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Meet Kathleen Smith of Furever Strong K9 Rehab

Today we’d like to introduce you to Kathleen Smith.

Hi Kathleen, please kick things off for us with an introduction to yourself and your story.
Hi! Im Kat, an Arizona born and raised, Physical therapist and Certified Canine Rehab Therapist. I am the owner and therapist for Furever Strong K9 Rehab. I knew I wanted to be a Physical Therapist since my first year in high school, and I never wavered from that. During PT school applications, I learned that working with dogs and rehabbing their injuries and pain could be an option. I initially thought I would have to go through something equivalent to vet school, which sounded terrible, so the idea didn’t grow to anything for a few years. With the never-ending support of my husband, I finished PT school. I started working with a wide variety of human patients, including those with acute and chronic pain and injuries, weekend warriors with nagging problems, and post-op cases of all ages. Outside of the clinic, my dog Aurora, a golden retriever, was starting to show those classic aging signs many pet parents hate to see- slowing down, not as interested in chasing the ball, and difficulty getting onto the couch to snuggle. Aurora was our first baby, and after having her examined by her vet, we were told she had hip dysplasia and arthritis. Well, my PT brain said if I had a human that had those diagnoses, this is what I would do. Why can’t I do that to my dog? It turns out I can.  I was not certified yet, but the techniques I did use on Aurora were very beneficial. Unfortunately, cancer took Aurora from us to soon, and from that point I was determined to get into the canine world.

I began researching how to become a Certified Canine Rehab Therapist. I discovered it was more attainable than I initially thought. Multiple courses through the Canine Rehab Institute, and almost a year long process, to learn and understand dog anatomy and biomechanics. Being surrounded by like-minded PTs and vets from across the country was very motivating during the certification process. We could bounce many ideas off each other, including our business model. Like many other PTs in this field, I provide mobile services, where I come to you and your dog and we do treatment in your home, where the dog is more comfortable. And so Furever Strong K9 Rehab was officially born. Being a business owner wasn’t necessarily a part of the original career plan, but it has been more than I ever dreamed. The ability to bring my services to the dogs around the East Valley and help be a part of them feeling and moving better while educating their pet parents to be active participants has been enjoyable and rewarding. Now my goal is to get the word out that this service exists. Not many pet parents know what rehab can do for them and their pups.

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall, and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
I wouldn’t say it’s been perfectly smooth; think more forest road- some uneven terrain, random tight turns, and ups and downs, but the journey so far has been beautiful. Most of the struggles have been learning how to be a business owner and market, but I am grateful to my business mentor and colleagues I have met along the way.

As you know, we’re big fans of Furever Strong K9 Rehab. For our readers who might not be as familiar, what can you tell them about the brand?
At Furever Strong K9 Rehab, we provide an individualized treatment program for your aging dog, helping your dog age confidently and move better and pain-free. For your dog, we do not let arthritis slow them down. The more you can keep your aging dog moving and strong, the better they feel. Rehab can benefit a wide range of dogs, including post-op diagnosis, but the aging population seems to be forgotten, though they may benefit the most. Every program is unique to the dog and what their needs are. I provide pet parents with home activities to complete every day, which is needed for lasting changes. I am grateful I can bring these sessions into your home, where you and your dog are more comfortable.

We’d love to hear what you think about risk-taking?
Risk-taking adds excitement to any life journey. I admit I am a calculated risk-taker when possible. For example, when I moved full-time to Furever Strong K9 Rehab, I ended up leaving my full-time, stable position at a human clinic after more than 5 years with little notice. That is one of my most significant risks, I had planned to transition slowly, but with a nudge from my husband we decided one day to instead go fully into the business. I believe getting out of your comfort zone is necessary! It teaches you more about yourself, what you are capable of, and what amazing things are still out there that you may have otherwise missed out on. Take that risk!

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