Denise Theobald 
Lead Instructor
Canine Massage Chicago (CMC) was created by Denise Theobald, a licensed massage therapist who wanted to bring the service and benefits of therapeutic massage to four-legged family members. Not long after the birth of CMC, Denise recognized the need for comprehensive training in the field of pet massage. As a result, she developed CMC’s career training program to meet the demand of students seeking a high quality and fully hands-on education in the growing field of canine massage. Because of ever-increasing student interest, Denise established a new branch of Canine Massage Chicago in 2013, called the Chicago School of Canine Massage, that would focus exclusively on the career training programs and continuing education opportunities.

Denise has been a licensed human massage therapist for over 24 years and has been working with animals for over 14 years. She is nationally certified in human massage through NCBTMB, and she holds national certification as a canine massage therapist through NBCAAM. Denise, who studied animal massage through a variety of programs across the country, became a pioneer in the field of canine massage when she founded her canine massage business, Pet-ri-ssage Ltd., in 1998. In addition to providing massage therapy services in the Chicago area, Pet-ri-ssage Ltd. offered educational seminars and weekend workshops for various organizational and veterinary clinics. Denise is a graduate of the Animal Sense Academy of dog training which is now Canine Link and serves as staff instructor at Integrative Pet Care, a state-of-the-art canine rehabilitation center in Chicago. She has also served as an instructor for human massage and anatomy and physiology classes at Northwestern Business College and New School of Massage in Chicago. Denise is a member of IAAOR, ABMP, and APDT. She is an NBCAAM board member and is certified in Canine Medical Massage. Denise’s background in athletic training, personal training, and sports massage add a level of precision to her work with canine athletes. Her areas of advanced training and expertise include trigger point therapy (Janet Travell), neuromuscular therapy (Paul St. John), orthopedic massage (Dr. Ben Benjamin), and sports massage. Denise is a Canine First Aid instructor and First Aid and CPR instructor with the American Red Cross and an instructor at Canine Link. She is a graduate of Chicago School of Massage Therapy, holding expertise in trigger point therapy and rehabilitative massage for humans.


Sara May
Lead Instructor
Director of Program Development 
Sara’s passion for canine massage was first sparked while participating in a pet parent massage class offered by Canine Massage Chicago. She quickly decided that she needed to learn more of this amazing work. She completed the 50 hour canine massage certification program at Canine Massage Chicago, and followed that with the 200 hour advanced canine massage certification program. Sara proudly achieved national certification through NBCAAM in October 2012. However, Sara believes that one can never truly be finished with learning and growing, so she continues to seek education and experiences that will expand her knowledge and advance her skill.

Sara started her own canine massage business, Prairie Paws Canine Massage, in the summer of 2011. Sara is also a second degree Reiki practitioner and is certified in animal first aid and CPR. Sara has a special love for shelter dogs and regularly volunteers at her local animal shelter, Save-A-Pet in Grayslake, Illinois, where she offers massage therapy to many of the canine residents.

A former college instructor, Sara is a strong advocate for education. Teaching massage classes to pet parents and to prospective therapists is one of the favorite parts of her work. Through education, she believes that the value and importance of canine massage can be understood, shared, and appreciated by an ever-increasing audience.


Debbie Ferguson
Debbie retired from Walgreens as Senior Vice President of Operations in 2009. She earned her Bachelor’s degree in Business Management from Roger Williams University and her MBA from Marylhurst University. She is an active volunteer for RedRover, an organization specializing in bringing animals out of crisis and enhancing the human/animal bond. She is on the board of directors for RedRover (currently serving as Treasurer) and has participated in more than a dozen large-scale rescues, serving as the team leader and communications assistant on several of these rescues. She also facilitates training sessions for new RedRover volunteers.

Debbie completed her canine massage training with Chicago School of Canine Massage in April of 2013 and is now student teaching under the tutelage of Denise Theobold. She is thrilled to be able to follow her passion and to spend her days touching dogs and educating pet parents.

She is an avid animal lover as well as an artist, writer, wildlife photographer, art collector and paranormal investigator (just for fun). She resides in the Northwest suburbs of Chicago, with her beautiful rescued dog, Theodore.


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Sara L. Bennett, DVM, MS, Diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists
Guest Lecturer
Dr. Bennett received her DVM degree in 2006 from Purdue University.  She spent 3 years as an associate veterinarian in general practice in Evansville, IN before returning to Purdue to complete a residency in Animal Behavior and Master's of Science. She obtained certification as a diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists in 2012. Dr. Bennett addresses a variety of behavior problems and behavioral disorders including aggression, inappropriate elimination, compulsive disorder, fears and phobias and behavior problems associated with aging across a wide range of species. She particularly enjoys addressing problem behavior in shelter animals, helping to make these pets more adoptable, strengthen the budding human-animal bond and to keep these animals in their new homes. Dr. Bennett can be found outside the clinic spending time with her husband, dogs, cats, horse or practicing yoga.


Jessie Walter
Jessie is a 2005 graduate of the Chicago School of Massage Therapy and is licensed and nationally certified in human massage therapy. She is a 2011 graduate of the Canine Massage Therapy training program and is certified in canine massage therapy. Jessie is attuned to the second degree of Reiki, and specializes in Myofascial, Trigger Point, Clinical, and Sports Massage. She is the proud Owner/Operator of The Diddy Club, a dog walking, boarding, and pet care company she began in 2006, serving the Rogers Park neighborhood of Chicago. She is on staff at the Cortiva Institute of Chicago as a professional massage therapist, and served for several years as a lead instructor. She continues as a mentor to over twenty massage graduates of the Cortiva Institute. She currently assists in canine massage instruction in the Chicago School of Canine Massage program. She recently started Diddy Dog Designs - sewing and embroidering super sassy custom and holiday canine bandanas and toys. Jessie is a Licensed Massage Therapist (2005), Nationally Certified in Therapeutic Massage (2005), Certified in Canine Massage Therapy (2011), a professional member of Assoicated Bodywork and Massage Professionals, a professional member of the Illinois Alliance for Animal Owners Rights, and Certified in Canine CPR and First Aid. When not working she loves spending time with her two border collies, Mahleep & Benson… throwing a squeaky ball, baking up dog biscuits, and, of course, giving them their weekly massages! 

Megan Ridley DVM, CVA, CCRT, CVSMT
Guest Lecturer
Dr. Ridley is a veterinarian and medical director at Integrative Pet Care in Chicago with 10 years of emergency medical experience.  She received her doctorate of veterinary medicine in 2001 from Cornell University.  She is a certified canine rehabilitation therapist (CCRT) through the Canine Rehabilitation Institute, a certified veterinary acupuncturist (CVA) through the Chi Institute, and a certified veterinary spinal manipulation therapist (CVSMT) through The Healing Oasis.  (VSMT is also often referred to as veterinary or animal chiropractic).  Dr. Ridley has special interest in rehabilitative medicine, geriatric medicine, hospice care and special needs pets.  She got involved in Canine Massage Chicago by performing manual therapy (chiropractic and massage) on Eos, who is Denise Theobald’s special needs kitty.  Dr. Ridley lives in Chicago with her two cats, Lourdes and Lorenzo.  In her free time she enjoys travel, swimming and dining out in Chicago.