The experience has opened my mind—at least partly. Because she wasn't interested in taking X-rays or drawing blood, Stephanie focused more clearly on the dog and his problems. Because she was free of so many of the procedures and equipment integral to veterinary practices, she got to see him more clearly and know him better.
But recently the side of holistic care that I'm most wary of surfaced.
"Have you ever given any thought to an animal communicator?" Stephanie asked me one day last month, inquiring about the people who claim to be able to talk to dogs.
"No," I said. "Not yet." I have come a considerable distance, but not that far.
I don't believe that dogs have words or narrative. I think it demeans them to project thought processes into their heads and mouths. Many of us who own and love dogs seem to want them to be like us, think like us. How tempting. It would certainly be simpler for me if Orson could talk and tell me what happened, why he is so anxious, what I can do to help. But one of the things I have learned from him is that he's an instinctive, and wounded, animal with an alien mind, not a four-legged human waiting for a therapist to tap into his childhood.
Clearly, though, holistic care can fill some of the gaps left by traditional care. If my dog had developed a serious medical issue like cancer or kidney failure, my choice would be traditional veterinary care—without hesitation. And I don't think Orson needs his mind read, or his intense instincts translated into words for my comfort.
But acupuncture? Some herbs? A dose of Enya, followed by some sweet talk, hypoallergenic treats, and a good massage? So far, so good.