While animal sports centers are well established in the West, the idea has yet to catch on in Russia. RT visited the first cat-and-dog fitness heaven in the Russian capital.
The “Dog Palace” animal fitness and rehabilitation center opened three years ago. At the time, it was Russia’s first such center – and today it remains the only one.
The center’s founder says that while the idea is nothing new in Europe and the US, many in Moscow thought her business was just the latest craze for the rich and famous.
“People didn’t take it seriously,” the director general of the center, Olga Zolotukhina, told RT. “But I didn’t invent anything new. I’ve seen plenty such centers in Europe and decided to open one in Moscow because I’m a dog owner myself. We’ve studied the way it’s done abroad. Anyone can pour water in a tub, but you also need to know what to do next and which exercises really help.”
Now, more and more dog and cat lovers think Olga’s center can make their pets’ life better and healthier. Appointments have to be booked a week in advance.
Although cats normally hate water, Alf does not mind getting his paws wet. Taking a dip is part of the therapy to get him walking again.
“Alf’s back legs are paralyzed,” the cat’s owner, Olga Bogatikova, told RT. “We had him operated on – without much success. But after just one session at the ‘Dog Palace,’ he became more lively and energetic. I think health centers like this one are much needed.”
One of the regulars, a Labrador named Norman, cannot resist a puddle either.
“It’s a real problem in big cities – dogs just don’t get enough exercise,” dog owner Konstantin Shatov told RT. “During the cold, snowy winters, it’s hard to go for long walks, and he can’t swim outside either. Here he gets a great workout.”
Olga’s center is even planning to start “doga,” or canine yoga, classes – another big Western trend. Still, with animal fitness yet to take off in Russia, it may be some time before dog owners here start taking their mat and pet on a quest for Zen.
Meanwhile, finding the fitness center for your pet is only the first step on the way to fitness. The next question is how to get your pet there. Taking public transportation with a big dog or a cat carrier is certainly a hassle. Not every taxi company will take you on board with a furry friend – unless it is “Zootaxi.”
If you take this special pet taxi, you do not need any muzzles or cages. All drivers have been given a special course on how to deal with their four-legged passengers.
“There are about 6 million pets in Moscow, and driving them around can be a challenge,” Yulia Godunova, director general of Zootaxi, told RT. “We can be especially helpful if your animal is ill – our drivers can carry it and make it comfortable inside the car. And it’s not just cats and dogs we drive. We’ve had goats, too, iguanas, even a snake.”