The Dog Who Taught Me Anything Was Possible

By Lisa Stilwell
Essex Rivers Clinical Canine Massage, Member of the Canine Massage Guild and University Clinical Trials Co-Ordinator

Meet Vincent – an 11 year old Mastiff X who lives with Keedra and the rest of his human and canine family.

Vincent has several veterinary diagnoses including:

  • Bilateral Hip Dysplasia – a condition where there is a malformation of the hip joint.
  • Spondylosis – a degenerative condition of the spine characterised by the formation of bony spurs.
  • Osteoarthritis – degeneration of the joint cartilage and underlying bone affecting multiple joints.
  • Previous bilateral Cruciate Ligament surgery.

Owner’s Perception

In September 2018 I was contacted by Keedra. Vincent had been very unwell and she had made the very difficult decision that it was time for Vincent to make his final journey. He was on a lot of pain relief, unable to enjoy walks, and the previous 10 months had been very difficult. Keedra felt that Vincent had no quality of life.

Keedra heard about Clinical Canine Massage from a friend whose dog I had treated earlier that year and was aware that I had trained for 2 years with the Canine Massage Therapy Centre in 4 disciplines of massage; Swedish, Sports, Deep Tissue and Myofascial Release, and specifically the Lenton Method™. She put her trust in me, I was her very last resort Vincent’s appointment at the Vet was cancelled.

Clinical Canine Massage Therapy

I remember very clearly the first day that I met Vincent, he came to the door to greet me, a beautiful gentle giant with the sweetest nature. As we went outside to assess Vincent’s gait and posture I must confess, my heart sank. Vincent was able to shuffle along no more than a few steps before stopping for a rest.

We spoke in depth about Vincent’s medical history and his Clinical Canine Massage treatment plan. We agreed that it was clear that the main priority was to provide comfort to Vincent in his final few weeks, Keedra and the rest of the family were realistic about Vincent’s prognosis but hopeful that they would all have one last Christmas together.

As I palpated Vincent’s muscles assessing for tenderness, changes in tone, injuries and changes in temperature it was evident that Vincent had many muscular issues including:

Myofascial Pain – a condition that affects the fascia (connective tissue) that envelopes every organ, muscle and bone in the body. When fascia becomes restricted it becomes dysfunctional and causes many symptoms such as restricted range of movement, tight skin and an increase in pain sensitivity.

Hypertonicity – higher than normal resting tone in the muscle caused by a persistent state of contraction. Vincent felt like a rock the first time I touched him, he was hard and inflexible and had extremely poor range of movement in all four limbs.

Strains – tears in a muscle caused by over stretching. Vincent had multiple strains.

How Did The Lenton Method™ Help Vincent?

Prior to the application of the Lenton Method, used exclusively by Canine Massage Guild Members, I prepared Vincent’s muscles and fascia by using a selection of other techniques from the four disciplines of Swedish massage, sports massage, deep tissue and indirect myofascial release massage.

The 2 year Clinical Canine Massage Practitioner Programme run by the Canine Massage Therapy Centre and further Continuing Professional Development with them have provided me with close to 200 massage techniques. Each dog is an individual who receives a bespoke treatment tailored to their individual needs.

Each time I have treated Vincent he has trusted me, worked with me and become one of my most trusted teachers. Vincent is a very special dog, he taught me that anything was possible!

Vincent’s Improvement

  • Visibly looks and seems much happier in himself
  • More relaxed
  • Improved mobility
  • Sleeping better
  • Able to go through the dog flap again
  • Improvement in chronic pain leading to a reduction in medication

After three initial treatments I have continued to see Vincent on a monthly basis, I last saw Vincent in July 2019, he is now in the very twilight of his years. Following his treatment Keedra posted a lovely recommendation.

“Vincent had his tenth massage today. I can not believe how massively they improve his quality of life. September 2018 he was booked for his final journey to the vet. He’d had £4000 of platelet therapy, and his meds were on maximum at just under £600 a month. He went flat. His pain was excruciating and he had no interest in life. My boy could only walk 10 steps maximum before folding up and laying down. It was such a shame to see on a massively stoic dog, with a happy go lucky nature. I tried Lisa Stilwell at Essex Rivers Clinical Canine Massage, but honestly didn’t expect much. Well thank God I did!! He’s still with me, and most of all happy. Lisa cannot cure his problems, but boy can she can reduce the muscle pain caused by them!! Vin celebrates his 12th birthday in around 7 weeks!! A huge milestone for a mastiff. Clinical massage has given us more time. Its been a gift, a second chance to enjoy his autumn years properly”

The Lenton Method is currently being trialled by Winchester University and Sparsholt University in the worlds first ever clinical trials in canine massage therapy.

The official online register of Clinical Canine Massage Therapists can be found at