It shouldn’t be a surprise to me that reminders about what we know about wellness can come from our animals.  I’ve written before about how my horses help keep me focused on wellness.  I got a dramatic reminder recently from my other four legged child – my precious Aussie, Kash.

Two distinct wellness principles were hit home this month thanks to my darling dog.

Lesson #1: We’re all really just energy at a basic level.

At least ten years ago I read a wonderful, holistic book on dog care called The Natural Dog and wasn’t surprised to see an approach very similar to my own philosophy about naturally caring for my children spelled out explicitly for pet care.  Being immersed in a community with very few like minded people in East Texas finding this kind of book was great, but not something easy to completely integrate given the mindset of the vets in my area, as well as the available foods.

Recently when I noticed my sweet Kash, who is nearing age 13, declining in health I took a host of questions to the vet on his yearly visit.  We had been watching him for several months due to slight difficulties getting around that were beginning to show.  I also noticed he seemed to have symptoms of allergies since moving to Austin.  Neither was dramatic enough to warrant much intervention at the time, but a year later on his visit this month I brought up how utterly concerned I was that he was declining more rapidly all of a sudden.

After a thorough work up by our wonderful veterinarian it was explained to me that he didn’t suspect the usual joint difficulties and allergies.  What he suspected is that something neurological was going on.  My ears perked up, of course, as a lifelong student of neurology after my spinal cord injury.  Kash’s walking and balance issues were coming from the spine and his joints and limbs all seemed fine.

Dr. V also told me that his coughing – a loud sudden hacking noise – actually  wasn’t a traditional cough either.  It seems he had developed a problem breathing due to paralysis in the larynx.  His larynx wasn’t able to expand enough for him to take in enough air which explained why he could no longer go on walks with me.  This also explained the loud hacking sound he made as he was trying to force air into his lungs.

I was stunned.

I couldn’t help but notice the similarities between his two areas of concern and some of my own health challenges.  You see, I’ve had a hard time climbing hills ever since beginning serious road cycling.  And through a long, convoluted process it was finally explained to me that my spinal deformity or curvature is impinging on my lung space.  So I literally can’t inflate my lungs enough to get as much air as most people do, hence the problems breathing while going up stairs in spite of my incredible fitness level.  It’s also why I feel like a lead balloon as soon as my group hits any kind of hill on a bike ride.  Wait for it….the ride leader falls to the BACK of the line.

Since I’m so close to my dog and I know that they’re like energy sponges it really wasn’t unexpected for him to develop symptoms like this.  But the question is…would my vet get it and what to do about it.

In fact, at that moment I recalled my favorite chapter in The Natural Dog, read so many years ago.  In it the author described how she almost always traced her veterinary cases’ health problems to issues with their owners.  On an energy level illnesses were almost always explained by the emotional conditions around them.

As I well know from working with my horses, animals truly absorb the emotional energy in their environments.  From my perspective this is just one more way that they love and serve their humans.

So now that I’m in my new hill country home surrounded by more people that share my beliefs I was put to the test.  Knowing Dr. V is a practitioner of acupuncture and other holistic modalities in his veterinary work gave me the confidence to put it out there.  When I explained how similar these things were to what I was dealing with on a daily basis he paused.

“Well that makes sense.  We’re really all just energy.”

The sigh of relief I felt as he said this was huge.  Okay, so I’m finally HOME.  Even my vet thinks the way I do.

Lesson #2: Raw is best – in fact, it’s literally medicine.

As a mother of young kids who woke me up at dawn demanding feeding and attention the last thing I had time for in the past couple of decades was hand-feeding my animals.  (Come to think of it as teenagers, they’re STILL doing this…but I digress.)

I tried cooking really high grade food for my dogs years ago – back about the time we were vegetarians and often drove from Longview to Dallas to stock up on groceries from Whole Foods.  I also put in monthly orders with a natural and organic foods co-op in a desperate attempt to live my values way back then.  And doing so in East Texas was HARD.

So, yes, I gave the “feed my dogs like I would my kids” approach a try.  And on the list of priorities of a single mom of four it fell hard and it fell fast.  And if you think there was a host of natural and organic, meat-based dog food on the shelves where I lived (like there thankfully is in Austin now) you’d be, um, WRONG.

Fast forward to a time in my life when living the best of what I know seems to be easier…falling into place after so many years like a well prepared for eventuality.  I recently starting getting a regular delivery from a local farm co-op so that I’m conveniently FORCED into submission to my desire to eat better.  And it’s been great!

Back to my dog…as I’m waiting for Kash’s exam to be over and I tuned into my intuition for what could be going on it was immediately clear to me that this sudden decline began when the organic chicken dog food I usually buy became hard to find.  I reluctantly switched to an “enhanced” grocery store brand that looked okay on the label, but let’s be serious, it’s made by an agricultural giant.  Not great for my baby.

As soon as I mentioned my suspicions about diet my vet encouraged me to consider putting Kash on raw food.  A few months ago this might have been daunting.  But to someone who’s just seen what the right food can literally do for a body I thought about it.  I took home some “easy to follow” recipes he encouraged me with and immediately went to work trying to put this into effect.

Once I really accepted the common sense that this is the food that my precious dog was genetically programmed to eat it was a no brainer.  My vet made it so easy by handing me the keys in the form of information and easy recipes.  I didn’t even have to research it myself!

I soon realized this type of plan was doable for me.  A little leftover oatmeal from breakfast, a little ground turkey, some ground up veggies.  Sure, I can do this.  After a week of experimentation I attacked this just like I did my food for the hCG plan I used to lose 35 pounds.  I now make up batches of several days worth and even freeze some ahead for busy times.

You know what?  My dog is the perfect candidate for that leftover bag of peas in the freezer that I know we’ll never eat.  Or the yellow squash that is left from my farm delivery that I just don’t care for.  And an apple?  I always have an apple laying around.  Throw all of this in the food processor, mix in some dry oats and ground meat and voila.  I’ve since added whole raw chicken and bones cut up into chunks.

He LOVES it.  And even better in THREE WEEKS of eating this way my beloved dog has lost the nagging five pounds our vet wanted him to lose.

And even more importantly, since beginning this plan Kash has exhibited that awful hacking sound three times.  THREE TIMES in THREE WEEKS.  It used to happen every few hours.  Friends have even noticed he’s walking better.  His eyes are bright again, he follows the butterflies on the deck like a puppy, and he LITERALLY springs across the yard like a rabbit again.

My dog is back. Of course, this hasn’t completely eliminated whatever underlying condition might be causing his neurological symptoms; however, the improvement is dramatic and for now he’s fairly symptom-free.

I’ll never look at food the same way again.  Not even my dog’s food!

Thank you, sweet Kash for being such a great teacher.


Note: This post was originally published on, the precursor to White Horse Medicine™


{iPhone photo: Kash-the-Amazing-Aussie laying around a sunny yard with me on a lazy Austin afternoon.}