Creature Comfort

animal-physiotherapist-andalusia
IMAGES: JORGE MORALES & COURTESY OF MAAIKE VANHOUETTE

 

“I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t surrounded by dogs and horses, so no one was the least bit surprised when I decided to turn my passion into a career,” says Maaike. But it was a fortuitous twist of fate that brought her to Málaga…

 

It's all turning out just as we hoped it would. We're living our dream, say Maaike and Timothy.

“When I met the other love of my life – my partner Timothy – he’d been on a student exchange programme to Granada University and Andalucía had really got under his skin.” So when he suggested they came here to live, Maaike jumped at the idea. Relocating to Spain in 2008, they first set up home in Granada. It wasn’t long before Maaike had clients there, as well as in Córdoba and Jaén and although she continues to make regular visits to them, her reputation quickly spread to the Coast, so with an increasing number of patients from Málaga to Marbella, it made sense to move to the Costa del Sol.

 

Virtually all techniques used in human physiotherapy can be adapted and applied to animals.Timothy – who divides his working week between Granada, where he’s the financial director and business analyst of a software company; and Málaga, where he’s the business development manager of a firm specialising in web design – picks up the story: “When we found this property in Pizarra we knew it was ideal. You see that outhouse over there? That’s going to be our Canine Rehabilitation Clinic, complete with its own hydrotherapy pool.” With reconstruction already underway, and state-of-the-art equipment on order from Germany and the UK, the dedicated centre should be up-and-running, so to speak, this coming April.

 

Maaike and Timothy have two adopted dogs, 'Manchada' and 'Chuché'.

 

Not yet 30, Maaike has some impressive credentials under her belt. First studying human physiotherapy at the University of Leuven in her native Belgium, she qualified in Utrecht as a chartered animal physiotherapist in 2006, and after postgraduate training in Brighton she’s also a qualified canine and equine osteopath. “I love my work so much that I don’t ever want to stop learning,” she confides. True to her word, she’s currently enrolled in a series of weekend seminars on equine osteopathy in France, and next up? “Well, there’s a course in shiatsu that I’ve set my heart on doing.”

 

Animals are very smart. They seem to know you're there to help make them feel better, Maaike explains.Her clients are referred to her by vets, and whether it’s to increase performance, prevent injury, enhance healing, treat obesity, or improve quality of life, expert physiotherapy treatment from a specialist such as Maaike can achieve remarkable results. One of her equine patients, Campanara was last year’s winner of the 10-day Raid Tierras de Al-Andalus, reputedly the world’s most gruelling endurance event for horses and riders, and she’s now the international competition’s official physiotherapist. But her greatest challenge yet has to be Bruno, a young doberman pinscher so badly paralysed that he could scarcely lift his head. Four months on – you can watch his amazing progress on Maaike’s canine physiotherapywebsite – he’s literally coming on in leaps and bounds! Horse owners meanwhile may like to check out Maaike’s equine physiotherapy website.