It's a dog's life

When Dash gets tension in his back muscles, he is unable to tell anyone.

Nevertheless, Karen Parkey, owner of the 4-year-old Cavalier King Charles spaniel, notices.

He gets a rippling in his back when she lightly draws her fingers along the muscles vertically stripped down the length of his spine, she said. A relaxed dog without tension would not have that reaction.

As a licensed small-animal massage practitioner (she is licensed to work on humans, too, though it is not her focus area) and owner of Laughing Dog Massage, the Fall City resident has worked on almost every type of critter from hamsters and jittery Teacup Chihuahuas to the extra-large Irish wolfhound breed, which is usually at least 30 inches tall and weighs a minimum of 105 pounds fully grown.

Massage works with any sized animal, she said.

"The work I can do can help improve reach and drive, loosen their circulation and muscle tone and break up toxins," Parkey said. "And it helps socialize [the animal]."

Dogs are her primary focus.

"I love dogs; I'm fascinated by them," she said.

Working part time for the past two years - mostly on performance animals (i.e. show dogs) - Parkey will travel to the show event or the home of her client so that the animal is in its optimal comfort area. (She will travel up to about 25 miles before charging an extra traveler's fee.)

Should a dog not be receptive to her, an alternative approach to her providing the hour-long massage is to teach the owner techniques.

"I know that touch is a bonding thing," Parkey said. "It's just good. It's a bonding experience."

At a dog show about a year ago, Parkey had an experience with a dog whose owner said was not friendly.

Offering to try the massage anyway, the Australian cattle dog surprised his owner when, at the end of the session, he whirled around and gave Parkey a "big kiss."

"[The owner] said that he never does that," Parkey said.

Using a combination

of Swedish massage tech-

niques she learned at the Northwest School of Animal Massage in Redmond, Parkey said the trick is to use a light touch and pay attention to the dog's cues.

"A dog backs into you if they like it and the dog backs away from you if he doesn't like it," Parkey said.

Before having her two children, ages 13 and 12, with John, her husband of 16 years, Parkey worked in book publishing. Deciding to raise her children full time, she said when they moved to Fall City two years ago from Mercer Island, she wanted to work on developing a new skill.

"I've always been interested in body work," she said. She noted that she is not a veterinarian or a behaviorist so she is unable to diagnose medical or behavior problems.

Her process is to obtain a detailed health history of the animal and, if appropriate, a veterinarian's authorization for the animal to have the massage therapy.

Reasons for animal massage vary, she said. People might want to improve a dog's performance for showing, work on socialization or assist a dog in easing old injuries.

"Touch is really healing," she said. "It works for people, it can also work for animals."

For more information, contact Parkey at Laughing Dog Massage by calling (206) 919-8019 or visiting

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