Alignment for animals

Dr. Moe, as her patients affectionately call her, owns Moe Bodyworks at 3541 Lyndale Ave. S., where she spends her days doing what she calls the ideal job: using the art of physical adjustment to change peoples’ — and animals’ — lives.

While the business is known for its animal and human chiropractic services, it offers yoga classes, rehabilitation services, acupuncture, massage, nutritional therapy, spa services and even meditation.

On a hot summer day, while waiting for her next patient, Dr. Moe demonstrated animal adjustment on her yellow lab, Thor, one of the two dogs that laid in the studio’s back room. With a blue ribbon around his neck, Thor excitedly leapt from his pen and followed his owner to a sunny spot on the carpet.

Sporting a blue Moe Bodyworks T-shirt that covered most of the tattoos on her upper arms, Dr. Moe began slowly pressing various points around the dog’s skull and neck. She kissed Thor on the nose before squeezing his spine between her thumb and middle finger. As he tried to wriggle free, Dr. Moe dug her fingers into Thor’s back as if kneading a chunk of dough.

“We find out what’s not working,” Dr. Moe said while hushing the large canine. “These dogs are really used to it. You also need to be able to work around them.”

She twisted her fingers down his spine as the dog slowly fell to the ground. When Dr. Moe slapped his upper thigh, he sprang to his feet and backed into her while she massaged his legs and paws. Thor let out a half-yawn, half-bark before quickly licking his lips. When Dr. Moe was finished, Thor shook his body and pranced around the studio with even more energy than when she began.

Dr. Moe’s chiropractic career began after she received her doctorate from Northwestern University. She went on to earn post-graduate degrees in applied kinesiology, chiropractic radiology and animal chiropractic. She is also working on diplomats in neurology and pediatrics. She said she’s placed a great deal of importance on the latter thanks to her 2-year-old son.

Soon after she completed Thor’s adjustment, Lisa Tonjum entered the studio carrying Dr. Moe’s next patient: a ferret named Joey whose black and tan body was dotted with gray. Tonjum — an owner of 20 ferrets — adopted Joey, who limped on his back feet, wouldn’t eat and exhibited abnormal reclusion, all likely results of abuse. But after two adjustments with Dr. Moe, Joey was a new animal. Tonjum has visited Dr. Moe for six months and calls her abilities “amazing.”

In order to adjust a ferret, Dr. Moe explained, their body must be limp, which required Tonjum to grasp Joey by the scruff of his neck and hold him above the small wooden table. When Tonjum held the lanky rodent, his front paws crossed as he stared straight ahead. As with Thor, Dr. Moe began by pinching down the ferret’s spine with her thumb and index finger barely separated.

She pressed her four fingers on the end of Joey’s spine and massaged underneath his stomach. After only a few minutes, Joey’s adjustment was complete and Tonjum carried her happy pet out the door.

Leaning back in the chair behind the office’s front desk, Dr. Moe explained her business.

“It’s a place where the whole family can come, literally, including the animals,” she said with a laugh.

Dr. Moe bought her current space in December, gutted it and opened in April. Now, the vibrantly painted Moe Bodyworks has two large yoga studios, two chiropractic rooms, one massage room, one acupuncture room and one animal chiropractic room. She also recently completed a patio in the back of her building that will be used for outdoor yoga. The business employs 10 “core” staff members and 40 yoga instructors.

A yoga instructor for many years, Dr. Moe said the business offers more than 70 yoga classes a week, a figure that’s causing her yoga customer base to rival her clinical customer base in size. Moe Bodyworks offers the most eclectic mix of yoga classes in the Twin Cities, Dr. Moe claimed, with classes ranging from pre-natal to “mommy and me” to vinyasa yoga.

“This place is going to go ‘boom’ by fall,” Dr. Moe said, breaking from her casual monotone.

As for the animals, Dr. Moe said they’re more similar to humans than different, especially when it comes to their musculoskeletal make-up.

“People ask me all the time, ‘what would you bring your dog into the chiropractor for,’” she said. “For the exact same reasons you’d bring a person in: muscle aches, performance issues — it’s really good for the immune system.”

Dr. Moe has adjusted everything from horses to parrots, but said the toughest case are animals who are paralyzed or can’t walk. She specifically noted acute cases of dogs that have seen consultants at the University of Minnesota and face being put down before Dr. Moe performs a life-saving adjustment.

“That’s not going to happen to every dog that comes in,” Dr. Moe said. “But if a dog has a musculoskeletal issue, there’s a good chance it will be improved.”

And it’s the gratification Dr. Moe is able to draw from these cases that sparks her infatuation.

“I love every minute I’m here,” she said. “Everyone loves going to the chiropractor.”