enters the dog therapy room and sees Hazel Toupin, he delivers slobbery kisses.
Mr. Murphy is a patient at Active Paws Rehabilitation, a new canine rehabilitation clinic that is operating out of Trailhead.
A few cookies later Toupin has the massive mound of fur relaxing on the floor, happily accepting belly rubs.
Mr. Murphy’s owner, Helen Driediger, takes a seat and lets Hazel get to work.
The dog, Driediger explains, had a shoulder injury at 9 months. He went for surgery in Toronto where they live part-time and canine physical therapy was recommended.
“We wouldn’t go from surgery and a cast to bounding around on the farm,” Driediger explains. “So this makes sense. And I already knew Hazel and I love her skills.”
Hazel Toupin’s skills are evident.
The rambunctious pup relaxes immediately with his therapist as his legs are stretched and massaged. Even when he is moved onto a big peanut-shaped therapy device the dog is still smiling and looking to sneak a kiss or two.
Toupin says she loves working with dogs.
“They calm down more than some of the humans do,” Toupin laughs.
Toupin has worked for 18 years as a physiotherapist with humans but she started her training with dogs in 1999; shortly after the Canine Physical Therapy program came to Canada. She’s been working away at her credentials bit by bit when she is able to take time away from her busy Physio clinic and her family.
Toupin says she sees dogs for a long list of concerns from post-operative patients to dogs with soft tissue injury, dogs that have had strokes and older dogs looking to stay mobile as they age. A referral from a vet is required but once Toupin sees a dog she can design a program to be done by pet owners so that office visits are kept to a minimum.
Most of what Toupin does with the dogs involves working with the joints, soft tissue and improving muscle strength/ tone to decrease pain, increase circulation and range of motion. There is a lot of manual therapy involved which takes specific training in joint/spine mobilizations – something that comes naturally to a seasoned physiotherapist.
“I’ve seen lots of tendonitis and shoulder injuries,” Toupin says. “Hunting dogs running through the bush – when there is an injury the dogs come here.”
From the look on Mr. Murphy’s face, he might be enjoying his clinic visit even more than running through the bush. The dog continues to relax and then, inevitably, he passes gas.
Toupin doesn’t even flinch. It’s one of the hazards of the job.
“You have to be comfortable with the dog,” Hazel says as Mr. Murphy stretches out on the floor. He reaches his paw to her hand – not wanting to give up the gentle contact just yet.
“Part of my training was with dog handling skills,” she says. “You have to be able to cope with a crazy dog and you have to get the dog to settle.”
Toupin says for years she wanted to be a vet. But working as a physiotherapist has allowed her to work with both people and now, through canine physical therapy, with dogs.
And for this, Driediger is thankful.
“Hazel has such a gift,” she beams. “She has worked so well with Murph, here at the clinic and she helped us work with him at home. We did the exercises and it’s been an uneventful rehab. Murph is back to his old self.”
And for those who are faced with the news of a beloved dog needing surgery, the big investment makes more sense when you’re looking at a full recovery.
Toupin says that while this is a specialty that few are practicing, she has started to see more and more four-legged clients in the past months.
“This is a great area,” Toupin says. “People really care for their dogs.”
Her human clients are still being well cared-for in a separate part of the clinic for a broad range of injuries and ailments but they don’t tend to show their gratitude in the same way as Mr. Murphy who gives a big wet kiss to his canine physical therapist before prancing out the door to take on his next adventure.
Active Paws Rehabilitation is located at Trailhead Physiotherapy in Baptiste Village. Referrals can be made by your family vet or for details please contact Trailhead Physiotherapy at (613) 332-5399.