Although I have always loved animals, my real love affair with dogs began in 1998, when my husband and I adopted an exceptional beagle named Clancy from a local animal shelter. In 1999, on the 1-year anniversary of Clancy’s adoption, I joined a dedicated group of animal-lovers in volunteering to help shelter dogs. I held a variety of management roles during the next 15 years, and my work included arranging the intake of homeless dogs, facilitating adoptions, coordinating volunteer training, assisting with veterinary care, researching dog food and nutrition, mentoring dogs with special needs, promoting the use of positive reinforcement training, and leading several initiatives to improve the dogs’ quality of life at the shelter and beyond.
But mostly, I worked with the dogs … hundreds of wonderful dogs, each of whom left pawprints on my heart. They taught me about what dogs need, what makes dogs happy, and how blessed we are to share their lives. In addition to Clancy, my household has included Winnie (Plott hound), Daisy (border collie), Angela (poodle), Brooke (Australian cattle dog), Theo (chow), Tommy (mixed breed), Gracie (Sheltie mix), Hobbes (terrier mix), and Bitsy (beagle), as well as many foster dogs. Each one has had a special place in our family, but Tommy is the dog who inspired my interest in canine water therapy.
Tommy was once a young stray, limping along I-71 with a broken leg. His owner, located via a rabies tag, had no interest in him and agreed to surrender him to my family. For several months, we tried to save Tommy’s leg, utilizing orthopedic surgeons, physical therapists, and every other resource we could locate … including a home hydrotherapy tub. Unfortunately, Tommy’s leg was beyond repair, and amputation turned out to be the best option for him. Working with Tommy, I learned about the wonders of water therapy, and over the years it has continued to benefit him greatly in his happy and healthy life as a tripawd. Now that Tommy is an older dog (age 14), soaking in warm water helps minimize the effects of arthritis, and helps keep him comfortable and active.
I went on to become certified as a Canine Aquatic Practitioner (Levels One and Two) at La Paw Spa in Sequim, Washington, where I studied with Cindy Horsfall, founder of the International Association of Canine Water Therapy. I have studied positive reinforcement training with Carla Whitaker of Positive Paws, canine massage with Patricia Whalen-Shaw at Integrated Touch Therapy and Cindy Erickson at La Paw Spa, and reiki with Julie Keefe of the Shelter Animal Reiki Association. I have also served as an Instructor for the Red Cross course on Pet First Aid. I continually participate in Continuing Education courses with nationally-recognized trainers, behavior specialists, and veterinarians (see listings on my CE page).
Here Buoy! is my way of making the benefits of water exercise and other enrichment activities available to more dogs in the Cincinnati area.
Aside from my work with animals, I have a BS in Biology from the University of Michigan and a graduate degree in Library Science (MLS) from Indiana University. Before continuing my training with dogs, I was a librarian at Good Samaritan Hospital and The Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County. Other interests have included scuba diving, vintage dance (as a performer with the Flying Cloud Academy of Vintage Dance and the Cincinnati Court Dancers), and Lindy hop (as co-founder of the Cincinnati Swing Dance Society, the Cincinnati Hepcats, and the Cincinnati Lindy Circle). Dance training promotes sensitivity, communication, and mutual respect between dance partners … skills that have proved remarkably valuable when I develop a “partnership” with a dog!
A native of Ann Arbor, Michigan, I have lived in the Cincinnati area for 33 years, including 13 years in beautiful Loveland.
♥ Karla Gansmuller