By Aliya Hall

Swim assistant Christie Wells experienced firsthand the impact that the K9 Swim Center had when she brought her 11-year-old springer spaniel with mobility issues to swim.

K9 Swim Center’s swim assistant Christie Wells works with patient Hazel.

“She was slipping and sliding on floors, and for the next year she didn’t get any worse with the mobility and actually improved to where I didn’t need carpet runners anymore,” she said. “This was impressive for me to see as an employee, and also to be able to share that with customers.”

K9 Swim Center in Springfield focuses on canine hydrotherapy, which uses warm water swimming to help dogs improve circulation, enhance dexterity, exercise, and recover from injuries or surgery. Owned by Petra Kenady and operated by her husband, Scott Kenady, the swim center opened in January 2018.

The idea for opening a canine hydrotherapy center in the Eugene area started with Scott Kenady and his brother, Todd Kenady. After Todd’s service dog sustained an injury and sought therapy in Salem, the brothers decided to open a facility closer to home. A few days after signing the lease, however, tragedy struck: Todd and his dog were killed in a car accident. The family decided to continue. The swim center sees an average of 85 dogs a week, and Scott says the pandemic has actually made them busier because more people have been at home spending time with their dogs.

The K9 Swim Center takes an individualized approach with each session, because every dog is unique. “There are so many different reasons why people come to see us,” Wells says. “We play a little bit of investigator and then we customize the plan from there.”

For the first session, every dog gets a life jacket and is shown the ramps out of the pool. The owners are included in the process, even though they don’t go into the water. The swim assistants utilize the pool’s three steps to evaluate the dog’s swimming level and monitor the dog to ensure they don’t take on too much water. Then assistants will integrate exercise such as fetching or laps — where the assistant pulls the dog backward and the dog swims forward. Sessions also incorporate intermediate breaks for five or 10 minutes.

“We expect there to be change within 24 hours,” Kenady said. “Dogs are so fast with their recovery time.”

The first session is always free, to give clients the opportunity to try canine hydrotherapy as an option. One of their regular clients, Janelle Frazier, said that helped motivate her to take her dog, Cody, to the swim center after his knee surgery in 2020.

“It was really tough for me to watch my dog struggle after his injury,” she recalls. “It was like a light went out.”

Frazier said she was worried about Cody potentially injuring his other knee, so she researched muscle-building options that wouldn’t put added weight on his joints. That’s when she found the K9 Swim Center.

“The owner is so good,” she says. “They say they’re not a medical facility, but he took the time and care that my dog wouldn’t injure himself during the session.”

Frazier said Cody was tired after the first session, but the next day he was, “like a puppy again.” “He was so happy,” she said with relief. “He came to me and brought his toys and was excited about life again.”

After a few more sessions, Frazier said, Cody had already started to build muscles, and the benefits went beyond the physical. Wells explained that one of the “side effects” to swimming is mood improvement.

“Our goal is to provide the best quality of service to our dogs that we can,” Wells said.

K9 Swim Center also does community outreach, holding fundraisers and donation drives yearly to help dogs who need knee surgeries or help dogs get adopted. Eventually, Kenady would like to expand and open a new location, with the goal being to help as many dogs as they can. For both the Kenadys and Wells, the most rewarding aspect of the swim center is the ability to increase a dog’s length and quality of life.

“We come in here with people who thank us with tears in their eyes for giving their dog mobility back, their energy back, and their happiness back,” Wells said. “We have customers who have told us that if it wasn’t for this place their dog wouldn’t be alive any more.”

K9 Swim Center

156 S 20th St., Springfield