This skilled physiotherapist provides canine therapy through her Kimberley company
Joanna Sleik began her career as a physiotherapist in Cranbrook. After taking animal rehabilitation courses through the Canadian Physiotherapy Association, she eventually moved to Kimberley and started K9 Rehab. This allowed her to combine her love of animals with her passion for health and wellness. She has an excellent working relationship with Kimberley and Cranbrook veterinarians, and is known for her compassionate approach to canine therapy.
How did you come to choose this line of work?
I graduated with a master's in physiotherapy degree from McMaster University in 2005. We moved to the Kootenays shortly after and I started working as a physiotherapist in Cranbrook. I continued to take courses in Animal Rehabilitation offered through the Canadian Physiotherapy Association over the next few years and established connections with local veterinarians. In 2012, after moving to Kimberley, the timing just seemed right to branch out on my own. Starting K9 Rehab allowed me to combine two passions together.
I love working as a physiotherapist and I can’t remember a moment of my childhood where we didn’t have a dog. My dad is a dog trainer and it just seemed natural that a furry four-legged canine would be a part of our family. It’s always funny to look back in the past and see how you got to where you are today. As part of my physiotherapy training at McMaster I had to complete a year-end project outlining a business plan for a potential practice. My project was focused on a theoretical canine rehabilitation clinic. In fact it was even called K9 Rehab – little did I know that seven years later I would be on my way to starting a legitimate business with the same name and now six years later having no regrets and loving every minute of what I do.
What is it about your work that has you excited to get out of bed in the morning?
Who doesn’t want to get up in the morning and go play with dogs?! The fun part of this job is that I learn something new with each client. When you’re working with a dog, it’s never as easy as instructing them in a specific exercise to strengthen an injured muscle or affected joint. You have to get really good at thinking outside the box to come up with appropriate solutions (and don’t mind being covered in dog hair and getting plenty of slobbery kisses). Canine rehabilitation is all about working with a specific animal and educating and enabling the owners to have the proper tools to help their canine companion, whether that includes specific exercises, a post-surgical strengthening protocol to follow or simply home or activity modifications that they can do to prevent their pet from (sustaining) further injury.
The owners that I work with really love their dogs (or cats or rabbits….) and giving them the reassurance that there are things they can do to help their companions is the best kind of gratitude there is. There are many ways that I could develop K9 Rehab further and that makes me pretty excited to see what the future will hold.
Where do you like to spend your downtime in the Kootenays?
My time in the Kootenays is spent enjoying the great outdoors, along with my husband, Ryan, seven-year-old daughter, Ruby, and a two-year-old goldendoodle named Buddy. We run, hike and bike in the spring, summer and fall and downhill and cross-country ski in the winter. We love spending time on Kootenay Lake with family and overall feel so incredibly blessed to live in this beautiful part of B.C.
What has motivated you throughout your entrepreneurial/business journey?
My husband is co-owner of Creekside Physiotherapy in Kimberley which opened in 2011. He knew the struggles of being a new business owner and was always an avenue of support when I was starting out. I have also been so fortunate to have the incredible support from the veterinarian community in Kimberley and Cranbrook. When I was first starting out, it was their motivation that helped me gauge that I was on the right path.
What makes the Kootenays attractive to an entrepreneur?
The Kootenays present the perfect atmosphere for the young entrepreneur. Supporting an up-and-coming local business and watching it succeed is a way of life when you live in a small rural town. There are so many creative Kootenay folks that are finding their niche in an unexplored business opportunity and making it flourish. I feel like living in larger urban centres makes it pretty easy to become disengaged. When you live in a small town, it’s only natural to know what’s going on and feel the need to be an active part of your community.
What trends have you observed in your community that might impact the local economy in the next five years?
I sit on the Board of Directors for the Healthy Kimberley Society and with each meeting it amazes me that our community has so many motivated people who are actively engaged in making our community continue to thrive. I feel like the Kootenays are prospering with small business opportunities and will only continue to do so in the years to come. From my K9 Rehab perspective I see local veterinarians continuing to further enhance their skills with new surgical techniques and treatment alternatives. This decreases the need for owners to travel to larger urban centres to undergo these procedures and provides the opportunity to keep business in the Kootenays, which I suspect will be a long-term focus of many small business owners and entrepreneurs.