Canine Calisthenics

Danielle West laid yoga mats on her living-room floor, put on some soft music and offered her clients a biscuit. The first thing to learn about dog yoga -- doga -- is that treats help provide the real Nirvana.

Colonel Steve, my Lhasa apso, and Shortie, an Afghan/collie -- along with their humans -- had joined West and Bandit, her little Heinz 57 mix, at their Highlands Ranch home for a solid 45 minutes of doga. Bandit and Shortie were veterans and had been through the routine before, but the Colonel was a tyro. Or maybe that should be tyrant: Steve is a complicated little cur whom one hardly expects to behave around strangers. Particularly strangers with good-smelling butts.

We began by sitting behind our dogs, petting them and doing some simple stretches. We worked our fingers down their spines and gently massaged their legs. West explained to us that she and her husband, both naturopathic doctors and animal lovers, started the program -- Four Paws Yoga for Dogs -- in order to impart the physical benefits of yoga to pets without the usual Eastern mysticism. The Colonel, of Tibetan descent, fell into the rhythm naturally.

In fact, the dog that runs our house like the factory in The Hudsucker Proxy was being downright mellow. His eyes began to droop, his tongue lolled, and we moved into the poses, taking a break between each activity to serve the necessary treats and tell the dogs how good they were being. Shortie, a fourteen-year-old gentleman recently adopted from MaxFund who had trouble negotiating wood floors, sat out most of the posing, getting as much thrill from fellow dog time as from the exercise. Despite being the most experienced mutt present, Bandit was also the most easily distracted, and he periodically dropped the stretching to attack his rubber drumstick toy.

The Colonel was surprisingly good at the poses. We stretched under his legs while he lay on his side, we held a treat in the air so he could stretch his neck backward. The final pose, and the most popular, involved all three dogs sitting on their butts as we held them from behind and waved their paws in the air. After that, they were spent.

Except for Bandit, who took advantage of the quiet time to give the Colonel a vigorous humping.

KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Alex Neth

Latest Stories