Sunday, December 27, 2009

Winter, even in So Cal, so warm & nourish

Yes, here’s Vida sunning herself. I know there’s not snow on the ground here, but I still notice I need to take extra care of myself and Vida in the Winter Season. This means extra support for the Kidney system in particular, as it is related to this season.

For Vida that me
ans, for one thing, getting hot water on her food so that it isn’t chilly raw food, and there’s extra moisture right in the meal. I used to worry about making it soupy, but not so much now – I don’t make anything float, but there’s a layer of water on the bottom of the bowl. In actuality most of that gets taken up by the little bit of dehydrated food, and any powdered herbs I add after (some supplements, like joint ones, need to be protected from high heat). I also don’t worry about the water “cooking” the food. If the water is boiling it may show some “cooked” discoloration at the point of impact where it’s poured in, but I think any perception of damage you might have about that is overblown. To me, especially at this time of year, it’s more important to feed moist food that isn’t cold.

Vida’s tumor has grown back, one tooth over from last year. Up until a week or two ago it looked like that last one, but now it has come all the way through the skin. I know the picture is gross, but I think it’s important for people to see what a plasmacytoma might look like. It doesn’t seem to cause any pain; she grooms herself, chews, plays, just as always. She dinged it once playing, it was as if you’d bitten your cheek or something the way she stopped and held herself tight for a several seconds, but when I looked it was clear from where the blood line was that it wasn’t the tumor itself, but the gum at the edge of it that got dinged (cause it sticks out so inconveniently!). We’re going to see her holistic vet in a few days, and right now she’s back on the Quantum Herbal AT/BC blend, which I’m doing at 12 drops twice a day (she weighs about 40 lbs), plus Green Mush, Connectin, Fish Oil, and mushroom tea (reishi, maitaki, shitaki, chaga).

Plants are where you can find the most variety to put in the diet.

Since I have so many dried herbs I decided to try a new tactic to ensure some nutritional variety (after all, the meat doesn’t vary so much). I’ve decided to pick one herb to add for a week. I just keep a spoonful in a small dish next to the other feeding items, and add a pinch to her meal. Then I’ll change it every week.

So for instance, the first week I chose Rosehips. They are very high in vitamin C and bioflavanoids, and are generally very nutritious, especially for wintertime. I think I’m going to try leaves first, since I can just add them to the bowl before I do the hot water and that will infuse them nicely. Roots generally require a bit more cooking, but I wonder if you infuse them if the digestive system can extract a little
more out of them. After all, I’m trying to make it a convenient habit.

Some of the other dried herbs I plan to use are Nettle, Marshmallow, & Red Clover. There are even the standby's of alfalfa and kelp. Then I can start over!

I also have some fresh plants to take advantage of, even this time of year. If she starts to eat grass while we’re out in the yard I’ll encourage her to eat a little Comfrey, Plantain, or Dandelion (she love dandy flowers, but will often spit out the leaves when fed alone). So yes, I bend down and pick small tasty leaves and offer them with interest (ooh, try this, yes, this is good). Juliette de Bairacli Levy often described her hounds as great herbalist, but I’m sure she had something to do with educating generations of dogs on this.

Comfrey isn’t something one will find just growing here in Southern California, but it’s pretty easy to have in the garden. This photo shows what mine looks like in Winter – not a good time to harvest leaves for a batch of medicine, but fine for a little personal use (and obviously some critters are enjoying it). The roots are really what should be dug up and used right now, but I’m lazy (cause I know I’d need to dry it). I’ve heard that back east Comfrey will get to be six feet tall, but around here we don’t (or shouldn’t) have the water for that, so it’s a manageable garden plant.

Plantain is something that most people don’t want to see in their lawns, but it’s such a terrific food addition that I’m happy to see it. This is the lance-leaved variety. In New Hampshire we have the round-leaved variety. If you decided to put larger plantain leaves in your blender, chop them first so that the durable veins don’t tangle together and bog it down.

If you only have mowed areas you can find it low down to the ground if you look carefully.

Same with Dandelion.

There are some plants that look similar to both these, so it’s worth getting some of the details from a plant ID website if you've never picked them.

I hope that this post gives you some ideas on how you can easily add incredibly nutritious plants to your dog's diet - and your own. They work best to prevent serious illness, so never think that your dog is too healthy for them!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

My dog the herbalist

Vida's been grazing the fruit of this tree for years as a digestive.

It's a ficus, though I don't know what variety.

I'm in the habit of calling the fruit "ficus berries" simply because "fig" to most people means the big juicy fruits we eat.

These small fruit have the same basic form as a large fig. A smooth skin with lots of tiny seeds. They aren't what I'd call juicy, but if you don't rake them they'll make a thick layer on the ground that will have a distinct fermented smell at some point as they decay.

They are a terrific source of fiber. In fact, I used to complain about Vida and a previous dog eating too many when together because of how much more poop I had to clean up. Vida eats them "as needed" when she's an only dog (not that they're available all year 'round).

I don't know how she chooses which ones to eat.

Years ago, when an animal communicator, Paula Brown, first communicated with Vida, this habit came up. I didn't figure it out at first because Vida described them as "little rocks" but even then she used them for her digestion.

She's eating them now because she's on a new Chinese herbal formula from her holistic vet, Dr. Weingardt. It's called "Stasis Breaker". She's on it because some growth has restarted in her mouth. She's been on it two weeks, and things are stable. I was warned about diarrhea from this formula, but she's had none. I'll take some credit because I've been giving her some tea for her stomach (chamomile, fennel, plantain, slippery elm), but I'm sure her grazing has helped too.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Making Mushroom Tea

Soooo easy!

If you want to make amazing immune system medicine for yourself and your dog, you can do this. The traditional method of making medicine from mushrooms is to cook them. Yep, that simple. Simmersimmersimmer for the day, strain and oila!

I got my giant bags of mushrooms from
Mountain Rose Herbs.
Each of these is
one pound of mushrooms.

I got (sliced, & of course organic) Reishi

and (organic) Maitaki (also called Hen of the Woods).

I just put a handful of each in an enamel pot....

Added two quarts of water, put the cover on and put it on the back burner (literally) for the day (started at about 8am 'til about 5pm) to cook. It smells pretty good actually - much better than it tastes.

I strained it with a colander & ladled it into ice cube trays (5!).

Between the two of us it's an ice cube a day. Just a tonic, right, not trying to megadose, no no no. Be sensible and you can use this longterm. Luckily my dog doesn't mind the "earthy" taste. I just add it to my orange juice. Go ahead, try it!

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Herb Fest = Brain Full

Well we're back in California. We left New Hampshire the day after the New England Women's Herbal Conference, so I had no time to digest all the information that I stuffed in to my brain that weekend. Here are a few of the tidbits:

Medicinal Mushrooms: if you want cancer fighting properties you have to do a water extraction. Eating dry powder will not suffice (stay tuned to the next blog post). Heck, you want to do a water extraction, period. They are wonderful for healing auto-immune problems (which really are inflammation).

Stress: You need to start with nervines (herbs that relax the nervous system), before you apply adaptogens (herbs that help rebuild a depleted adrenal system and help the body respond to stress). Because dogs can't control their life (and thus can't be asked to change their lifestyle) they should continue with nervines when you start with adaptogens. A relaxed nervous system will allow the adaptogens to work.

The liver: amazing organ! working cells regenerate every five months (in humans), milk thistle can increase that regeneration 5x. Everything that comes in to your body gets dealt with by the liver, so take care of it! Parasite, like fleas, love "dirty blood" (and make more dirty blood when they feed) - you want less fleas on your dog, get their liver working better so the blood is clean.

Think about this... simple reasoning, I love it: Plants evolved soooo long ago, back when there was more oxygen in the atmosphere, enough to be damaging, so they developed antioxidents to deal with it. That's why plants are a great source of antioxidents for us and our pets.

When do "invasive" plants become "native"? Examine how many bugs live off the plant. An invasive from England may have 4 bugs living off of it here, and 200 living off of it in England - after 400 years!

Unless you pollute your backyard with poisons there is probably some great medicine out there. Weeds are your friends.

If your dog has trouble changing foods (gets diarrhea), just give some chamomile tea (with or without fennel) to calm the digestion.

If there is a problem with chronic inflammation, treat the nervous system first.

I found a real disconnect among the attendees I spoke to when it came to feeding their pets. Most of the people I spoke to fed dry food. A few fed raw, but in an unbalanced way. Some said they used to feed raw (but now fed dry). Most did not use herbs as part of their pet's diet. There was one session on pets, packed with people, that got bogged down by all the questions - people are very eager to learn, and don't realize how close they are to getting it. They're hungry for knowledge and context. I know I could do a good job teaching there, so I've asked for a chance (waiting to hear back).

Friday, July 17, 2009


Now that we’ve arrived in New Hampshire, I’m finding out that between my improved education in herbs and the increased availability of ready-made raw diets for dogs that I have it waaayyy easier than I used to feeding my dog “in the manner to which she’s accustomed” while I’m here. My local (as in the next town) pet store now carries Stella & Chewy’s and Bravo! The single freezer is stocked up, and at the front of the store. I was so excited to go in on my way to the cabin and get a bag of raw food (though it’s a bit of a schema problem when I also see Science Diet). In the past I had to make everything from scratch using plain grocery meat and supplement s (calcium, the works). And really, I’m on vacation, right? (sorta). I should be able to feed the dog with some ease. Hurrah!

Vida’s having a little bit of diarrhea, probably just from the four-and-a-half days in the car. When we went for a walk this morning at the town fairgrounds I spied some wonderful looking plantain. I took two leaves to chop in to her food (I think I’ll do one leaf per meal) to help soothe her gut and add some fiber. Plantain grows everywhere, in two varieties. The leaves pictured here are the most common variety in the East. Out in California, at least on the coast, I tend to see the lance-shaped leaf variety more (though this is changing).

Besides the Plantain I also saw Yarrow, Mullein, and Red Clover in bloom (plus some others I didn’t know). It’s so different than the native habitat of California that is on a much slower schedule than here in New Hampshire where there is much more rain to encourage the growth and spread of plants. Here there is natural habitat within the town habitat. You park on Plantain to go to the library!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Packing for the road trip

I've been astounded at the number of items I'm needing to bring for Vida on the trip. I'm packing almost as much for her as for myself! But as I look over the pile of stuff (that I won't picture here, hehe), I realize that very little of it has to do with fact that she eats raw food.

We've got leashes, harnesses, poop bags, bowls, bedding, pest control, grooming - all the usual stuff for any well cared for dog. The float coat and water toy take some room, but if she goes on a boat trip she's got to wear a vest (just like a kid, right).

I've got some food and treats for the trip, but doesn't everyone? Freeze-dried Stella and Chewy's doesn't take up more room than dry food.

What does take up some extra room are her supplements. I can't forgo those for six weeks, so I'm doing my best to bring enough of each one.

There is an impulse to leave things home when traveling, but that needs to be weighed against the fact that travel is stressful, and stress effects the immune system, so if anything supplements and appropriate food are even more important.

Luckily the car trunk is roomy!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Planning Ahead with Heartworm Nosode

Where we live in coastal Southern California, I don't worry about heartworm. My dog doesn't live outdoors, exposed day and night to the few mosquitos we have, and our area is not high risk anyway. I don't want to give my dog an internal pesticide if it's not needed. Now I haven't gotten her tested either, which is something I do recommend to those concerned about the risk.

In anticipation of our summer road trip to New Hampshire I'm starting her on a Heartworm nosode. I did it the last time she went a few years ago but haven't kept up on it (which is ridiculous when you read how easy it is), so I'm restarting her this week.

Quoted from the dispenser:

"Although there are no hard and fast rules for administering nosodes, it is suggested that a dose (3 drops of liquid remedy for a small animal and 6 drops for a large animal) be given:
  • 3 days for the first week
  • 1 time weekly for 3 weeks
  • 1 time monthly for 6 months and thereafter
  • 1 time every six months.
In case of exposure to a particular disease or an epidemic of a disease, a one time per week dose of the nosode may prove helpful. Detox is also recommended to accompany daily."

I'm going to take her advice this time and write it in my datebook. Easy this time as I'm already writing Vida's herb protocol in to keep track. Just one more note.

There are a lot of different opinions on dealing with heartworm. I'm pretty sure my beliefs would be different if I were living in an area where risk is high, like the gulf coast.

Here are a few links that discuss alternative treatments:
where I got my nosode

After reading some of these I may consider Black Walnut tincture too, but I'll have to do some good research to make sure it wouldn't interfere with her other herbs. I don't want to overdo it!

And of course the usual prevention tactics of keeping indoors or screened areas and spraying with deterrants (I found Ark Natural's Neem Spray did a good job of deterring mosquitos).

I'm glad my dog is healthy. No fleas yet this year, which I think is pretty good (almost June). No fleas on her that is, plenty on other folks dogs.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Dog Acupressure: Did you know...?

Acupressure isn't a lesser substitute for acupuncture. I don't believe one is better than the other, but that they are simply different ways of accessing the meridians, the energy channels of the body. Some dogs prefer one over the other, so pay attention to your dog's responses during treatments to get an idea of what they think.

Acupressure sessions are always adjusted for each animal's needs. One of the most significant benefits of acupressure from a qualified practitioner is that during the treatment adjustments are made as the dog reacts to every touch. There is no "one size fits all" in acupressure. I am always amazed as the dog's body gives me feedback as each point is manipulated. This guides me in my decisions about exactly how much pressure to use, which points on the body need attention, and which areas need special care with other methods or tools.

Some dogs are suspicious the first time they get acupressure. While we humans may know that acupressure is beneficial, some dogs are suspicious at first, especially dogs that have had painful veterinary procedures in the past. Since they don't know what to expect from this new "procedure" they expect what they've had in the past that may have hurt or frightened them. These dogs need to go slowww, so often their first session includes reiki, gentle tui-na massage, and only a couple of acu-points. They do best when their owner is with them, calming them and working with me. The most important thing is that they have a positive experience, so they welcome their next session.

Acupressure doesn't have to involve pressure. Acupressure isn't about trying to imitate a needle. It's about stimulating the energy system of the body. Some dogs are very sensitive to touch, and resist pressure. For these dogs I use a tool that emits red light, which can penetrate the skin and stimulate the energy of the acu-points. This red light spectrum also stimulates the cells themselves, and thus can be very valuable for assisting in the healing of injuries.

Acupressure can be powerful. Acupressure isn't just a fancy word for massage, but a powerful healing technique of its own. The benefits can be profound, and a session can leave some dogs napping the rest of the day as they rest their bodies and adjust to the changes. It's not unusual for them to drink a lot after a treatment, or need to relieve themselves during or immediately after treatments. Sometimes they even take a short break in the middle of a session, and then come back for more.

Dogs enjoy it! I can't tell you how wonderful it makes me feel when I return to a dog's home for another acupressure session and they greet me at the door, smiling & wagging, and walk me in. They often proceed to where we're going to work and lie down, waiting for me. This response from dogs is what convinces me that acupressure works. They understand that I'm there to help them, and take an active part in their own healing. It is this cooperative process that makes acupressure an amazing healing art.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

High Cost or Big Payoff?

When I talk with folks about feeding their dog raw or cooked fresh food diets, the issue of money always comes up. And of course everyone has to take their monetary situation into account when making decisions about groceries. However, the conversations can't simply be about the monthly food bill (Yes, dry food is less expensive per month than even the least expensive prepared raw diets). The cost vs. payoff equation is much more complicated than that.

These are some of the questions that come to my mind:

How many times a year does your dog need to go to the vet?

Are you medicating your dog for recurrent ear or urinary infections?

Are you buying expensive and toxic flea treatments?

Does your dog exhibit "allergy" symptoms that you buy tests and treatments for?

Is your dog's behavior off the charts, sending you to trainers with unwholesome techniques that promise a quick fix?

How long do you expect your dog to live?

(and by the way...) How much do you spend on prepared coffee daily?

All of these are part of the cost benefit ratio. If you're dog is healthy you save on vet bills. If you know how to prepare basic meals, supplements, and bodycare items you save money.

Heck, if you learn how to wash your own dog and trim their nails, you save money. Not to mention avoiding the insane anal gland squeezing "service" that is performed on dogs by groomers willy-nilly.

(sorry... got in the rant mode there for a sec...)

Putting a wee bit of thought and money in to your dog's diet shouldn't be seen as a waste. Isn't it worth having your dog with you a few more years? Isn't it worth having a companion that glows with health when they smile at you?

How great is it when fleas aren't even attracted to your dog! Yes, that's right - healthy animals attract fewer fleas. In the late summer I finally do find some fleas on my dog and whisk them away with a flea comb (to certain death in the soapy laundry sink). I believe the toxic pesticides are a much greater risk to me and my dog than a few summer fleas.

It's pretty simple (and cheap) to provide your pet with natural food, herbs, skin cleaners, body care (trims, massages), and exercise. Compassion is free!

Knowledge is free! If you're reading this post you have access to a vast array of information about dogs, natural health, species appropriate feeding, dog behavior, etc, etc.

You can learn how to care for this animal you've chosen to have with you. Because don't you want that animal to live a happy, healthy, fulfilled life? If not, why do you have a dog? Really.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Chaga: medicinal mushrooms don't have to be exotic

When I originally wrote this post I never imagined that Chaga would become trendy. PLEASE - there are many good medicinal mushrooms out there that, unlike Chaga, are easily grown for use. Chaga's natural life has very limited parameters which put it at risk for overharvesting. Use Chaga mindfully and specifically, and please use commercially-grown medicinal mushrooms whenever possible.  --Margarat, Nov 17, 2013.

Medicinal mushrooms are a topic of interest to me as I continue herb studies and keeping Vida's cancer at bay.

We usually think of Asian mushrooms as the medicinal ones, but I think this is just because our culture has become "denatured" and we just don't know what's in our own backyard.

"Backyard" can vary, of course. Chaga mushrooms grow on Birch trees, which definitely aren't part of my Southern California backyard (natural habitat). Birch trees are part of my New Hampshire habitat.

The ground Chaga that I used today was purchased from
Woodland Essence, which harvests from their area in New York. (They have a nice little info page on Chaga, which is also the source of the above photo).

I decocted the Chaga for 20 minutes (that means starting with cold water, bringing to a boil, and them simmering covered), using 1 tablespoon Chaga for a cup of water. Decoction is recommended by Christopher Hobbs in his book on Medicinal Mushrooms, as the best way to get the full medicinal effects (based on chemical studies), even though the bag it came in only suggested infusing for 5-10 minutes.

The result looked like coffee (grounds and all) - here's a teaspoonful (strained) on a saucer:
It tastes bitter, like coffee, but it has no lingering aftertaste. While my mom thought it tasted "like biting into a tree," Vida didn't seem to care at all lapping it up.

I'm beginning to suspect that bitter/dirt tastes are inconsequential to dogs. Either that or the trust you wh
en they see you take a sip first.

There isn't really information about how much of this one should consume every day, except to say that overdoing it doesn't seem to come up at all. Dogs certainly don't have the luxury of a dosage guide, so it seems to me that a sensible dose would be a tablespoon for a medium dog.

Most of the studies on Chaga come from Russia and other nearby areas - obviously because of the birch forests of the region where one would find Chaga.

It's got anti-tumor properties, and has shown to be especially helpful for cancers of the digestive system, as well as digestive issues related to cancer treatments. It's of course an immune booster, and helps balance the endocrine system and blood sugar, and has some anti-inflammatory properties as well.

The taste and feel of it to me seems very slightly astringent, not drying the mouth, but cleansing it. I choose to interpret this as Phlegm Resolving, Bitter, and Neutral.

While the polysaccharides are the primary immune boosters, it's thought that the strongest anti-tumor properties are due to the fact that Chaga feeds off Birch trees, absorbing specific chemicals that may be the core chemicals for attacking tumors.

Wouldn't it be something if Vida's little lipoma got littler? That would be a nice visible success to be able to point to.

All-in-all this sounds like a great drink not only for Vida, but for me! Finally, I'm gonna do something for myself too
(besides just the liver tonic tea we've been taking together).

I'd love to hear from anyone about their experiences or knowledge about Chaga, or their questions about my opinions here.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Plan of Action

Vida visited her holistic vet, Keith Weingardt, today. We discussed the subtle changes I'd been seeing since her last visit in November, what she's eating, supplements, etc.

He marveled (if I may say so) at her good condition, great pulses, beautiful tongue, and "puppy" eyes. I described how she'd looked at the first of the year - like the pre-C dog I remember - in even better condition.

What I see now is a lack of tone to the abdomen, a subtle stickiness to the coat, reverse sneezing, a little eye crust, the spine a little out (which I've been using the photonic torch on with great success) - all things that most people would overlook as "aging" or even normal. But you see, I've seen it go away, just a couple of months ago, so I know it's symptomatic of something that can be shifted.

Of course I hadn't written notes on my calendar about those good days (or a couple of vomit episodes in the last week one water, one breakfast), so I was a little vague on dates. But the changes flow, so it's not as though there are specific dates for the overall picture. I may have to run her down there and show her off when her "ultrafit" physique returns.

So we've developed a plan of herb action to take for the next months (who knows how many), in this order:
  1. One month on Max's Formula (chinese herbs for phlegm resolving)
  2. One month on Quantum Herbal's AT/BC formula
  3. A "pulse" pattern for Max's Formula: 2 weeks on, 1 week off, repeat (#3).
I'm figuring on doing Quantum Quarterly. The two formulas are not given at the same time.
Diet (raw!) and other supplements will continue, with the usual seasonal adjustments.

I feel like I'm entering uncharted territory because there aren't "directions" for this. But I don't feel trepidation about it. I feel confident that we'll prove that what we're doing will work, and that Vida will be a shining example of the kind of care that is possible.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Carnival of Healing #178 - Animal Healing

Welcome to our edition of the Carnival of Healing, a weekly roundup of blog posts about healing, hosted by a different blog each week.

We're focusing this week on Animals!
I hope that by sharing this carnival widely I can encourage more animal practitioners to start their own blogs on animal wellness, particularly sharing with others about the different forms of holistic healing that are available. I hope you enjoy these blogs, and take part in the conversation by adding your comments to them.

I love Bridget Pilloud's writing. Her blog represents the best kind of blog, one you can relate to, be moved by, and learn something from. I always come away with something good. Honor The Now of Your Pet was the first blog post of hers I read, and one I'm so happy to share here. I can't tell you how often I urge pet owners to do just what Bridget explains here, but she does it much more eloquently than I have.

K9 Equine Therapy
is a new blog from the UK that has a great post about Why Do Animals Need Bodywork, and I'm so excited to share it because it talks about acupressure (Yay!). I do acupressure on dogs, and want to help share information about what a great healing modality it is. This particular article is about horses.

I also found this introductory post on bodywork for pets, with an interesting description of cranio-sacral therapy, which I've been curious about but never seen a good explanation of before.

Speaking of bodywork, Vida loves her chiropractor, Dr. Cheryl Ricketts-Mulvey. I see so many dogs that would benefit from chiropractic care I thought this post from Organic Pet Digest was a good introduction to chiropractic care. I also found an informative narrative on chiropractic care for dogs at blog4dogs which details the treatment of a tiny maltese.

My Life with Dogs is a brand new blog that posts useful introductions to a variety of holistic healing modalities for pets. They share their own experiences, as well as those of others. I look forward to reading more from them.

Reiki Furbabies has a wonderful post about the importance of recognizing how pets and their owners interact on an energetic level and can be helped with reiki.

Cats and Dogs Naturally is a blog dedicated to sharing their experiences with holistic pet care. This recent post about using Hawthorn for one of their cats with a heart condition is an example of the kind of personal post they specialize in. You'll see a great reference list along the right side if you're interested in learning more on your own.

While this post from Organic Family Circle doesn't go in to a lot of detail on allergies, it does give a thoughtful overview that most owners will find informative.

I do love this post about raw food for dogs for it's candor, but I especially like the photo (sensitive vegan's be warned) of little puppies chewing on raw meaty bones - those are gonna be some healthy dogs!

Detail is abundant in this post by an holistic vet on Kidney disease in pets. It's important to be informed about any health issue when it comes to your pets, so do your research!

Nadine Rosin has an informative post about the dangers of common commercial laundry products. I agree completely - I personally can't stand it when I have to use a laundromat and my clothes come out of the dryer "scented" (and I leave the place with a headache). I've been using Soapberries to wash my clothes for about a year now, and love them, and I know my dog appreciates them too.

In closing, I can't go without a link to
A Dog's Beach, a photo blog about one of our local dog beaches. I find that visiting dog beach is a complete Qi rejuvenator. And not just for me. The dogs love going there so much, being offleash, breathing the sea air. A visit to dog beach is as much a wellness treatment as anything else, am I right? So for those of you still stuck in snow, enjoy the photos.

To explore more Carnival of Healing editions:
Here you can find Carnival #177
Here you can find Carnival #179
Here you can find an archive of all past Carnivals

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Don't let seeking be the center

(when I wrote the title I wanted to clarify that I meant people, not dogs, because most dogs don't get enough seeking and trailing activities in their life haha!)

It's amazing how many new energy healing products and methods keep coming on to the market.

It's a good thing (mostly.. more on that), but it can get confusing. Just in flower essences it's a lot! And it does make you wonder if you're missing something good (Desert Alchemy, Australian Bush Essences, Alaskan Essences.. these are a few I've never used). But I keep reminding myself to keep it simple, and not jump in to everything. While I prefer learning new things to practicing old things, I also keep an eye on myself that I'm not simply seeking for something to fill an imaginary need.

When caring for a pet, and trying to negotiate the array of foods and products and advice, it can get not only confusing, but a bit obsession-inducing. My one piece of advice is to remember your pet in all of this. Seeking out the next and best can sometimes cloud your view to what is best for your pet. I see too many people who don't commit to a healing plan or lifestyle for their pet, but instead switch things over and over again without clearly attending to the animal.

"Attending" is a word that to me encompasses a few things in this context: seeing, caring, feeling, listening. With animals in particular, who don't speak our verbal language, this requires a quiet and clear attentiveness. Listening to an animal is akin to meditating sometimes. You have to let go a bit, and trust them.

This letting go includes letting go of worry - a habit that annoys our animals more than anything else. It forces our chaotic energy on to them, which if they need healing is the last thing they need, eh!

Energy healing is basically so simple. While I do Reiki, which uses a system of "attunement" for practitioners, I believe that if one truly attends to universal energy, there is no special system or school needed (and believe me, some of those schools are happy to take a lot of your money in exchange for their system!). For me, Reiki provides a structure, and perhaps it has attuned me to be more open to universal healing energy (I think if it as Chi/Qi).

Flower essences, for me, are a wonderfully simple source of Qi too, and while I don't pretend to be truly in tune with how each flower works (without reading up on what others have discovered), I've seen enough wonderful results to believe in them.

Food is another simple way to access Qi. That is why I'm such an advocate for fresh food and herbs for pets. If you aren't feeding some kind of fresh food, you're missing one of the easiest ways to bring healing energy to your pet. In most cases you don't need to learn a lot to make use of it either - relatively healthy animals will benefit from any basic fresh food diet. Animals needing to heal will benefit from some expertise that will tailor the food to their needs to bring added benefit and medicine (as in "let food be your medicine"). And I have to say, most pets in modern life do need a bit of healing.

If your energy is focused on seeking, and not attending to the present, you won't be doing yourself or your pet any healing favors. Mutual regard should be at the center.

So in that spirit, today I will commit to getting off the computer and spending some time with Vida, listening, and offering some healing energy and touch.

Don't forget! Carnival of Healing, right here, next Saturday. Let me know if you want to take part!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Blog Submissions Needed for Carnival of Healing #178

La Vida Fresca will be hosting the Carnival of Healing #178 on Saturday February 28th, and I'd like to hear from you about your own or your favorite blog on animal healing and holistic health.

Carnival of Healing is a weekly round-up of personal blog posts on the topics of holistic health, wellness, spirituality, and self empowerment, and this issue will focus on ANIMALS.

The week before mine is hosted by Reiki Help Blog, and you can also explore past carnivals here.

How to?
Comment here with a link, or email me at, and please get the info to me by Thursday February 26th or I won't have time to integrate it.

While I know many people who write blogs have their own business related to their blog topic, I won't consider blog posts that are corporate-run or focus on product advertising (product mentioning is fine, I do that myself).

Looking forward to it!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Nature Walk with Dog

San Elijo Lagoon

Photo-Op Views are not designed for visitors of Vida's stature, so we make-do posing on the edge of a bench.

She looks a little bit like the host of a nature show here. We had a nice visit, both finding the variety of water and shore birds equally interesting to watch.

Here she looks like she'd be right at home - just take off her gear (Vida carries her own poop bag dispenser on her harness - Eco-Dog!) and she turns into a wild dog. She was very intrigued with the smells here - a raised boardwalk through a very large thicket of Arroyo Willow.

Though this park has a lot of native medicinal plants, we can't harvest from them. We can learn their natural growing habits, which can only enrich our learning. The dogs, of course, are more interested in smelling the raccoons.

The trails at this lagoon provide dogs with plenty of olfactory and visual interest, right at trails edge. And the view for people ain't bad either.

The Current Feeding Regime

Since I make adjustments every so often, and am a big believer is seasonal and/or health related shifts in feeding, I post the current plan every so often.

As for the word "regime" in the title I use that tongue in cheek. It's a joking reflection on the fact that I, as everyone does, gets in a feeding habit with my dog. It's also a joking reference to deflect the idea that what I propose is what you should be doing. Every dog is different. I just like to offer what I am currently doing, with an explanation of why.

My current feeding plan could be titled "Winter Plan for Middle-Aged Dog Harboring Quiet Cancer Cells (which we want to keep that way!)."

Daily Plan split in 2 meals (explanations further down):
  • 12 oz (approx) pre-packaged raw food
  • 2 patties of freeze-dried Stella & Chewy's, rehydrated with hot water.
  • 1 tsp Health Force Green Mush
  • 1/2 tsp Organic Pet Superfood's Super Immunity (overly long name for a medicinal mushroom blend)
  • 1 tsp In Clover Connectin
  • 2 caps Antioxident from U.S. Animal (aka VetriScience)
  • Splash of Liquid Health K9 Glucosamine
  • 2 Tablespoons Iceland Pure Sardine/Anchovy Oil

Ok. here's the lowdown on this, for those of you working out your own dog's health plan:
  • I use pre-packaged raw food for ease of use, but anything I do can be done from scratch, the theory behind it doesn't change. I'm using low-veg blends - under 15%, mostly around 5%. I'm also using specific meats and formulas that are warming and/or phlegm clearing. So that means Natures Variety Venison in a big way, as well as their beef (gotta love the barter system - acupressure for food), and Primal Pheasant (a great phlegm clearing formula!). I've been sticking with these three for a while now.

  • The freeze-dried food rehydrated with hot water is a good way to warm the meal, not just in an actual sense, but in an energetic sense. And it being winter that's an important part of my meal planning. I've been using the S&C's Duck-Duck-Goose formula, which as all of that brand is only 4% veggie. Crumbles easy, smells great. I tried a whole meal of that one morning ('cause I hadn't thawed) and it seemed a little too energetically warm for her.

  • Green Mush is great way to get in those green-superfoods in a dense, reduced-carb fashion. It also includes CoQ-10 & enzymes. Vida is doing really well with this mix - I swear her vitality has increased. I don't follow the dosage suggestions they use because it seems very high (they also recommend feeding vegan, so that, on top of wanting to sell more, colors their view - still a great product though).

  • I've switched medicinal mushroom blends just this week, from NK-9 to this one (of the too long title). I actually found out about it on Twitter, and liked that it included a broad range of species, grown in the U.S. organically, and at a lower cost. Now if they could just make the stylish container easier to open. I've become a big believer in medicinal mushrooms for dealing with cancer (should've started them sooner, I guess).

  • The Connectin is a joint supplement that includes anti-inflammatory herbs. I like that it's in a powder form, and it does have a good mix of herbs. It's hard to tell what effect it's having, but of course that's often the case. After all, I was already using a joint supplement (that I'm still splashing in - Liquid Health, 'cause liquid absorbs so quickly).

  • The antioxidant is the one recommended by Dr. Weingardt.This would probably be the first supplement I'd drop from the list, because I have the idea that she's getting these nutrients in her other supplements. It does ensure that the nooks and crannies of those nutrients are covered, and doesn't cost much, so there's no harm in using it.

  • Gotta have the fish oil! I keep mine in the fridge, and I wonder why it's so thick. I really need to ask the company about this because shouldn't cold water fish oil still be clear and runny at this temperature? How would the fish survive if it turned sludgy like this? Hate to he suspicious, but in other oils I've used it's the plant oils that thicken, not the fish.

  • Yes, she gets treats. Bravo Beef Straps or Icelandic Fish Skins for chewies, and dried organ pieces from Bravo & Primal (venison lung puffs) in the treat jar.
I read this and I think that I really should be adding some of this to my diet, eh. The Green Mush should go in the morning smoothy (but would it ruin the choco taste?), and the mushrooms into my miso/flax oil. Of course I'm sitting here writing - now I really should go out on a lagoon walk!

Of course I need to do a shout-out to Dexter's Deli, where I work & buy all these products. If you're in the San Diego area I hope you support the store. We try to make it a good resource for information as well as quality products.

La Vida Fresca is hosting the Carnival of Healing blog fiesta on Saturday, February 28th. The Carnival of Healing is a weekly round-up of personal blog posts on the topics of holistic health, wellness, spirituality, and self empowerment. I'd like it to be an animal-focused event, so please post a comment in my blog and include a link to your blog, or a blog you like, to be considered for inclusion. You can also email me the link at

Don't forget to follow Vida & me on Twitter!

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Herbs... why the secret?

The more I learn about herbs, the more I wonder why they're so unknown these days.

Well, I don't wonder really. I know it's mostly to do with the marketing of pharmaceuticals.

Today I was doing some of my herb homework and was so excited to learn about the herbs that help with kennel cough. To read the descriptions of how they work (yes, the science!) fills me with confidence.

It also dismays me a little, because most people not only don't know about the herbal options, they don't have access to right herbs, much less advice on how to use them.

Health food stores these days do often carry a fair number of capsules and tinctures, but don't have information that is pet-specific, so you're kinda on your own.

Pet stores may carry some pet-specific products, but as someone who works in a pretty well-stocked store myself I can tell you that there are definite gaps in herb availability and knowledge.

I, for one, had no knowledge of the two herbs I just researched (part of my homework is putting together my own materia medica based on book research), and when I learned about them I really wondered why? To have herbs that will help coughs and lung congestion - who doesn't need that?

Coltsfoot? Elecampane? Do you know them?

Remember though, readers - herbs are not failsafe, nor are they all safe - please use your head!

And use your head to learn more for DIY care!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Learning & Adapting

I am learning to adapt.

Heck, aren't we all doing that every day? Sometimes we get tired of adapting, so we cling to things that are familiar just because we want to feel comfortable.

I described myself to a friend the other day as "a shark for learning," meaning I'm always interested in learning new things (and most definitely not interested in repetitive practicing). The more I learn, the more I adapt, and this certainly pertains to how I feed and care for Vida.

I'm often asked "what's the best ________." Fill in the blank with food, supplement, herb, whatever. And so many people are flustered or frustrated when I deflect that question with "it depends on the dog." But I want everyone to know that I also experience that feeling of resistance when the suggestion doesn't match what I believe or am comfortable with. And I must always remember that feeling of mine when I see that look in their eyes that tells me I've hit a wall (of resistance, confusion, frustration..).

So I'm learning to try new things. Now I don't just do this willy-nilly. I research it, learn more, mull it over, consider the options. But then I try it.

For example, I'm always telling people to rotate their "green supplement" (their mixed supplement of choice, usually includes, kelp and other green foods, vitamins, herbs, etc). Yet I had my dog on the same one for over a year straight because I thought it was the best. Now I'm not saying it's not a good supplement, but my mindset closed my eyes to options. And really, what's the worst that could happen? My dog's healthy, and it's easy to see when something isn't agreeing with her, and conversely, when it is. (I say it's easy with her, but really, it should be easy with any animal if you're really paying attention) So I switched, and you know what? She looks even healthier!

Now we can almost never really know exactly what is making our dog glow with health. Heck, it could be just that time of the year, in that year of life, with the whole collection of things that you offer them working together.

All of us should take a good look at our pets and really see them. We may think they look great, but when was the last time we changed anything or tried anything new? When was the last time we learned something new? We should always be looking forward, learning, and adapting.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

The Mason Jar of Medicine

Here is the mason jar of medicine that Vida and I are drinking daily.

It's a re-used jar from the honey guy at the farmer's market (who has some resilient labels for his jars!). It's sweating a bit because I keep it in the fridge - I find the cold drink preferable because it quiets down the plant flavor (which isn't gross, just not inherently appealing to me, the spoiled human).

Yes, the dog and I are taking the same tea. I pour it into a small bowl, drink my share, then pass it down to her to finish the two tablespoons or so I've left her. And yes, she likes it. Twice a day.

So here's the recipe:

Equal parts: dried dandelion root, dried burdock root, dried nettle leaf, dried red clover flower, and whatever extra item I choose to add (rosehips this batch, for example).

To make this jar I use 2 tablespoons of each, with water measured by filling the jar to the brim.

To make it a proper medicine... put in the dandelion and burdock (the water is in a pan by now, right), bring to a boil and then simmer gently with the lid on for 20 minutes. Then turn the heat off and add the nettle and red clover, put the lid back on and let it sit until it cools down. Strain it (I use a mesh strainer, plus a piece of cheesecloth so I can squeeze out the goodness).

Please remember to let it cool before offering it to your dog. Vida is wary of a warm bowl as her whiskers descend into it, and will pull back if she suspects the liquid it contains might be too hot.

It's important to cook the roots well, but not overcook the leaves and flowers. That's the difference between a decoction (for the roots) and an infusion (for the leaves and flowers).

Where do I buy my herbs? I buy them online from Mountain Rose Herbs. Be aware that when you order it's by weight - 4 oz of dried dandelion fills about one measuring cup, 4 oz of red clover fills about 8 cups. I will need to order dandelion and burdock again soon, for instance, while I still have plenty of the others.

We're drinking this consistently unless I turn useless and don't make it. We did skip a couple of days last week because I didn't make it, but I plan on using it for several months.

It's important to know that yours (and your dogs) liver is the center of the universe, healthwise, in the body. If there are chronic problems, look to the liver. This tea is designed to tone the liver and improve it's function. It's not an "etched in stone" recipe, but it's one that I'm comfortable with for long-term liver care.

Drink up!

Thursday, January 01, 2009

New Year

[ok, not exactly a post about raw food, but I hope you see the connection]

This New Year day was really a great one because it was shared and simple, and not filled with angst or resolve.

We went to the beach in the afternoon to see a labyrinth etched in the sand by a local artist, Kirk Van Allyn. There were so many people there it was amazing, and a lot of them were decorating the labyrinth with colored sand, rocks, flowers, etc. Here is a photo of one of those decorations, and more here in an album on Facebook.

Looking down from the bluff you could see the tide already taking back some of the labyrinth, and at first I felt like I might have missed something, like were were late. But when we went down to the beach and walked around I could see that was completely the wrong assumption.

There was so much activity, and it was all so friendly and welcoming. People meeting and chatting, people of all ages collaborating on personal embellishments to the design. The labyrinth itself being added to. All the while people coming and going from the site, up the staircase or down the beach. The community was visiting this wonderful temporary artwork on this afternoon of renewal - and watching the ocean renew itself on the design (which of course included people surfing).

I guess it's hard to explain, but it was such a refreshing start to the year. No expectations, no angst, just the beautiful and simple process. In fact that was probably was made it so joyous - the very nature of it is how we should approach the new year - every day a renewal of energy and life.