Spaniel receiving hydrotherapy Anthony Gardner

Matty And The Hydrotherapist

‘Did the acupuncturist do Matty any good?’ you will be wondering after my last post. The answer is an emphatic yes. After the first two sessions we were sceptical: although the treatment got her back on her feet in the short term, the benefits only seemed to last for a day or two. But, we were told, it often takes three sessions for the healing to take full effect, and this proved to be the case. Since then she has been able to walk – and even occasionally jump – without keeling over.

The vet had mentioned that she might also benefit from hydrotherapy – not just physically, but mentally. And since her compulsion to squeeze herself into the tightest and most uncomfortable spaces is now quite alarming, I took her off to Dogtown – a hydrotherapy centre on the Acton/Chiswick border – for a remedial dip.

‘What’s wrong with her?’ asked the cheerful young woman who greeted us. Her name was Katie and she was wearing a wetsuit.

‘Well…’ As I embarked on the sad catalogue of Matty’s ailments, it occurred to me that I might be on a fool’s errand. But Katie was undeterred. ‘We’ll see what we can do,’ she said, and set about hosing Matty down gently with warm water.

This was the prelude to a more serious soaking. We were in a tiled room dominated by a high-sided pool some eight feet long and four feet wide with a ramp up one side. Matty was strapped into a yellow lifejacket with a handle on the back, so that she could be supported from both above and below; then she and Katie took to the water. An inflatable collar was added to stop her head going under. She could easily have passed for an extra in Thunderball.

Matty is generally rather keen on water, so I thought that she would find the experience a treat – I imagined her paddling up and down the pool with the ease of a duckbilled platypus. But it was not be: ‘I don’t think this is working,’ said Katie after a few minutes.

Matty, she told me, was very weak, and the exertion required to get any benefit from the therapy was beyond her. On top of that, she seemed to find the whole business stressful, and the angle she had to keep her neck at was obviously uncomfortable. So she was returned to dry land and dried off.

It was all very disappointing; but I was grateful to Katie for her honesty, and should Poppy ever be prescribed hydrotherapy I would head back to Dogtown. (The first session, incidentally, is free.) Predictably, when we got home Matty seemed frightfully bucked up by her outing, and charged around in high excitement, obviously expecting some reward for enduring such an undignified ordeal.

‘I think some sardines would be appropriate,’ her look seemed to say.

How could I refuse?

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Anthony Gardner

Anthony Gardner is an Irish author and journalist based in London. He edits the Royal Society of Literature’s magazine RSL and has written for a wide variety of British, Irish and American magazines and newspapers, including the Sunday Times Magazine, Intelligent Life and Slightly Foxed. He was previously deputy editor of Harpers & Queen

One thought on “Matty And The Hydrotherapist”

  1. RIP Matty – I heard the sad news the other day. You did all you could to make her last days endurable, and wrote so beautifully about it for our bittersweet pleasure.


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