When we walked through the doors of the Canine Wellness and Rehab Centre (CWRC), I informed the staff that I was there to meet Lynn, the Principal Canine Hydrotherapist and Founder of CWRC.
They pointed for me to go find her at the pool. She was in the middle of a hydrotherapy session with one of her many furry clients and would not be out of the pool for the next few hours.
We stood around the 6m x 3m warm pool chatting and watching her guide swims with one dog after another. 70% of the dogs that go for hydrotherapy sessions suffer from joint problems of different degrees of severity.
Swimming in warm water takes off most of their weight, which alleviates their pain, and helps improve their movement outside of the water. That explains why dogs that at first fear swimming always end up enjoying themselves.
Dogs aside, we were there to speak with Lynn to understand her fascinating journey from being an air stewardess to spending her hours in a day immersed in a pool to help dogs swim.
Not knowing what to expect before we met, I was delighted by Lynn's chattiness. She told us about her work, the dogs she was working with, and also how her dogs wiggled their way into her life. Through her stories, we could tell that she has a strong and genuine love for dogs, and that is truly inspiring.
If you are interested in the benefits of hydrotherapy, to be a hydrotherapist yourself, or want to be like Lynn - to change course and find your way in the pet industry, this interview will offer you some insight.
15 Questions with Lynn Ho, Founder of Canine Wellness and Rehab Centre
1. We read that you were previously an air stewardess for 14 years. What made you decide to change course and go into canine hydrotherapy?
I have always adored dogs and have been wanting to have the chance to work with them. Opportunity knocked on my door one day when I learnt about a training centre in the UK which offers a Canine Hydrotherapy course. So, I decided to take the plunge and "fired" my employer, flew to the UK and got myself trained and certified.
2. How different is being a hydrotherapist from your previous job?
There is no more jet-setting lifestyle, no more shopping, and no more sightseeing. But I have gained lots of waggy tails and kisses from so many dogs; from the smallest Chihuahua to the endearing Rottweilers. So, no regrets at all!
3. How would you describe canine hydrotherapy and what does it really help with?
Hydrotherapy derives from the Greek word, "water healing". It makes use of the water to enhance exercises without stressing on the joints and bones. It is a form of conservative management that helps to regain fitness and help with treatment of dogs with hip dysplasia, arthritis, patella luxation, cruciate ligament, weight issue, pre and post surgery etc..
Swimming offers a non-weight bearing and low impact form of exercise and hence, it improves muscle tone, flexibility, range of movements, cardiovascular fitness etc.. It also helps with better blood circulation, thus reducing inflammation and pain perception.
4. Would all dogs benefit from hydrotherapy?
I would say hydrotherapy is beneficial for almost all dogs, except those with a higher grade of heart disease and serious respiratory issues. To ensure the dog's safety, dog owners need to get a vet’s referral for our hydrotherapy sessions.
5. What’s the difference between hydrotherapy with a professional and bringing my dog for swimming on my own?
All swim sessions are fully supervised and closely monitored. For hydrotherapy, we work on dogs with various issues that are sent to us by the vets and will perform underwater physical therapy, if necessary.
Through the years of handling the dogs, we have developed some underwater manual therapies that prove to be beneficial for the dogs. I don’t believe in bringing books to the pool but rather develop methods with our dogs in mind to help improve their conditions. As the Chinese saying goes, 活学活用, which means to creatively combine learning with usage - to learn and apply pragmatically.
6. You have been running the centre for five years. How has the journey been?
No one will ever have an easy start for any business. You need tons of self-motivation, discipline, and self-belief to get things going. And maintaining a business is another ball game altogether.
7. How big is your team now?
At present, we have about 10 staff, which consists of part- and full-timers.
8. Who and how can one become a hydrotherapist?
As there is no hydrotherapy course offered locally, those who are interested to seek a career in canine hydrotherapy will have to get themselves enrolled overseas.
You can check out the various registered training centres that offer canine hydrotherapy in the US and UK and choose one with well-qualified trainers whom you are comfortable with.
I feel that anyone who loves the four-legged can be a hydrotherapist, but not everyone can be a good hydrotherapist because the job involves personal integrity, responsibilities, self-discipline, lots of patience, and hard work too.
So, love is just not enough for this demanding job. And we are lucky to have Sharon and Diana with CWRC, who not only possess the said qualities but also beyond. Great characters too!
9. Are there any common misconceptions about hydrotherapy?
Actually, dog owners are very well-informed nowadays and they would usually research about hydrotherapy and the different centres available locally before they send their dogs to one.
We have owners asking whether hydrotherapy is the same as swimming. Theoretically yes, it is the same. Except that the dogs will be swimming in warm water to enhance the benefits of the swim with qualified therapists who will perform underwater therapy if needed.
10. Can dog owners expect to see results fairly quickly?
It all depends on the dog’s current health condition and age. Hydrotherapy is a conservative management and it takes time, patience, and consistency in order to see results.
11. How many doggy clients do you have every week? It seems like you are always fully booked!
We see roughly about 100 dogs per week. Regulars come once or twice every week and they book way in advance.
We are very sorry to say that it is a tad challenging for our clients to book with us as we are always packed back to back. But the good news is, we are actively looking for a second centre in order to accommodate more dogs.
Having more centres does not mean compromising our standards or service level. We will still strive to deliver the best possible service for all dogs that come to us and ensure that they receive the necessary and timely hydrotherapy treatment.
12. How do most of your clients get to know about Canine Wellness and Rehab Centre?
We did not really advertise our centre since the beginning. I had only approached a handful of vets to inform them of our centre, which was the first in Singapore and they were so excited about it.
I guess good things spread fast? Haha. It also helped that we have done interviews with various pet magazines, Channel News Asia, Lianhe Zaobao, and you!
13. Congrats on the recent launch of your daycare centre! Tell us more about it.
We believe in free running space for the doggies and they love it!
Our daycare centre has a huge garden for them to run around. They get to free roam, play, and interact with other dogs under close supervision by the humans.
Not only that, we are the first daycare centre in Singapore to incorporate a water playground in our garden. It consists of a real fire hydrant that will sprout water and some dancing water sprouts and water mushrooms. Water-loving dogs always go crazy at our water playground!
14. Do you have any advice for people who want to quit their job to do something in the pet industry?
Do not quit your job on impulse, thinking that you have what it takes. Measure the pros and cons and the sustainability of your desired career, because it will be for the long haul and you will be handling live animals.
15. Is there anything else you would like dog owners to know about hydrotherapy?
Hydrotherapy does not work on a miracle. It only works if the owner is persistent on pursuing a long-term alternative treatment prior to surgery for their beloved pooches.
Photos taken by Vanillapup