Instructors

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Denise Theobald, NCCMT, VMRT, LMT
Founder & Lead Instructor
Chicago School of Canine Massage (CSCM) was founded by Denise when she recognized the need for comprehensive training in the field of pet massage. CSCM was developed to meet the demand of students seeking a high quality and fully hands-on education in the growing field of canine massage. 

Denise has been a licensed human massage therapist for over 27 years and has been working with animals for over 17 years. She is nationally certified in human massage through NCBTMB, she holds national certification as a canine massage therapist through NBCAAM, and is certified in Veterinary Massage and Rehabilitation Therapy from The Healing Oasis. 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 ABMPAPDT, PPG (Pet Professional Guild), and an allied member of AARV (the American Association of Rehabilitation Veterinarians) . 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.

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Debbie Ferguson, NCCMT
Instructor
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 President) 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 Theobald. 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.

Erin Kowalski, NCCMT
Instructor
Erin has always been passionate about helping dogs and started volunteering with Chicagoland animal rescues by transporting dogs from high-kill shelters to safety and walking dogs who never got the chance to get out of their crates to exercise. She quickly found her place as a permanent foster parent to many puppies. Over the past 5 years she has opened her home to over 70 foster dogs, founded the Lucida Puppy Fund and Bialy's Wellness Foundation.

Erin's initial interest in canine massage came from working with rescue animals. After discussing and researching the benefits of canine massage and how it could help the wonderful dogs in the rescue community, she enrolled in the first Advanced Program at Chicago School of Canine Massage and completed the amazingly influential course. Since then Erin has continued to educate herself in other alternative modalities and is certified in Pet First Aid and CPR. Erin is attuned to the Master Level of Reiki and has vast knowledge of canine nutrition and puppy care. In 2012 she founded her business, AURA Natural Pet and offers in-home canine massage therapy, reiki, aromatherapy and all-natural pet care products. It is her goal to help as many dogs possible optimize their quality of life with the services and recommendations provided.

When not working or volunteering with rescues, Erin enjoys spending time cooking, traveling and exploring the restaurants of Chicago with her husband, Will, or taking walks with her eleven year old chocolate lab, Zeus and the foster puppy frequenting their home.

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Sara L. Bennett, DVM, MS, Diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists
Instructor
 
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.

Megan Ridley DVM, CVA, CCRT, CVSMT
Instructor
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.  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.

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Jessie Walter
Instructor
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 Chicago School of Canine Massage. 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 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, and Certified in Canine CPR and First Aid. When not working she loves spending time with her border collie, Benson… throwing a squeaky ball, baking up dog biscuits, and, of course, giving him his weekly massage! 

Pam Kasper
Assistant Instructor
Throughout a career in radio, television and film, Pam Kasper gravitated towards dogs, wanting to find a place to learn canine massage. A move from South Florida connected her to The Chicago School of Canine Massage and helped her launch a new career. As a 2013 graduate, Pam regularly works with Level 1 - 3 and CACC dogs at PAWS, at K9 Playtime in Mundelein for “Massage Monday,” as well as with private clients. While she adores dogs of all kinds, Pam has a special connection with rescue animals; she currently shares her home with 4 adopted dogs…and her husband and son.

Jaclyn Cecere, NCCMT
Lead Therapist, Assistant Instructor, Business & Education Manager
Jaclyn graduated from Michigan State University with a bachelor’s degree in Animal Science.  She has always been passionate about working with animals and began her career as a professional horseback rider and assistant trainer at a horse farm in Michigan.  After moving to Chicago in 2012, Jaclyn began to greatly miss working with animals on a daily basis.  Her initial interest in canine massage came after adopting her dog, Addison, who showed many signs of stress and anxiety.  The many benefits of massage were astounding to her and when she heard about the Chicago School of Canine Massage she couldn't resist the opportunity to learn more and begin working with animals again.  

Jaclyn enrolled in the Chicago School of Canine Massage 300-hour Career Training program and graduated in May 2014.  Since then she has become attuned to the first and second levels of Reiki, completed levels 1 & 2 of Flowtrition with Dr. Jonah Yakel, and become certified in Pet CPR and First Aid.   Jaclyn continues to seek out ways to further her education related to massage, other alternative modalities and animal behavior.  It is Jaclyn's goal to improve the quality of life for as many animals as possible. 

 When not working Jaclyn enjoys spending time with her two dogs Dixie and Addison, riding horses and discovering new restaurants in Chicago.

Melissa Johnson
Assistant Instructor
Melissa Johnson is the owner-operator of Midwest Canine Massage. Melissa earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in 2001 from University of Wisconsin Stevens Point. She then had a fourteen year career in dental and pharmaceutical sales until she decided to follow her passion working with animals. She graduated from the advanced 200 hour course at Chicago School of Canine Massage and is nationally certified.

Melissa had advanced training in canine anatomy, physiology, kinesiology, and various massage therapies. She is trained in trigger point, lymphatic, myofascial, relaxation, body awareness for puppies, and passive range of motion therapies. 

Once a week, you will see her volunteering at an animal shelter working with the dogs on basic obedience, relaxation and most importantly trust building. Melissa is a board certified therapist by the National Board Certification for Animal & Acupressure Massage (NBCAAM). Currently, there are only fourteen other nationally recognized therapists in Illinois, and Melissa is proud to be one of them. When Melissa is not working with dogs she loves spending time with her husband, Lars and their Bernese Mountain dog, Dyna. They enjoy traveling, boating, skiing and in winter they like to build snow forts with their dog Dyna.

Sarah May, NCCMT
Instructor
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 the National Board of Certification for Animal Acupressure and Massage (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. She currently specializes in relaxation and wellness massage, trigger point and myofascial techniques, palliative care and massage for geriatric dogs, pre- and post-surgical massage, and sports massage for the canine athlete.  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.