For the dogs: Sammamish spa targets canines

At first glance, the spa in the back yard of Sandy Fisher’s Sammamish home doesn’t appear out of the ordinary.

At first glance, the spa in the back yard of Sandy Fisher’s Sammamish home doesn’t appear out of the ordinary.

Serene music plays over the speakers, calming aromas waft through the air and plants line a temperature controlled pool.

It’s not until the intended user, Buddy, bolts through the door on four legs wagging his tail, that it becomes evident this isn’t an average relaxation center.

“There’s a lot of people that go, ‘Oh my gosh, a pool for dogs,’” said Fisher, who for the last five years has operated K9 Aquatics atop the Plateau. “Some people say, ‘What will they think of next,’ and some people think it’s wonderful.”

Fisher first got the idea in 2003 when her bulldog, Brodie, tore his cranial cruciate ligament. After surgery, Brodie struggled with mobility.

In search of help, Fisher found one of the nation’s leading canine aqua therapists Cindy Horsfall, a Sequim resident, who formerly operated La Paw Spa on Redmond-Fall City Road.

Noticing a drastic improvement in Brodie, Fisher wanted to learn more about the healing techniques. She started taking courses from Horsfall, who provided her the ultimate motivation.

“She said, ‘You know, you should build your own and just do this because you’re kind of a natural,’” Fisher said.

That vision became a reality in July of 2007. Housed in a 19 foot by 49 foot glass building, K9 Aquatics is one of 13 Washington state business registered with the International Association of Animal Massage and Bodywork, and the Association of Canine Water Therapy. There are 345 similar businesses registered around the world.

“It’s starting to really get more well known,” said Fisher, noting more veterinarians are focused on physical rehab for pets.

Fisher said the majority of her clients are geriatric or recovering from surgery, but she also gets owners who want to teach puppies how to swim and others looking for warm water in the winter months.

Treatments, techniques and length of sessions vary dog to dog, depending on their fitness levels and comfort with the water.

Buddy, a 3 1/2-year-old German Shepherd mix and foster pet at the Seattle Humane Society, strapped on a life jacket last week for a session designed to help with recovery from hip surgery.

As she does with all clients, Fisher got in the water and guided him around the 8-foot by 20-foot custom pool. The two went for multiple laps, with Fisher focusing on creating resistance to help Buddy regain hip strength. Buddy, who’s not a fan of the water, required the occasional tap on the leg, but the session was an overall success.

“We’re so grateful because it really has helped his hip,” said foster parent Rebecca Dinh, who drives from Bellevue twice a week for treatments. “I’ve seen a really great improvement.”

Buddy is one of two Humane Society pets currently working with Fisher that receives services at no cost.

“There’s nothing more rewarding than working with the dogs and seeing a health benefit from it, or just the dogs who love to swim and they’re just so happy,” Fisher said.

K9 Aquatics is currently a part-time endeavor for Fisher, who runs a 401K consulting business with her mother. She said when her mother retires, she will focus solely on the animal spa  —  something that has become a true passion.

“I fall in love with everyone of my clients who come through the door,” said Fisher, smiling. “Some of them tug a little harder at your heart strings.”


To learn more about Sammamish’s canine swim spa, including rates and services, go to the

Buddy, a German Shepherd mix, stretches his legs against K9 Aquatics owner Sandy Fisher, while Humane Society foster parent Rebecca Dinh comforts him.

Buddy, who is not a fan of swimming, shakes off after a physical therapy session at K9 Aquatics.