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?

Matty And The Acupuncturist

When I was first trying to get into journalism, I was invited for an interview at Vogue. Naïvely, I arrived precisely on time, only to be handed a form which took ten minutes to fill in. The personnel manager then refused to see me on the grounds that I was ten minutes late – which is one reason I ended up as deputy editor of a rival magazine.

I was reminded of this incident last week, when I took Matty to see an acupuncturist. Her hind legs had started to give way, and though an acquaintance had suggested osteopathy, our vet thought that acupuncture would be better. But when we arrived, one of those dratted forms awaited us, containing no fewer than 160 questions. True, most of them required only ticks or one-word answers, but Matty doesn’t like vets’ surgeries at the best of times, and by the end of this preliminary she was pretty fed up.

The acupuncturist, when we eventually got to see him, was a likeable fellow, who told me that his own elderly dog had mental problems similar to Matty’s. He had been practising homeopathy for 30 years, and had been a regular vet for ten years before that. I learnt that the acupuncture points for dogs are the same as for humans, but the process is much quicker, because dogs have a much higher metabolism than we do. (Among other things, their body temperature is three degrees higher than ours.) So instead of half an hour, ten minutes will do.

This was all very interesting, but I was acutely aware of the fact that we were paying £180 for the consultation. ‘Cut to the chase!’ I muttered under my breath. ‘Get the needles out!’ At last he did so, deftly inserting ten of them – five on either side of her spine. Matty didn’t much enjoy the process, but once they were in she stopped complaining – and the next day she showed a marked improvement. She wasn’t entirely steady on her feet, but she toppled over much less frequently. Whether this actually makes her more cheerful is something that remains to be seen.

I was told that a follow-up session would cost £90. Alternatively, the vet could do a telephone consultation for £45. ‘Don’t be ridiculous,’ I was tempted to say: ‘this dog is stone deaf!’ But I let the moment pass.

Who Would Matty Vote For?

As the General Election approaches, I find myself wondering which party would get the canine vote if it existed. Let’s consider the options.

  • Conservative Dogs are creatures of habit, which suggests an adherence to the status quo, and a food bank would be their idea of heaven. But as a senior citizen, Matty would worry about cuts to the NHS and social services.
  • Labour Ed Miliband’s supposed resemblance to Wallace in the Wallace and Gromit cartoons is a strong recommendation as far as dogs are concerned. They are losing sleep, however, about the prospect of the mansion tax being applied to their kennels.
  • Liberal Democrats Unfortunately Nick Clegg is perceived as a lame duck, and is therefore likely to be eaten for breakfast.
  • UKIP The introduction of pet passports was a hugely exciting development for dogs – so distancing Britain from Europe would not play well with them. Nor would they have much sympathy for politicians so intolerant of French poodles and German shepherds.
  • SNP A party which gives Scotties a disproportionate say in the running of the country would have the seat ripped out of its trousers by bulldogs and Irish wolfhounds.
  • Green Party Dogs feel an instinctive liking for any human who is obviously in tune with the natural world. But a lot of Greens are vegetarians, and therefore have to be regarded with suspicion.
  • DUP Unionism was long synonymous with a man in a dog collar, the late Dr Ian Paisley. Without him the party will find animal votes hard to attract.
  • Sinn Fein Gerry Adams’s muckers refuse to take any of the seats they win. Our four-legged friends have little time for a dog in a manger.

A Spaniel Moment’s Prediction 

A hung Parliament – preferably Aberdeen Angus, hung for 28 days and served on the bone.