How Houston woman is calming pandemic anxiety in dogs through massage

The pandemic may have seemed like a nightmare for many of us — but for our pets, it was a dream come true.

Suddenly, canine companions no longer faced a day alone or dreaded seeing their owners reach for the car keys before heading off to work.

These four-legged friends are still adjusting as their parents slip back into their former routine.

“We’ve created separation anxiety without even realizing it,” Cheryn Pollard explained. “You can’t just disappear for eight hours when you’ve been home 24/7 for two years.”

As a certified dog massage therapist and veterinary cannabis guide, the Spring Branch resident knows how to keep anxiety at bay. Through massage and CBD, Pollard helps dogs find release.

“Massage can help with that – just like with people,” she said.

Pandemic puppies, those COVID-adopted canines, are especially prone to having a hard time these days.

“Those dogs went through their formative years without any socialization with humans or animals,” Pollard said.

Now they are embarking on a whole new world.

But even without the pandemic, life in Houston can stir up anxiety in pets. Pollard pointed to the thunderstorms and sudden downpours that can quickly form in the city. Plus, dogs can easily pick up on the stress carried by their owners.

“Emotion runs down the leash,” Pollard said. “Pets don’t know why. We can’t talk to them or explain it.”

But we can schedule a massage – or set up a CBD consultation – to ease the transition.

Pollard’s business PAWSE Canine Wellness is located at Paw-radise Pet Spa, 615 Long Point, where she operates on weekends, as well as Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday evenings.

On weekdays, she offers a mobile service at owners’ residences.

Pollard, who formerly worked in the hospitality industry, became interested in alternative therapies for dogs when her foster dog became seriously ill in 2018.

She had taken past pups in for acupuncture and to visit the canine chiropractor.

When her foster was ill, she intuitively started giving the dog a massage. It worked. When the rescue group came to check in on the pup, they said, “I can’t believe how well this dog is doing. Are you trained in that?”

“A light bulb went off,” Pollard said. “I wondered, ‘Should I be?’”

She had wanted to become an entrepreneur and to do something dog related. Suddenly, she knew what course to take.

Pollard went to Denver to gain her certification in canine massage therapy.

“It was really interesting to go and learn dog anatomy,” she recalled.

Pollard went from discovering the canine muscle groups and practicing to working on real dogs and then taking her written and practical exams.

The next step was working on case studies back in Houston. It took about a year to earn her certification, and she launched PAWSE Canine Wellness in 2019.

Then, COVID hit.

“People didn’t want you to come to their house for mobile massage – and they didn’t want to go to your location either,” Pollard said.

But her services only became more needed as time passed.

Massage helps with blood and lymph circulation improvement; it also triggers endorphin release, Pollard said. She’s seen benefits like better moods, improved flexibility and better performance, as well as shortened recovery time from illness, injury or surgery.

“When people have seen the benefit of massage for their dogs, you don’t have to explain it,” Pollard said.

Pollard’s former co-worker, Chrissy Baskin, is one of Pollard’s loyal customers.

“We bonded over our love of dogs,” Baskin said. So it came as no surprise to her when Pollard started PAWSE.

“I was more impressed,” Baskin said. “It’s brave any time you go from working at a company to being in the world all on your own.”

Her dog Thumper, whom she calls the “love of her life,” enjoys his regular massages.

“I think about how I feel when I play too hard – and Thumper is a big player,” Baskin said. “Now my dog is happy.”

Pollard also helped another of Baskin’s dogs after knee surgery.

“I asked Cheryn to come to the house, and she did reiki on his leg,” Baskin recalled.

The heat emanating from his hurt knee disappeared.

“Within 24 hours, the swelling was better,” Baskin said.

Because of her own experience, she often recommends Pollard to other dog parents.

“I know how she cares about animals, how passionate she is about dogs and their well-being,” Baskin said. “This is something she does to improve the quality of life for your pet – and I have personally seen the results.”

Pollard also offers treatment for end-of-life care and help with recovery for athlete canines.

She became certified in reiki for animals in 2019 and for veterinary cannabis this year, which allows her to advise dog owners on applicable state laws, product safety and give referrals for treatment.

For all of her treatments, she works with veterinary guidance.

“It’s not against your vet,” Pollard said. “It’s with your vet.”

She simply wants to help dogs cope with injury, aging, surgery and anxiety.

“I’m very passionate about this,” she said. “I just want to keep learning more about all that we can do.”

Lindsay Peyton is a Houston-based freelance writer.

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