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Canine therapy pool

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After learning about Mac’s injury, Pool Spa Sauna Showroom (PSSS) quickly devised a plan to create a custom therapy pool to aid in his recovery.

By Brian Ross

During the winter of 2010, Mac, a golden retriever, who lives with a family near Severn Bridge, Ont., was struck by a passing vehicle in front of the family’s home on Christmas Eve. Mac was excited to see his master come home and quickly ran to meet him; however, due to some confusion, he accidentally ran onto the road.

The family immediately rushed him to the nearest emergency veterinarian clinic in Barrie, Ont., where they were given the devastating news that Mac, who was just under two years old at the time, would likely never walk again. The veterinarian advised the family of the difficulties predicting the exact outcome with this type of injury, but paralysis would likely be the outcome.

Not giving up

The family, who also had another golden retriever named Jackson, brought Mac home two days later; he was still unable to move, and therefore, needed a catheter. Three days after Christmas, the family took Mac to their regular vet at which point it was determined he had not suffered any fractures; however, there was severe spinal cord trauma.

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A week after the accident, Mac was still showing very little signs of movement, which was resulting in serious deterioration of his muscle mass.

A week later, Mac was still showing very little signs of movement—all he could do was lay on a daybed—the family returned to the vet. This examination revealed serious deterioration of Mac’s muscle mass and at this point it was decided if there was going to be any chance of recovery, Mac needed an immediate therapy program.

This was easier said than done as the nearest therapy centre that could offer a program for Mac was more than 100 km (62 miles) away. And, never mind the travel time and expense, the cost of the therapy program was far beyond the financial means of most anybody.

What about water therapy?

After a family friend suggested water therapy as an option to aid in Mac’s recovery they contacted Pool Spa Sauna Showroom (PSSS) to inquire about a used hot tub. However, after they explained the purpose of the hot tub, it was determined it would not provide a suitable therapy pool for Mac simply due to their configuration. The story touched the hearts of PSSS staff who were determined to help Mac, and as a result, an alternative plan was devised.

Upon meeting him and the family for the first time, it was readily apparent that Mac, who could barely lift his head upon greeting, needed immediate therapy or there would be a chance he would be lost. With this in mind, the family was shown the plans for a custom therapy pool and was told there would be no costs involved.

Drawing from past therapy pool experience

After confirming with Mac’s vet that the therapy program he required was for muscle regeneration, PSSS consulted with Thyme Thompson, a young woman the company had organized a coalition of industry suppliers and local trades to assist PSSS staff in the construction of a therapy pool in 2010 to help her recover from a spinal cord injury.

Thyme explained during her therapy sessions the therapist would tell them what to concentrate on; however, this would not be possible for canine rehabilitation. Thyme’s advice was helpful; therefore, to get Mac to focus on his rehabilitation, he required someone to hold him in place in the water, while someone would work his hind legs in a bicycle swimming motion. Everyone hoped this movement would register in Mac’s brain—and it did. If there was going to be any chance for Mac’s recovery, he had to get into the water quickly. The only roadblock was developing an effective way to hold water.

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