By Sue Wambolt, Contributing Writer
Southborough – Lynne Flanagan worked for years as a communications specialist for a utility company before she decided to follow her heart and make a drastic career change. An animal lover,?Flanagan wanted to find a way to add quality to pets” lives.?She felt that improving their health (physical as well as emotional) was the greatest gift and service she could provide. With this in mind, Flanagan became a certified pet massage instructor and small-animal masseuse and founded Paws That Matter – a pet massage service based in Massachusetts.
“I's fortunate to have an intuitive understanding of animals. They can sense how much I care about them, which helps in initiating massage sessions. I build a trusting relationship easily. I also understand how important pets are to their people, and I always communicate in a direct, yet gentle and compassionate manner,” Flanagan said.
Flanagan believes that massage goes beyond the enjoyable benefits of petting; it's a total body experience that awakens a pet's senses. Massage uses deliberate hand strokes combined with speed and pressure for an intentional and focused healing touch. It releases endorphins for overall well-being.
The benefits of pet massage are many, she noted. Massage increases blood circulation, which carries fresh oxygen and nutrients to all the organs and systems of the pet's body to balance and revitalize functioning. Additional benefits include: stimulates blood circulation; strengthens the immune system; reduces anxiety; improves mobility; reduces stiffness; maintains muscle tone; relieves aches and pains; speeds healing time from injury and surgery; increases energy; and builds trust.
Most of Flanagan's massage sessions take place at the pet's home, where the animal is comfortable and relaxed. While some animals take a few sessions to become comfortable with massage, most household pets take to it immediately.
“It doesn's take too long for them to realize how great they feel,” Flanagan said. “And they love the personal attention. Some cats are a bit finicky, but I'se learned to work with them on their own terms quite successfully. Cats love massage as much as dogs. I'se also massaged hamsters, goats, llamas and rabbits.”
Working with pets, she said, can be extremely rewarding.
“One of my favorite happy endings stories involves a Boston Terrier that had traveled across the country and been in five homes in five years. He came to me at the recommendation of a behavioral specialist. The poor boy was a shaking bundle of nerves and very afraid to trust and/or be touched, yet I saw a look in his eyes that said he had not given up.?It took a few sessions of gentle light stroking, and gradually he became more comfortable with me touching him for longer periods of time. About a month into this process, the change in him was dramatic.?He became my best friend.?He changed from cringing at the sight of another person to running up to strangers with a happy tail. And, for the first time at home, he started looking out the window.?? That's when I knew I had helped to bring quality into his life. How his world opened up!? He gained confidence through massage, and I was thrilled.”
In addition to her pet massage services, Flanagan runs workshops to teach pet owners basic massage sequences and techniques to care for their pets at home. As part of the workshop, participants view Flanagan's DVD, “Pawsitive Strokes.”
Flanagan has been featured on Fox News, Boston cable shows for the Animal Rescue Leagues in Boston and Newton, and City Vibes, a cable show in Worcester. She was also featured in “Animal Wellness” magazine and several local newspapers.
“It's great to be able to spread the word on the value and benefits of pet massage,” she said.