Shelah Barr received the first of 3 certifications in Massage and Bodywork in 1993. Her specialization was structural and functional correction, working with people to help them recover from injuries and chronic illnesses, and create self-care programs for themselves. Her work literally went to the dogs in 2005, when suddenly it seemed that every dog within sight was asking for her help. She took the hint and started Happy Hounds Massage, and has been using her skills and knowledge to help small animals ever since. Shelah lives in San Francisco and spends her free time bending to the will of her dog, Bunny.
What is your idea of perfect happiness?Perfect happiness is relaxing with friends and our pets somewhere warm and lush, with no schedule, or demands, or responsibility. Maybe not even a phone. Some simple delicious food nearby and good music.
If you could come back as a dog or a cat, which one would it be & why?
Can I choose hybrid? If it’s an either/or I think a cat because they have more independence and autonomy. Our dogs rely on us more for needs and entertainment but cats get to do what they want when they want. And they can commit terrible crimes but get spoiled and loved anyway. How fun is that?
What is your pet’s more treasured possession?
Bunny’s personal possessions? We haven’t discussed it but I believe: her treats, her beds - she has three of her own plus stairs to mine, a couple of neighbors who, according to her, love her more and better than I do, two neighborhood pet stores that clearly have better treats than we have at home, then me. In that order.
Your proudest achievement so far?
I’m very proud of Happy Hounds Massage. When I started the company I didn’t consider the bigger picture of our animal community. I was just looking at having a small, private service business. But the door to this beautiful community opened and I’m glad it did. I’ve met people with the most generous hearts and kindest spirits, and that kind of generosity is contagious. So now in addition to seeing private clients Happy Hounds Massage actively supports more than 15 local rescue and adoption agencies, participates in at least a dozen fund raisers every year, and this year produced the Pet Program for San Francisco’s Sunday Streets.
Who are your heroes in real life?
Anyone who makes and follows through on a commitment to care for an animal. We take it for granted but having another’s life in your hands is a big deal. Really big. Sherri Franklin of Muttville, for her selfless and indomitable spirit and all she does to give dignity and meaning to the lives of the growing senior dog population. And my Great-Uncle Benjamin for loving life and taking advantage of all it has to offer in spite of how mean it was to him. He was like a rescue dog - he lost his home and suffered on the streets but he endured, found a forever home, and thrived.