A Swimming Pool for Her, a "Swimspaw" for the Dogs
We call it an Endless Pools® Original. Olympia calls it a "swimspaw." That’s because it has an adjustable current for swimming in place, just like a swim spa, and because she uses it for local dogs in need of low-impact therapy and recreation.
Her canine aquatics facility/yoga studio (she does both) is called The Back Forty. It's named after an old agricultural expression meaning the remote part of a farm. The 'back forty' of her farm is far smaller than 40 acres, but she's making an outsized impact thanks to her Endless Pools installation.
Like many passion projects, her canine therapy business started out as a personal mission; she installed the pool for her own dog, Bear.
Bear Dips In
"We've had Bear about eight years," Olympia recalls. "About six or seven years ago, we had to put him through surgery for arthritis in his knee. That's how we got into swimming. The therapy after his surgery, it was no-impact which was great."
As beneficial as her veterinarian's therapy pool was for Bear, it had some drawbacks. "It was $50 a half an hour. Say my appt was 2:00. If I showed up at 2, chances are there's another dog in there, so we have to wait. Then we have maybe 10 minutes of somehow trying to convince him to get in, and it was all just mayhem. Then the next appt arrived at 2:30. So there was no breathing room. It was a little chaotic, and I didn't like the whole situation.
"We did it for 2 years, twice a week." On that schedule, basic multiplication tells you that she spent over $10,000 on Bear's aquatic therapy! That's a lot given all the drawbacks. "I finally said to my husband, 'I’m really tired of this.'"
At the time, "My husband was building the yoga studio, so I said, 'Stop the yoga studio; I need the spa for Bear.'"
Bear Swims at Home
Olympia clearly loves Bear. She calls him "the kindest, sweetest soul." Unfortunately, "he's just riddled with arthritis, everywhere, every single vertebra." That's why, she says, "We swim him every day, sometimes twice a day. We just have fun!"
When Bear is swimming, she reports, "His heartbeat goes up. His endorphins are probably kicking in. Lots of dopamine is happening. He's happy. And when all these really good hormones are riddling through your body, I think that makes for a happier dog. It's like people. You have to exert that energy."
Without his frequent Endless Pools swims, Olympia suspects, "I don't think he would've lived this long. If you don't want to put the dog down, then he would've been numbed with drugs."
Running the 'Spaw'
"I'm not a vet tech," Olympia acknowledges. She positions the Back Forty pool for canine "recreational swimming." Of course, even swimming done for recreation has the benefits of aquatic exercise: it burns calories, builds muscle, and keeps the body flexible, without the impact – or with some conditions, the pain – of dry-land exercise.
She still gets a lot of clients seeking therapy. "I'll do it with the vet's recommendation. As long as the vet has contacted me, and I've talked to the vet," she says, it's fine. "Usually, it's my vet that will send people. Sometimes she comes, and she loves it. She can stand above and watch the dog swimming.
"It works, and people are happy," she finds. "I even sell 10 card passes, and those people come back. They love it."
She loves it too, but she is very disciplined about it. "I'm very strong in my rules, and we do not force a dog in," she states firmly. "It takes time for a dog to get introduced. 'Why are we going in circles? Why is this lady hanging on to me? I just want to play.' There's an adjustment period.
"It just takes trust. I have treats and I talk to them and I hang out. And I'm right down there on their level. They eventually get in. It takes 10 minutes, 15 minutes. And I'll always tell the 'pawrents,' you just have to be patient. I have to develop a relationship. They have to get to know me a little bit." Of course, she notes, "Some dogs, I can't keep them out of the pool!
When a dog seems distracted, she turns on the Endless Pools current. "I have learned the benefits of using the current even on a low speed," she says. "It keeps their mind busy because now they're going against the current. It gets them more focused." She finds it helpful that Endless Pools' compact sizing delivers "a completely controlled environment."
Having learned from past experience with the time-crunch of 30-minute appointments, she only books one-hour sessions. "I've got to give that buffer."
The standard Endless Pools water quality system plays a key role because, as Olympia notes, "I'm always in the water with them. I want to make sure the pool is really clean. I clean the filter every day. As long as you keep it clean, it doesn't clog up" with dog hair.
A Pool for Humans Too
When there are no canine sessions booked, Olympia can use the pool herself. "I swim all the time. I love it," she says. "And I am so scared of water." And that's another benefit of the Endless Pools' compact models: "I feel safe" she notes, "because I can touch the bottom, and I'm fine."
"I sometimes will have the current on full speed and hang onto the bar and it just pulls my body long. I love that feeling, because I have a lot of weird stuff happening in my hip from so much yoga and [competitive] gymnastics in my life. It's like it pops my spine a little bit."
After almost three years with their Endless Pools installation, Olympia feels that she got more than she'd imagined. "I love using it. I'm in it every single day. It's definitely well worth the money. We did it just for Bear. Bear benefits out of it the most. And," she adds, "it's a business, and it does well."