Emily Evans leans down close to Daisy and offers amends in the form cookie. But for Daisy, sopping wet and tired, a cookie just isn’t going to cut it this time.
Instead Daisy pushes her muzzle toward the edge of the pool and looks up.
She offers Evans her best sad puppy dog eyes.
At 6 years old, Daisy is the kind of German shepherd that hikes, climbs and walks as often as her owners do.
Everything changed after leg surgery, though, and her owner April Evans wasn’t ready for Daisy — who was so active she is possibly part rabbit, according to Evans — to slow down.
Enter Veterinarian Regina Schwabe, a woman whose name is followed by a vegetable soup worth of titles. Translated, all those certifications mean Schwabe works magic with animals.
Schwabe, an expert in integrative veterinary medicine, does everything from rehabilitate paralyzed cats to teach dogs how to walk again.
She is one of only 13 people inVirginia certified by the American Veterinary Chiropractic Association and one of the less than 30 veterinarians inVirginia with certification from International Veterinary Acupuncture Society.
Nestled on a huge swath of land carved into the forest far from anyone, Schwabe’s clinic is an oasis for those who have found Pamplin Animal Wellness Services (PAWS).
“I just can’t say enough about her,” said Linda Burger, who drives from Pittsburgh every three months with her dogs to be treated by Schwabe.
“You are with her and — the dogs know it, too — you’re with her and you feel better,” said Burger, who has been one of Schwabe’s clients since before the clinic even opened in 2002.
Schwabe is among just a handful of veterinarians in Virginia who offer acupuncture for pets, rehabilitation and swim therapy. Few clinics offer the modalities she does and even fewer have the facilities dedicated specifically to the different therapies. Everything from the kitty window facing the yard to the playgrounds were created with pet rehabilitation in mind.
Martha Wiseman, an assistant at Rustburg Veterinary Clinic, said her clinic appreciates being able to refer clients to Schwabe. It’s common practice for them to refer patients with orthopedic or back injuries or leg surgery for specialized care. Without access to Schwab, Wiseman said it would take much longer for their clients to recover.
“It’s an advantage to the animal,” said Wiseman.
Beth Baldwin, who competes with her obedience dog Jessie, said she’s only been able to find about four dog therapy pools in Virginia but she prefers to drive from her home in the Richmond area to Pamplin to see Schwabe.
She doesn’t do the invasive surgeries or even X-rays that Baldwin’s Goochland vet does, but Schwabe pays attention to the nitty-gritty and stays on top of the latest in pet care. In Jessie’s case, it means Schwabe closely watches her thyroid because an underactive thyroid, common among the breed, will affect her muscles.
Dogs typically visit PAWS a few times each year, swimming for no more than 30 minutes with Schwabe at their side the entire time. Most of her clients have more doctors than humans have, which Schwabe said makes perfect sense because one year in the life of a dog is equal to about six or seven human years.
A lot can happen in that time.
Schwabe operates in a small space that looks more like a living room with its couches, exercise equipment and rugs. Animals of all sizes seem to instantly relax in her presence, nuzzling up to her in search of the source of the delectable scent emanating from her pockets.
She is a big fan of protein for dogs and dogs are a big fan of the cookies she special orders for them.
Sitting on the floor, Schwabe gingerly rotates Daisy’s still shorn leg and takes in the muscle atrophy.
“It’s got a real good range of motion but man it’s just grating,” Schwabe tells Evans, of Lynchburg.
After some spinal manipulations and a lot of talk about diet and supplements, Schwabe decides its time to set Daisy loose.
She introduces Evans and Daisy to a new harness, which moves Daisy’s center of gravity back and they set out across the property.
Schwabe analyzes each step, teaching Evans what to look for and showing her how Daisy has learned to change her gait to accommodate the pain.
“So my job is to teach her to trust that leg again,” said Schwabe, as she leads Daisy back to the office and gets her suited up for a visit to the pool.
Armed with a life jacket and neck flotation, Schwabe and Evans lower a reluctant Daisy into the pool.
People assume all dogs are natural swimmers. They are not.
But some are super smart, like Daisy, who quickly learns the life vest will keep her afloat if she curls her legs up tight under her body.
After a few minutes, Schwabe releases Daisy from the vest.
With her nose high into the air she begins a frenzied three-legged paddle and aims directly for the stairs she came in on.
After only a few minutes and a bit of coaxing, Daisy circles the pool with all four legs churning. Swimming forces dogs to use their lower backs, rather than rely on their front paws as they typically do.
“It’s still mysterious to me,” said Schwabe as she walks alongside Daisy in the warm pool in her wetsuit. After more than a decade in the field, Schwabe said it still fascinates her how the water loosens dogs’ connective tissues and ease their arthritis and knee pain.
“For the older ones it’s liberating,” said Schwabe, who has taught dogs as old as 14 how to swim in the gently pulsing water.
About one-third of her clients are swimmers while the rest of the cats and dogs she sees get everything from massage and nutritional therapy to electro-stimulation and acupuncture. Last year she saw almost 2,000 clients and appointments are back-to-back.
Schwabe, who helps advocate for healthy animal care through groups such as Saint Francis Service Dogs, has no intention of slowing down either, and continues to accept new clients.
“I learn something from the dogs all the time,” said Schwabe.