Puppy Love

I think I've read — and written about — nearly every study on the health benefits of hot tub use. We all know of the soothing effects that the warm waters have on arthritic joints and overused muscles. There's research underway that points to benefits for patients recovering from knee replacement. And of course the NSPF-sponsored research on systemic benefits has just been funded and will begin soon.

As an industry, we're compiling scientific evidence, piece by piece, about the benefits of hot water therapy — and that's as it should be — but at the same time, I still think there's a type of consumer in this country that gives more credence to his gut than to scientific studies. I know, because now I'm one of them.

About a year ago, I adopted a pet from a local animal shelter. Kady is a big bear of a dog, and at 8 she's well past retirement age in dog years. I knew when I brought her home that she had arthritis and that she would probably have other age-related health problems, too. But I had fallen in love and there wasn't a thing I could do about it.

This spring, she seemed to be having a harder time getting around, so when she went in for her annual checkup, the orthopedics department examined her and took some X-rays: Sure enough, she has endstage arthritis in all her legs. "Four bad wheels," is what the doctor said. Swimming was the only recommended exercise, so — since I didn't know if she'd ever been swimming — I made arrangements for her to have a swimming lesson at the kennel where she boards when I'm out of town.

When Audra and Julia helped her into the pool, she wasn't too happy about it. But she managed to complete a few laps with their help and encouragement before they took her out. "Let's try the hot tub," said Audra, and they lifted her into the bubbling warm water. Kady fidgeted a little at first, but as the jets churned the water, a look of pure bliss came over her face. Within a few moments, she was so relaxed that she almost slipped under the water. I've had dogs all my life, and I've never seen one so happy. When the jets turned off, Kady looked around in disbelief and disappointment. And then I knew in my gut what I know in my head.

Now I just have to find a hot tub model that has a special filter for dog hair.

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