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The magic touch; Sam Banry certified as a small-animal massage specialist

Sam Banry, at home with best friend, Cassie, a 13-year-old border collie/blue heeler, is one of the few — and possibly the only — certified small-animal massage therapist on the island.  - Scott Rasmussen
Sam Banry, at home with best friend, Cassie, a 13-year-old border collie/blue heeler, is one of the few — and possibly the only — certified small-animal massage therapist on the island.
— image credit: Scott Rasmussen

By all accounts, Sam Banry’s a natural.

But now he has a license and state-issued certification to back it up. And he could have a corner on the market as well.

On May 2, the 18-year-old Friday Harbor student became certified as an animal massage practitioner after passing a hands-on final exam — the culmination of a six-month online course with the Redmond-based Northwest School of Animal Massage — with flying colors. He’s trained and licensed in massage techniques that are tailored for small animals — namely dogs and cats — and describes the motivation for taking the course as an affair of the heart rather than a career move.

“It’s one of those things that just popped up and that I was interested in,” Banry said of the online course. “I enjoy being around dogs. I just love them.”

A school representative was on hand to administer the final, which took place at the Animal Inn.

With assistance from Friday Harbor High School’s Becky Shanks,

and with veterinarian Michelle Loftus of the Animal Inn as a mentor, Banry began the online course in October after passing a series of written tests. Along the way, he completed 300 hours of class work.

Over the summer, he worked — like a dog — to bank enough money to cover the $1,500 tuition and, now accredited, can take what had been a past-time to a whole new level.

Banry said memorizing the animal anatomy and a host of clinical definitions, such as “contra-indicator,” proved the toughest parts of the course.

Loftus said it was clear early on that Banry’s appreciation for dogs and cats runs deep and that he bonds easily with the animals. Several dogs that took part in the weekly practicums at the high school displayed an equal appreciation for Banry, she said.

“I have some dogs that would just run in and jump up on the mat when we went to the school,” Loftus said. “He’s just kind of a natural animal person and he has the touch.”

Similar to humans, Banry said the back, shoulders and around the neck, are good places to focus when a dog is in need of a relaxing massage. People aren’t the only ones that suffer from stress and benefit from a good, therapeutic massage, he said.

“Stressed? Yeah, sometimes they can be,” he said.

Banry will be available at Downtown Dog beginning this week.

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