Waterfront: January 2004 - Teaching Old Dogs New Tricks; TAKING THE JOB HOME:; Swimming With Shakespeare

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Teaching Old Dogs New Tricks

Aquatic therapy helps treat canine maladies.

It's a dog's life at K9H2O, the Abbotsford, British Columbia business where owner Kendall De Menech has turned her 16-by-32-foot indoor vinyl-liner pool into an aquatic therapy center for dogs. K9H2O opened in September 2001 and De Menech treated only one dog the first month. Today she swims 55 dogs weekly, has treated close to 1,240 clients and sees animals that come in from as far as Washington and Oregon.

Aquatic therapy is historically successful for horses and humans. Only recently has it begun growing in popularity for dogs suffering from arthritis, amputation, epilepsy, obesity and a number of other ailments. For these animals, running puts too much stress on the joints and can cause even more damage. Swimming, on the other paw, eases this stress and speeds up the healing process, making the "doggy paddle" a significant exercise. In addition, the warm water increases circulation and flexibility and reduces swelling.

"I think it's important for pet owners to know that there are alternatives out there," says De Menech, a specialist in aqua therapy. "If a dog is faced with amputation, it's not the end for the dog."

Over 100 veterinarians refer clients to De Menech and help her develop an individual program for each dog, taking into account the dog's age, health, weight, injury or condition, lifestyle and aquatic ability. The animal then comes in for 45-minute swim sessions up to three times a week. De Menech, who taught swimming lessons for kids prior to opening K9H2O, also offers a number of other canine services, including swim lessons for puppies, a lifesaving program that trains dogs to rescue drowning people, and classes on boating etiquette. An acupuncturist also visits once a week.

"When an owner brings a dog in limping and by the end of eight sessions or however many it takes, the dog's not limping anymore, the owner, the dog, the veterinarian and I are very, very thrilled," says De Menech.

While K9H2O services are specifically catered to dogs, De Menech has also provided services for a mute swan that had been attacked by a coyote and an 8-day-old fawn with a spinal injury.

According to Dr. Ken Macquisten, veterinarian for Bakerview Pet Hospital in Abbotsford, after an animal goes through this type of therapy, measurable differences in muscle tone and size and a quick return to full function suggest the success of the program.

"We're kind of taking it one step at a time and watching the results," he says. "But I wouldn't hesitate to recommend any new clients that I have that would benefit from this."

Even with so many animals trekking in and out of the pool, De Menech, her two part-time staff members and six volunteers don't have to do much additional work to care for the 30,000-gallon, standard chlorinated pool. They do regular testing in the morning and sometimes at night to make sure it stays safe and clean. They clean the sand filter only as often as necessary depending on bather load. They put extra screens in the gutter baskets to catch debris like dog hair and installed a special ramp in the pool for the dogs to use to take breaks. With such ease of pool care, De Menech and her staff can focus more attention on increasing the canine clientele.

"I think one of the things that perhaps is keeping her from being outrageously busy is simply a lack of awareness of what she's able to do," says Macquisten. "The more veterinarians find out and hear the testimonials on how their animals have benefited, the busier she'll get."

For more info, contact Kendall De Menech at [email protected] or visit the K9H2O site at k9h2o.net

TAKING THE JOB HOME: Purely in the interest of research, AQUA editor Kirstin Pires recently accompanied her brother, sister, niece and nephew on a summer outing.

"This was my first trip to a waterpark, and I had a blast!" she says. "My niece, Emma, showed me how to go really fast on the waterslide." Pires also practiced open-water swimming in the wave pool, and everyone enjoyed floating down the lazy river. "It was just a little park in central Wisconsin, but everyone there was having a great time. I can't wait to go back!"

Swimming With Shakespeare

High school students use public pool to get youngsters reading.

For most kids, hitting the books is the last thing on their minds during the summer. According to Scholastic Instructor Online, however, even three months without reading can degrade the skills needed to perform well during the school year. But with so many distractions, how do you get kids out of the pool and into the written word?

Kerryn Campbell and Becky Lane, freshmen at Pennsbury West High School in Fairless Hills, Pa., discovered that a pool can actually be the very tool that helps put books into children's hands. Armed with 350 books donated by fifth-graders at a local elementary school, Kerryn and Becky brought the library to the kids, setting up a system allowing young swimmers to borrow books at the Oxford Valley Pool. The children could check the books out until the end of the summer and also attend Kerryn and Becky's read-a-thons twice a week.

Though the girls were unsure how willing kids would be to read during their break, by the end of the summer, the children – ranging from kindergarten to fifth grade – had checked out over 200 books, proving they consider literature to be as entertaining as any tricycle ride or game of hide-and-go-seek.

"That means there were 200 more books read this summer that maybe wouldn't have been," says Gail Campbell, Kerryn's mother and an elementary school teacher who helped come up with the idea.

For Kerryn, the best part of the project was seeing the kids' faces and hearing them say "I love to read" or "This is so cool."

"I learned that not all kids don't like to read during the summer," she says. "So I was like, 'Wow!'"

Kerryn and Becky, who both enjoy swimming and are already well on their way to becoming great teachers, hope to continue the program next summer and to use it as their required high school graduation project. But their parents see even greater benefits from the work, including learning about the importance of volunteering and how to balance a daily schedule.

"I think they've learned so much more than just what it's like to set up a project," says Mary Ellen Lane, Becky's mother and an elementary school teacher who also helped to foster the idea. "When you're 14 or 15 years old, learning how to make those initial contacts, being sort of in the adult world, is a pretty tremendous experience."

Art Made Easy

New product provides simple, inexpensive elegance.

Pools and spas may be good for making weak lungs strong and aching muscles healthy, but they can also transform builders into artists. David Tisherman of David Tisherman's Visuals has developed a spillway that will allow builders to easily add the charm of falling water without using pedestrian 12-inch spillway blocks.

"If you can use a level and you want something beautiful, anyone can install these," says Tisherman.

The spillways, which are manufactured by Custom Cascade (a division of Oreq Corporation), were designed based on the idea that aesthetic beauty and sound quality are improved with an understanding of hydraulics and the addition of more than one spillway protruding from a dam wall. They mimic the very intricate, expensive and difficult-to-install glass models, but according to Tisherman, the new product makes construction and installation simple and inexpensive. Custom Cascade calls them "Tishways."

Tishways leave the water surface smooth and glass-like despite the quantity of water that's routed through them. According to Tisherman, co-founder of the progressive Genesis 3 Design Group, the spillways deal entirely with the dynamics of water motion.

"In this case, you have to understand what water really does. When you have multiple spillways, it obviously enhances everything based on light and interaction of material," he says. "Twelve spillways create a much more visually interesting effect than one 12-inch spillway."

Not only is the product visually stunning, but it's also practical. By consistently directing water away from the spa dam wall, the spillways prevent the buildup of calcium that results from water running down the side.

Tishways will be presented for the first time at the 2004 AQUA Show, at booth 359. Then they will be manufactured for builders in a variety of kits. Made of stainless steel and plastic, the spillways can also be customized and powder-coated to match a particular tile. In addition, different-sized openings contribute to the pitch and serene look of the water flow.

"What we've done is simplified the construction of a very expensive detail," says Tisherman. "You don't have to be an artist. What you have to do is love the visual aspect."

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