When we lived in the UK, for over 25 years we owned, loved, bred and showed Boxers, and it was while reading an article in Dog World about a couple who owned a German Shepherd dog with arthritis who built a pool for him to help the condition that the idea began to form of how useful this would be for the general public, and Aquapaws was born! Indeed, friends and family of this couple ended up bringing their dogs to the pool so this was the ‘prototype’ which got the ball rolling.
We looked into purpose-built hydrotherapy pools and eventually bought one from a company who imported them from Germany, built a pool room in our back garden and off we went. We met up with others starting the same business all over the UK and even in Ireland, and it was in this way that we all swapped information to find the best way to treat the dogs as it was such a new type of business that there weren’t any courses to go on at that time.
Over the next 6 years we went from strength to strength with many local vets recommending their clients to us and even some a good hour’s drive away as there were no pools in their area. Many continued to come even after their rehabilitation was complete as they believed that their dogs still needed the occasional swim to keep them in good condition, and the sea in the UK was not the warmest! Very often we swam up to 15 dogs a day so it’s obvious that it worked very well.
One of our best experiences was when we were contacted by Canine Partners for Independence, a charity which trains and supplies support dogs for disabled people – these fantastic dogs can do anything for their owners, from unloading the washing machine and opening cupboard doors to putting them in the recovery position if they fall over or out of their wheelchair!! They are simply amazing. They wanted to treat some of the dogs to a ‘day out’, so they arranged for about 6 of them to come to Aquapaws and have a splash around and swim in our pool after spending time walking in the New Forest, which is where we lived. There was one Labrador in particular called Endal who appeared in their promotional advertising and who ‘looked after’ an ex-Veteran called Alan Parton that they wanted to especially treat, so imagine our surprise when this large limousine turned up outside with Endal in the back seat!! He then came into the pool room along with the other dogs who had arrived and had a great time. This was all being filmed, and the icing on the cake was when we had a call from the team who produced Esther Rantzen’s show ‘That’s Life’ inviting us to go to the studios to see the footage, sit in the audience and meet Esther! A truly unforgettable day, and we supported the charity in any way we could.