Updated: Feb 24, 2021
Animals never get sick, or fall and hurt themselves, on a weekday, never in the middle part of any day, and seldom before midnight! I have been at this for 40 years, and have witnessed the best and worst of sheep giving birth, cows calving as far from civilization as possible, and horses choosing to colic during the middle of a snowstorm or stepping in a ground-hog hole 2 miles from the nearest house, barn or horse trailer! I have survived! And, the animals in my care have most often recovered and survived. As James Herriot so beautifully stated, you "can't kill them all"...whether you're a farmer or a veterinarian, some days are just really tough, though. Wilding Woolly Farm is 'in the middle of nowhere', an hour plus driving time from the nearest veterinary hospital and two or more hours from actually getting the help you need, when you need it the most. I had no choice but to teach myself to handle the emergencies--lambing dystocia, lacerations and tears, acute lameness, colic, and the occasional poisoning. Early on, I bought Merck's Veterinary Manual and every other sheep and cattle and 'dog' husbandry books I could get my hands on. I had enough of an organic chemistry background to wade through books and articles regarding the physiology of 4-stomached ruminant cows and sheep, the 3-stomached equines - horses and donkeys, and their - and our - companion 4-legged dog friends. I learned to recognize, diagnose, and treat the more common ailments and attack the emergency midnight disasters . I embraced the need to know, the need to heal my animals. It was what I had to do - I chose to care for them and that drove me onwards. And, it was the failure of some of the more conventional veterinary practices to treat and effectively cure the acute onset of disease and illness that drove me further to investigate essential oil therapies and homeopathy. Which brings me to tell you about "Annie". Annie is one of our three Anatolian Livestock Guardian Dogs and very precious to me! She has my heart...She is the 'chosen' one, chosen by me, literally picked up by the scruff of the neck the day she arrived by her "Aunt Sissy", the oldest of our guardian dogs, as her choice, too. And yes, it is always the dogs that unnerve me! I've stitched injured legs and been places I didn't know my hand could reach inside sheep and cows, but when my dogs get sick, I crumble. So when Annie walked into the house at 9 p.m. FRIDAY night and put her head on my lap and 'told' me, in Annie's way of communicating to me, that she was sick, I melted like a lit candle. Annie had had a life threatening pancreatic attack three years ago when she was accidentally given a pork ham bone that was tainted. I knew enough then to realize she was deathly ill and got her to a friend's veterinary clinic - an hour from the farm - in time. (That friend, Marilyn, moved to the area a mere 15 or so years ago, and has recently retired from her local practice as a part-time, small animal veterinarian.) Annie was treated with antibiotics for the pancreatic dysfunction, and given antispasmodics to prevent nausea. She fully recovered. I supplemented her recovery with holistic essential oil and homeopathic remedies. There is always the aftermath, that any pancreatic event of that severity leaves an animal susceptible to future attacks. We've watched her closely. She is not allowed to eat any food we don't cook for her. She is not allowed any more than a mere 5-10% fat in her diet. We decided to make our own food for all three dogs after this happened. They get a casserole of lean beef from our steers or fresh chicken we purchase from the local processing plant, a rice blend, and a mixture of fresh vegetables containing Calcium, Zn, and probiotic supplements. My husband makes it fresh every day. When Annie came to me Friday night, she was restless, obviously in pain, her stomach distended on the right side; she was unable to lie down on either side, almost to the point of collapsing in my lap, but unable to stand the pain. I felt that I had to respond fast and do something on my own. Marilyn was not only NOT available but away from home for the weekend, it was late, and I had no idea where or to whom to take Annie otherwise. I had healed cases of colic in both a llama and a foal with an essential oil blend containing Fennel and Ginger, and using Peppermint rubbed on their flanks, in addition to putting the diluted oil blend on their gums. Fennel targets flatulence and I knew that was at least a piece of the disease puzzle with Annie. I was aware the homeopathic remedy Carbo Veg aids with digestive issues that were similar to what I observed happening. So, I grabbed my various resource manuals and felt confident that even if I couldn't 'cure' the problem, I would at least target the symptoms of a digestive upset. The only other issue that I could potentially see happening here was an obstruction or twisting of the intestines and that would be equally, if not more, of a life threatening situation. Oils and homeopathy are not invasive. They do no mask symptoms, but can possibly relieve them if correctly targeted for the patient's condition and behavior. I rubbed Annie's right flank with the oil blend and gave her a dose of Carbo Veg. I called my hiking buddy, Joyce, a holistic equine practitioner, who I knew would advise me as to whether I might be on the right track, and at what point I would need emergency veterinary care I would not be able to provide--surgery, IV drip, etc. Joyce is over two hours from our farm, and does not perform small animal hospitalizations and surgeries. Nevertheless, we discussed her behavior and decided she was definitely suffering from pancreatitis. My husband had informed me he'd fed the dogs beef brisket that afternoon, noticed that it was rather marbled, but hadn't connected the thought that the marbling in a brisket meant a good bit of fat and fat meant possible pancreatic issues, especially with Annie. He felt horrible. It was an accident - Annie eats what you feed her! I also asked Joyce if the homeopathic remedy, Pulsatilla, might be of use, since it targets fat breakdown, if the Carbo Veg wasn't helping or in addition to it depending on Annie's response. Well, the good news is Annie, even while Joyce was on the phone, laid down--painfully perhaps, moaning as her belly slapped the floor, first on her left side, then on her right side--but she remained lying down. Something was working. I waited another 20 minutes and gave her a 2nd dose, rubbed a little more of the essential oil blend on her belly, and tried using Helichrysum oil for her to sniff to help with the pain. That didn't go over so well--she got up and moved to a quieter spot on the cold floor next to the door in the hallway, but she stayed there, happy to be away from the smell of Helichrysum and a bit more relaxed with time. It was working--the flatulence was lessening, her demeanor was improving, and if things continued in this direction, Joyce said--symptoms declining in severity, Annie MIGHT recover without having too take her for an emergency clinic visit or hospitalization. Her condition towards the wee hours of the morning would provide the answer...Intuition told me to gave Annie a dose of the Pulsatilla remedy after an hour had past. Nonetheless, she was relaxing more and more and the distended belly was dissuading itself. By 1 a.m. in the morning, she was obviously 'out of trouble' - exhausted, belly its normal size, and sleeping peacefully. I stayed by her side the entire night, but having talked again with Joyce around midnight, felt safe enough to call it a win! I had saved Annie--40 years of doing this, realizing that a quick response to any traumatic injury or illness is often the key to saving a life is paramount. Joyce gave me the confidence to follow my heart, my intuition, and trust my judgement on this one. It made me understand that 'healing' takes many forms, that a HOLISTIC approach which addresses the patient, the conditions of the illness or injury, the behaviors prior, at and after are critical for 'healing'. I am so grateful for that knowledge. I am grateful to have not had to subject Annie, again, a Livestock Guardian Dog, that has only been off the farm 4 or 5 times in her 9 years, to a midnight visit to a clinic far from home and veterinarians she would not have known--to weeks of antibiotics and probiotics and supportive meds. Annie is fine. Her quick recovery this time around, our holistic approach and ability to care for her at home in a safe environment, has in fact heightened her ability, long term, to ride out attacks in the future. She will be less susceptible, not more, to having a pancreatic event in the future, Joyce assured me...I am humbled by the Universe and the Gifts of Life and Healing afforded me by this dog, by all the 4-leggeds in my care.
"Annie, Come! It's time to go WALKABOUT with the Pack!"