The owner of Gentle Giants Massage has the gift of touch, some might say.
Since 1998, owner Sandy Armstrong has used her hands to make a living as a massage therapist. In 2002, she decided to do something a little different: she got trained to massage animals, both big and small.
Her weekly clientele appointments vary, but do include a mix of both humans and pets.
“I’m mobile. I’ll go anywhere on the Kitsap Peninsula,” said Armstrong of meeting the needs of both her pet and human clients. “I like a good mix.”
While it is a benefit for pet owners — they don’t have to struggle to get their pet in a car or carrier — it also makes it easier for Armstrong to do her job when the pets are in their own environment. They relax much better that way, she said.
On one recent rainy day, Armstrong visited longtime clients Ward and Debbie Scott in their Tracyton home. Their dogs, two mixed labs, promptly greeted Armstrong at the door.
Buddy, a black lab mix, usually gets his shoulders and hips worked on. Abby, the younger of the two, gets a massage to relax.
“We love her,” said Debbie Scott of Armstrong and her abilities. “It’s so wonderful to see them relaxed and out of pain and how responsive they are with Sandy. She really has a way with animals.”
The biggest relief for the Scotts has been seeing how quickly Armstrong has been able to ease their dogs’ pain, most especially Buddy, who is nine. Within five sessions, the owners noticed the treatment of Buddy’s left shoulder helped him much better than other options they were left with from the vet.
“The thing I like is (there’s) no drugs” said Ward Scott. “He’s getting to be a whole dog now. Vets would have recommended steroids for the shoulder. But I’ve never had it work long term for any of the dogs I’ve had.”
As soon as Armstrong walks in the door, she’s ready to work. She gets down on the floor, and the dogs both try to sidle up to her. Buddy gets his work done first, and let’s Armstrong know what side he needs worked on most.
Like putty in her hands, Buddy allows Armstrong to knead and press on his shoulders and hips, his tail wagging in obvious delight of being taken care of through massage.
Ward joked, “If you look any more relaxed Buddy, the only thing left to do is bury you.”
When Abby gets her turn, she snorts in delight, rolling on her back, paws stiffened straight in the air. Her eyes roll and she falls asleep as she gets worked over by Armstrong.
“It’s not uncommon for them to sleep afterwards,” Armstrong said.
Because she is so hands-on when she works with the animals — she’s worked on all types, from horses to ducks — she can feel odd lumps and discovers issues an owner may have overlooked. Aside from her massage training, she also has experience in vet assistance.
The biggest benefits Armstrong notices right away is immediate relaxation, stress relief and knots loosened up that would otherwise cause stiffness. For her, that’s the best part of doing what she does.
“Just knowing that they feel good helping them heal (is my favorite part),” she said.
One example is of a chow mix she worked with who leaned to the left and tilted its head to the left. Whether it was caused by the brain tumor it had or the flea medicine its owner had used, Armstrong was unsure of the cause, but felt she could help.
Between her massage techniques and a vet acupuncturist, the client noticed a huge difference in her dog after several sessions.
Listening to her stories about other animals, the Scotts believe every word. They’ve seen it with their own pets, and despite pet massages not known as the norm, they plan to continue the treatment plan.
While it can add up for the $1 per minute she charges, the Scotts know their dogs are worth it.
“We highly recommend her,” said Debbie Scott, who has also had massages from Armstrong. “I think the dogs would, too.”
For more information on Gentle Giants Massage Therapy, contact Sandy Armstrong at 253-569-6449.