Photos: Canine massage and muscle therapy in Oak Park

Massage when it matters

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In walks the client on two good legs ready for his massage.

As a dog missing the other two legs, his life depends on it.

And the sweet 8-year-old pit bull named Fifty seems to know it as he hops over to Denise Theobald and lies down, exposing the overworked legs that carry the strain of his muscular, energetic body.

"What I do is therapeutic, not fluff and luxury," said Theobald, a nationally certified canine massage therapist who founded her own school and has an office on Harlem Avenue in Oak Park.

Like massage for humans, where Theobald got her start, canine massage and muscle therapy can assist in injury recovery, improve range of motion and flexibility and reduce pain and anxiety.

While humans and dogs have physiological similarities, Theobald said she had to learn dog behavior so she could understand what an animal's movement might be communicating as she carefully works her hands, searching for tight muscles and sore joints.

For Fifty, muscles in the chest and shoulder tighten but stay loose and fluid thanks to weekly sessions with Theobald.

"Once one leg goes, that's it; there is no quality of life," said Fifty's owner, Kelly Michael. "I have to keep those two legs as strong as I can."

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