The holidays are near, and it’s time to start thinking about gifts for your friends, family, and loved ones — including the furry ones. When shopping for your pet, it’s easy to grab treats and toys. However, this year, dog and horse owners could spring for something different – like a massage, from canine and equine-licensed massage therapist Billy Graner.
Graner, a Dormont resident, became a licensed massage therapist for people to start – and the reason stemmed from an experience with his father. He was in hospice care when Graner asked him if there was anything he hadn’t experienced that he would like to. His father instantly responded with a massage.
“They had Yellow Pages down there, so I looked under ‘massage’ and actually found this lady who specializes in seniors,” Graner said.
He then shared that his dad went on to have five great massages – until he realized how much he was paying. Although that was the end of massages for his father, Graner took an interest in possibly being able to help older people someday and ended up going to school for it.
While in school, Graner, who is a life-long animal lover, had to write a report and paper on aqua therapy. He researched the topic and learned about aqua therapy for working horses. He based his assignment on this, and after a passionate presentation, including handouts for all the students, Graner realized he wanted to work with animals.
“A quote on my brochure – it’s by Mahatma Gandhi – says ‘The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be by the way its animals are treated,’” he said. “So I think the way we treat our animals is important.”
He shared that while massages for animals aren’t necessary, it’s just a nice thing to do for them.
“I wouldn’t say it’s your responsibility to massage your animal, but it’s another way you can add longevity to your animal – and I don’t mean that in years, I just mean the abilities, muscles, and being able to be fit,” Graner said.
Graner works out of his home in Dormont, travels out to barns, and travels to massage dogs as well. The price of the appointment is determined by location, not by the size of the animal. He shared some of the reasons why your dog or horse could benefit from a massage.
“Like humans, they get arthritis,” he said. “And bigger dogs like German Shepherds and Labrador Retrievers, they get hip problems as they get older. It’s called hip dysplasia, and massages really help that.”
Graner shared a story of a dog he knew that he wished he had had the ability to help when he knew them.
“I had this client who used to carry her old German Shepherd up and down the steps outside and inside just to take him to the bathroom,” he said. “He was just riddled with arthritis and now looking back at it, I think I would have been able to help a little bit more with the stiffness in his joints and his ability to move more.”
Additionally, working dogs on farms take part in a lot of physical activity, as well as police canines and therapy dogs. Horses that are ridden by professionals and younger kids also benefit from the massages, as they carry a lot of weight on their backs.
As far as Graner’s favorite part of the job, it’s pretty similar in people and animals. He enjoys meeting people and figuring out how to best help them.
“I don’t want to have my client on the table and talk through the whole massage, because that’s not relaxing for them,” he said. “But before, I take a few minutes to learn about them a bit. If someone’s a plumber, and they’re on their knees under sinks all day, you realize that he has lower leg, thigh, and lower back problems.”
He shared that it’s a similar experience with animals. By learning what their day-to-day activities are, he can better help them.
“You walk into the barn and the horses kind of know you’re there,” he said. “And if you’ve been to the barn a couple of times, they kind of know why you’re there. And with dogs, they’re dogs, you know? You come up to the house and they’re wagging their tail.”
Graner is incredibly passionate about his work – he loves animals and loves helping people and animals out. The queer-owned business is committed to helping dogs and horses.
To schedule a massage for your pet, Graner can be reached via his email, billyGmassage@comcast.net, or the company’s Facebook page.
Treat your animals and support a queer-owned local business this holiday season.