No dog yoga (Doga) for Dominic, who didn't like the massage, either

No dog yoga (Doga) for Dominic, who didn't like the massage, either
Steve Lopez's mixed breed dog Dominic snarls at pet masseuse Pam Holt at Griffith Park in Los Angeles. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

Last week I told the story of an unemployed woman, barely surviving, who walked into a pet shop and overheard another customer say she gets $50 massages for her pooch.

The hard-luck woman bristled at such indulgences in Los Angeles, where some people wait for a bus to the 99 Cents Only store while others cruise around in Bentley convertibles, dreaming up new ways to spend money.


But can you really get a massage for your dog?

I did a little research and the answer is yes. There's even a canine massage school in Ojai.

WagVille, in Glassell Park, offers this description of the massage experience on its website:

"In our dog therapy room, dogs receiving special therapies lie on a massage table while soothing music plays in a softly lit room. Our dog masseuse is skilled in aromatherapy, t-touch, acupressure and classic doggie massage."

Does the dog get a bowl of Chablis?

I called to make an appointment for my dog, Dominic, but nobody called back. Maybe they're booked.

No problem, though, because there are plenty of options, including Easing Paw Animal Wellness, Bliss Paws, Two Hands Four Paws and Buddha Dog, to name just a few.

Most of these places offer a host of services, including Reiki, in which the masseuse "channels healing energy through the hands, either directly or from a distance," as the Buddha Dog website describes it.

Dog massage isn't exclusive to California; it's all over the place. We just seem to have a lot of it, maybe because of our size and our proclivities.

True or false: We also have yoga for dogs.

Did you even hesitate?

Aimee Hyatt, of Inhale Exhale Paws in Santa Monica, told me she has a waiting list for a class she calls Doga.

I have to admit it was hard for me to visualize dogs doing yoga. And when it comes to workout gear, I don't know what's expected, but under no circumstances will I force Dominic into yoga pants. He's a rescue mutt with a lot of the street in him. I can't imagine him going into the lotus position willingly, or even the downward dog position.

"It's not like the dog is going into the triangle pose," Hyatt explained. "You can hold him under your left arm while you take your right arm up and over your head and work your way into the pose. The dog becomes like a weight, so you're actually working your core even more."


I can assure you my dog would rather chase squirrels.

It does make sense that in a region where people think they should live forever, they want their dogs to be immortal, too. I'm surprised there's not plastic surgery for dogs.

Strike that last sentence.

It turns out, naturally, that there are eyelifts and other treatments available for pets.

"People with a discretionary income are taking advantage of technology and veterinary expertise to give their animals medically indicated reconstructive surgery," a Los Angeles veterinarian said in a story published way back in 2005.

There will be no Botox for Dominic. I prefer to let him age naturally and die wrinkled, with his first-ever squirrel clenched in his teeth.

I was curious enough about massage, however, to schedule an appointment with Pam Holt of Buddha Dog. She charges what seems to be the going rate of $30 for a half-hour and $50 for a one-hour massage, and business is brisk. Some well-heeled dogs get the treatment three times a week.

We met near the Greek Theatre in Griffith Park. Holt, who travels the region doing several dog massages daily, said her clients range from celebrities to pet lovers who don't have much, but would rather spend their last dollar on their dogs than themselves.

She said the benefits of massage are the same for dogs as humans, and some customers use it to ease their pet's arthritic pain or to avoid surgery.

Holt spread out a mauve-colored bedsheet on the grass. She rubbed some calming oils on Dominic's ears, but rather than relax him, it only made him more suspicious of the whole affair.

Holt turned on some New Age healing music, but I'd rather listen to a leaf blower, myself, so now I was anxious.

The masseuse rolled up a towel on which Dominic was supposed to lay his head. But he had no intention of sitting still or doing anything other than chase flies.

It got worse. When Holt tried to begin his massage, Dominic bared his teeth and lunged at her.

Some readers are probably thinking I'm a terrible dog owner who hasn't properly disciplined his pup, and maybe they're right. But this being Los Angeles, I've chosen the kind of parenting where you never say "no."

Maybe, as an Eastside dog with turf and trust issues — Dominic was rescued from the streets of Bell (we thought he'd at least have a good pension) — he wasn't buying this stuff about meridian therapy and healing energy.

Holt was phenomenally patient and understanding, and Dominic calmed down just enough to let her sneak in what she called a "petrissage" stroke and some "effleurage" kneading around the neck.

But he much preferred chasing flies.

Then another distraction suddenly emerged from the woods: Three women, one lugging a suitcase.

Dominic stopped the fly-hunting to have a look.

One of the women was dressed in black, like a wood nymph, with plunging neckline and studded bumper shoes.

I assumed they'd just shot a porn flick.

However, the Elvira woman said they'd been hanging from trees by silk ropes.

This seemed a bit strange. But after watching a masseuse try to channel healing energy into my dog, who was I to judge?

"She's wearing a turtle shell," Holt observed as the woman walked away.

A spiked turtle shell.

I'm surprised Dominic didn't attack.

As for Dominic, with his territorialism and anger issues, he may have less need for a dog masseuse than a dog shrink.

And I probably don't need to tell you that Los Angeles has quite a litter of those.

Twitter: @LATstevelopez