Good People: Roberta Kirby
Home is where the heart is.
For Roberta Kirby, it’s also where her work is.
But as the 69-year-old canine massage therapist will tell you, it’s not really work when you’re doing what you love, with the ones you love.
Roberta shares several acres of farmland with her daughter and son-in-law, on Highway 205 between Rockwall and Lavon, just north of John King Boulevard.
Drivers don’t generally slow down on this open stretch of highway, unless they’re planning to stop by the nearby San Martino Winery, or if they happen to live down one of the old county roads that aren’t deemed busy enough to warrant a stop light.
Still, a steady stream of visitors (mostly the four-legged variety) find their way down Roberta’s winding drive, alongside the horse jumps where her daughter, Julie, practices for eventing competition; past the grazing cows that belong to Mark, her son-in-law; back to the equestrian stables, the big indoor arena, and their dog boarding facility known as Kennels at Fox Run.
That’s where Roberta’s canine clients come to enjoy the therapeutic benefits of massage. And it’s where you’ll find Roberta doing what she loves – taking care of the animals she’s so passionate about.
But if your four-legged friend is begging to get in to see her, you’d better make an appointment. Roberta also performs her canine massage therapy on the road, at dog shows and agility trials throughout Dallas/Fort Worth, and as far away as Kansas and Oklahoma.
We caught up with Roberta recently and she agreed to share a little more about herself with Blue Ribbon News readers.
How long have you lived in Lavon?
Bought the farm in 1991.
Tell us about your professional experience and background.
I attended the Universityof Minnesota. Married in 1964 and had two children, Julie and Michael. I started showing dogs in 1978. Moved to Rockwall in 1984 from Westchester County, NY. Started a horse boarding /training facility and moved to Lavon in 1991 – at Fox Run Farm, where we gave lessons, trained horses and put on horse shows. Closed the boarding barn and opened the Kennels at Fox Run.
What’s the most interesting or unusual job you’ve ever held?
This is it.
Tell us about your family.
Tell us about your pets.
I have two Norwich Terriers that I show in conformation.
What are you passionate about?
Animals. I love to watch them at work and play. I like to see them get the best care. I recommend holistic care whenever possible and the best food the owners can find.
On a typical weekend, where might we find you?
I don’t get many weekends off, so I’ll be at an agility trial in a horse barn working on agility dogs and freezing my little toes off.
Share something that others may be surprised to learn you.
My quiet time is doing pastel painting…mostly dogs. I also like to sew.
Who or what inspires you?
My clients are my inspiration. Their dogs have years of training and they have to be kept in top condition.
They are athletes and need the best treatment. The owners practice/train two to three times a week, and some are out every weekend. The commitment is unbelievable. It is all about the dog.
How long have you been doing canine massage, and how did you learn to do it?
In l996 I bought Stanley, a PBGV (Petit Basset Griffon Vendéen) and a few months later his brother, Ollie. After showing conformation, I started agility with Ollie. He had structure issues and needed help from a chiropractor. At the doctor’s suggestion I started working on him between appointments. I took a course on massage and with the encouragement from the chiropractor, I started working on dogs at agility trials.
It was very slow going the first year. I gave away more massages than I got paid for. I knew there was a place for this and was determined to make it work.
Where do you do your canine massage?
I work several shows in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, Wichita Falls and Oklahoma. Once a month I fly toTulsa to work at the Wellness Center with Dr. Heather Owen.
I also take appointments at the kennel.
Who are your canine clients?
The dogs come from two groups: show/performance and dogs with medical problems.
What are the benefits of massage for a dog?
Massage targets the pain points, releases tight and constricted tissues, increasing blood flow and enhances comfort. This in turn maximizes performance while reducing chance for injury. The biggest trouble spots are the neck, shoulders, lower back and hamstrings – just like their human partners.
How long does your average canine massage take?
It can take as little as 15-20 minutes to almost an hour at a show. Most of the regulars only need a tune up. Many of the first time dogs can take an hour. At the end of a massage I give the owners homework. Just two or three things to work on between massages. I don’t expect them to do a full massage on their own, just a few minutes a couple times a week.
Can you tell us what the experience is like for a dog whose never had a canine massage before?
Some dogs are very unsure. Some have to sit while I start, but they lay down flat on the table after a few minutes. It doesn’t take them long to relax.
At the end of the massage, they get a cookie while they do their stretches.
Do you have a website, FB page or other contact information so people can connect with you?
I am on Facebook or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tell us about the Kennels at Fox Run and its services.
Kennels at Fox Run is a full service kennel open seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. by appointment. There are 21 kennels with covered outdoor runs. The runs face East so they don’t get the hot afternoon sun in the summer. The kennels are heated and air-conditioned. We kept it small so the dogs can get more attention. There are two yards for turn out and they go out six times a day. They don’t go out in a group, but families go together. They are fed twice a day, morning and evening. We require rabies within three years and Bordetella within six months. Owners can bring bedding and toys for their pet’s stay.
For more information about the Kennels at Fox Run, call Julie at 972-772-WOOF (9663).
By Dawn Redig, Blue Ribbon News; all rights reserved.
To submit your news and events or to nominate someone for our Good People profile series, email editor@BlueRibbonNews.com.