Monday, June 29, 2009

The Scales Don't Lie: Mama Begins to Lose Weight

Mama eagerly anticipated her noon appointment on Saturday as we traveled the winding road of Del Dios Highway from Encinitas to the Acacia Animal Health Center in Escondido.

After pulling my van into a parking space, I opened the sliding door and grabbed the leash which quickly became taut as Mama lunged and made a beeline to the entrance.

This was a girl on a mission!

When I opened the door to the reception area, she announced her arrival with a bark that was directed to a bull dog named Olive who was politely seated to the right and a boxer to the left.

Mama is beginning to show signs of an inflated self-image, fancying Drs. Bausone and Harrison as her "concierge physicians."

She received a dose of humility when Dr. Harrison appeared, then conspired with me in attempting to coax her on the scale.

No such luck.

After Dr. Harrison temporarily conceded defeat during round one of the weighing competition, Mama followed him gingerly into the examination room.

"This is NOT the same dog!" he remarked after a visual examination. This was the second week in a row he uttered these words.

Mama was pleased with his assessment, then surrendered control so that he could do what he does best: healing her using a treatment called veterinary orthopedic manipulation (VOM).

Dr. Harrison noted that her muscle tone was much better.

The spine was giving her some discomfort, probably from pulling on the leash.

He used a VetroStim along the vertebrae to stimulate the muscles and ganglia. Mama enjoys the treatment because it feels like a massage.

A Vibracussor was used on her body as well as her head (see photo) to drain congestion caused by allergies.

Then an Accelerometer(see photo)was used to stimulate her thyroid.

When treatment was completed, Mama was relaxed and more willing to mount the dreaded scale.

She had reason to be proud. Improvements in diet and exercise, and the addition of thyroid medication, translated into a weight loss from 100.6 on her previous visit to 100 lbs.

Although the road to achieving an ideal weight of 75 lbs. was probably going to be a slow one, she was on her way!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Friendship Blossoms at the Park

Mama's physical well-being has been tended to through a homecooked diet, quality veterinary care and a full-service grooming.

I complement this with a daily hike at San Dieguito Park in Rancho Santa Fe which provides a good workout and a psychological cleansing.

My late dogs Truman and Henry, along with Ollie who is still with me, loved the sights, scents and sensory diversity of the park. There are velvety green lawns that cushion the paws along with steep, primitive trails where quail, lizards, rabbits and other wildlife thrive.

The first time I took Mama to the park she seemed to be on sensory overload. Since then, she looks forward to a new adventure each evening like the rope bridge (left) which still eludes her.

The greatest benefit is the bonding that has taken place between her and Ollie who is recovering from the loss of Henry who shared these walks until his passing on May 12.

As Mama discovers the joys of the park, Ollie has come to appreciate his new companion.

This is evidenced from these photos taken yesterday.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Mama Mia! Flippin' Pizza(s) for Shelter Pets!

Jason Bennett, owner of Flippin' Pizza in Encinitas, has stepped up to the plate to find homes for the thousands of animals being surrendered at county shelters.

Beginning today, he is offering 3 FREE cheese or 1-topping pizzas to Encinitas residents who adopt a shelter animal.

What motivates Jason, who only bought the business a few months ago?

"First, I love dogs," he said. "I read in the newspaper how many pets are being brought to the shelters because of the economy, and eventually euthanized because there are not enough homes.

"I thought this would be a great incentive for people to adopt a shelter pet."

To take advantage of the promotion, patrons must present a signed San Diego County - Animal Services Adoption Agreement dated June 24, 2009 or later along with a valid drivers license with a signature that matches the one on the contract.

Offer is only available to Encinitas residents at the Encinitas store.

"Flippin' Pizza is all about being part of the neighborhood," Jason said. "We want people to consider us their neighborhood pizzeria."

Flippin' Pizza
215 S. El Camino Real, Encinitas
(760) 632-1497

* Offer expires 90 days after contract date.
** Limited to animals adopted at San Diego County Animal Shelters in Carlsbad, San Diego and Bonita. See contact info to the right.>>>>>>

Monday, June 22, 2009

"This isn't the same dog," Dr. John Harrison

Mama arrived last Sat. afternoon for her second VOM (veterinary orthopedic manipulation) appointment with Dr. Harrison. He recognized a vast improvement right away.

"She's walking a lot stronger and is more socially aware," he said. "She's not fearful. She leaned right into me when I started to work on her."

Dr. Harrison also noted that her spinal muscles were stronger,the goal he set a week earlier when he saw her for the first time. His initial concern was to relieve stress on her spine caused by her weight.

While I was thrilled with the results I can't say I was surprised.

Several years ago I had a spaniel-dachshund mix named Ben who became paralyzed from the waist down when he was about 12 years old. A chiropractor who heard of Ben's condition through a mutual acquaintance called and asked if he could treat him. He added that he couldn't charge me because he wasn't a veterinarian, but that he had been very successful with farm animals with neurological damage and old dogs with back problems. I agreed to give it a try.

Within 3 weeks, Ben was running on Dog Beach again.

Word of his recovery spread. A reporter approached me about being interviewed for a segment on national television. Ben's veterinarian was so enthusiastic with the result, that she also appeared on the show to testify to the effectiveness of the treatment.

Today, veterinary orthopedic manipulation has entered the mainstream. Dr. Harrison routinely works on dogs, cats, birds and rabbits through his association with the San Diego Chapter of the House Rabbit Society.

I had to giggle when he described how each pet has their own way of expressing relief from pain.

"Dogs start to shake and relax after treatment," he said. "Rabbits will groom themselves. Horses will bend the neck down and lick.

"Cats are funny. They will actually push into the Vibracussor because the vibration reminds them of purring. They are not as frightened as people would think."

The cost of each treatment is $50. Dr. Harrison says it takes 3 to 5 treatments before the patient will show results.

“Afterwards, we’ll see the animal once a month or as needed,” he said. “It’s always good to use prevention rather than crisis care.”

For more information about VOM treatment call Dr. Harrison at (760) 510-8345. You can also call the Acacia Animal Health Center at (760) 745-8115 or visit

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Before & After: Beauty Makeover

The top photo was taken June 3, the day I brought Mama home from the county shelter on Palomar Airport Road. How sad her eyes look. You can see the lack of "affect."

The bottom photo was taken June 18, after a morning at the Windsong Resort for Pets in Escondido, named "2008 Best of San Diego" by San Diego Magazine.

Mama proves what we already know: Under the skin, girls are all alike! We love being pampered!

Behind-the-Scenes at The Windsong Resort for Pets

At 9 a.m. on June 18, Mama and I arrived at the Windsong Resort for Pets off Deer Springs Road in Escondido. The spa in owned by AKC-licensed judge Michael Dougherty and his wife, Michelle, who is an accomplished sculptor and horticulturist.

I met the Dougherty's last year when I first wrote an article about Michelle's exhibit at the Flower & Garden Show at the 2008 San Diego County Fair, and later about their Windsong Resort for Pets. I was delighted to run into them again at this year's fair as Michelle was putting the finishing touches on her exhibit at the Flower & Garden Show.

When a friend who was with me urged me to tell them about Mama, Michelle responded, "If there is anything we can do, please let us know." Michael quickly followed, "Yes, we want to help."

We took them up on their offer. Last Thursday Mama spent 3 hours being pampered at the posh resort.

Groomer Michelle Millington and department head Susan Sholar spoiled the young English lab with a pedicure, furminator treatment (removal of dead hair in the undercoat to reduce shedding), tail and pants trim and "hygienic detailing." This included an ear cleaning and other treatments too personal to mention.

Afterwards Mama was lathered up for a milk bath shampoo and oatmeal conditioner.

Michael has judged show dog competitions throughout the world including for the prestigious Westminster Kennel Club. He was distressed to think that an owner would breed Mama repeatedly, while not taking proper care of her, and allowing her to get dangerously obese.

"Anyone who loves dogs, and appreciates their value in one's life, wouldn't do this," he said.

"This is an opportunity for Mama to regain her true self. She's had a tough life, but she's on the right track to a great one!"

He added that Mama was a little guarded at first, then gave in to her "Inner Diva."

"When we put her on the grooming table, her claws were tense like she was grabbing to hold," he said. "After a few minutes, the feet absolutely relaxed. Her nails no longer were digging for traction."

Susan was complimented when Mama showed affection while being coiffed and groomed.

"When I was filing her nails, she put her paw on my shoulder," she said.

Michael took note of Mama's beauty, inside and out.

"She's got a great temperament," he said. "Her head is slightly wedge-shaped, but it should elongate out a bit visually as she drops the weight. Her overall station, structure and balance are very correct."

For more information about the Windsong Resort for Pets call (760) 233-5060 or visit

Friday, June 19, 2009

Mama Gets her First Acupuncture Treatment!

Yesterday was a big day for Mama who received her first acupuncture treatment from Dr. Bausone!

If you look closely at the top photo, you will see one white needle in the middle of her head. Dr. B explained that he placed it in a governing vessel in order to raise her yang or "positive energy."

In the next photo, several white needles were placed along shu points on her back. This is for general tonification, an acupuncture term meaning "to strengthen the body." Other needles were placed in her back legs in order to drain the "dampness," a reference to phlegm. A needle was also placed inside her back foot to relieve pain as a precaution.

As the photos indicate, Mama was relaxed and enjoying the attention.

Dr. B reviewed her blood panel which revealed extremely low thyroid levels. This, of course, could explain her excessive weight gain. Simple medication, along with exercise, dietary changes and the acupuncture and VOM treatments she is receiving at the Acacia Animal Health Center should restore her to complete health.

On a positive note, Dr. B. said her x-rays were absolutely perfect!

This young girl has a full life to look forward to thanks to the compassion and generosity of Drs. Bausone and Harrison.

For more information about acupuncture treatments for pets call the Acacia Animal Health Center at (760) 745-8115 or visit

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Henry, Dec. 17, 1998 - May 12, 2009

Before there was the Mama Lab, there was Henry. His passing on May 12, 2009 led to my current involvement as a foster parent at the Palomar Airport shelter. This is a beautiful tribute to my beloved friend produced by Tony Pearson. The song, "He Was a Friend of Mine"is performed by Tony's son, and my soul son, Joey. Thank you, my friends. Lily

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Extra! Extra! Profiles Mama

Reporter Katerina Makris published this wonderful story about Mama in today's San Diego edition of "Makeover for backyard breeder dog whose confinement caused dangerous obesity."

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

We Need to Name This Little Girl

Mama arrived at the Carlsbad shelter without a name so they decided to call her Keona meaning "God's Gracious Gift." Although it's a beautiful name, it didn't seem to fit once I brought her home. I'm temporarily calling her Honey Bear.

My friend, Lynn, suggested Big Bertha. I didn't think that was funny. Another friend, Marie Ruffalo (actor Mark Ruffalo's mom) said, "With all that she's been through she should have an elegant name like Catherine." While I agree in principle, the name Catherine seemed too formal.

Mama aka Honey Bear has the large frame of proud Nordic or northern European women with names such as Ursula, Ingrid or Britta. None of these seem right either.

My bird is Lucy, named after Lucille Ball for her comedic talents. In keeping with the theme, we thought of Ethel, Vivian [Vance] or a similar name inspired by legendary comediennes in the tradition of Gracie [Allen] or Gilda [Radner]. Honey Bear is smart and affectionate, but not particularly funny. She hasn't had much reason to be although she has visibly lightened up in the time she's been here.

What do you think? Please bear in mind that a name, like her collar, still has to fit once she's slimmed down.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Dr. Bausone's Canine Weight Loss Diet

4 lbs. chicken or turkey
2-1/2 cups (1/2 lb.) sweet potato or yam
5 cups chopped assorted vegetables such as spinach, broccoli, kale, beets, celery, carrots

1000-1500 mg of calcium citrate per pound of meat

  1. Place 3-4 cups of water in crockpot (can be cooked faster using conventional stove method).
  2. Layer chicken, chopped veggies and sweet potato.
  3. Cover with water, making sure to leave approx. 1/2" at the top to allow room for moisture generated during cooking.
  4. Set to low setting for 8-10 hours.
  5. Before serving, remove bones.
  6. Add calcium citrate, mix well and let cool.
  7. Feed at least 2.5-3.5 percent of body weight per day. For example, 20 lbs. dog should be fed approximately 1/2 to 3/4 lbs. daily, split between two meals.
For more information about weight loss for pets call the Acacia Animal Health Center at (760) 745-8115 or visit

Saturday, June 13, 2009

First VOM Treatment by Dr. John Harrison

At 11:30 last Sat. morning "Team Mama" (Susan Healy and I) left Encinitas for another trip to the Acacia Animal Health Clinic, this time for a VOM appointment with Dr. John Harrison.

I met Dr. Harrison in March when I was assigned an article about his work. VOM (veterinary orthopedic manipulation) is a technique that was developed by Dr. William Inman, a veterinary surgeon who recognized a need to develop a non-invasive treatment to correct spinal muscle-skeletal conditions known as subluxations.

Symptoms of these conditions include pain, inflammation, sprains, strains, muscle spasms, hip dysplasia, mobility problems and neurologic defects.

Handheld instruments are used to gently apply an impulse to a joint complex that, in turn, restores fluidity or movement to the particular area of involvement.

After greeting Mama last Saturday, Dr. Harrison explained that his objective was to relieve strain on her spine caused by her weight. In manipulating the area, he said he was releasing toxins which, initially, might cause fatigue.

As the photos indicate, Mama was quite responsive to the treatment, relaxing more and more until she almost dropped to the ground.

At the conclusion of the session, Dr. Harrison instructed us to schedule appointments for the next 4 consecutive weeks.

On the way out Mama lingered as she made her way passed her new friends at the front desk. She savored her new life as a lady of privilege.

When I slid the door of the van open, she sprung from a standing position into the air and landed perfectly on all fours. The weekend before it took two people to pick her up and place her carefully into the vehicle. What a difference a few days make!

For more information about VOM treatments call the Acacia Animal Health Center at (760) 745-8115 or visit

Rooster Gets a Home!

It's hard to believe this mellow and f-u-n-n-y pup was the same one who whined nonstop at the shelter. To be honest, I dreaded taking him home because I thought for sure he would drive me crazy with his continuous crying. The fact is, he never cried once!

From the time he arrived at my home on June 5, he was a clown. He grabbed a stuffed animal in his mouth, then pranced around the backyard like he owned the place. When he got tired, he quietly retired to the second floor where he made himself at home on my bed.

That night a friend and I took him, Mama and my own dog, Ollie, to the Starbucks patio in the Cardiff Towne Centre for coffee and a treat from VG Donuts to celebrate being sprung from the pound! Both dogs lapped up the attention from passersby and their new found freedom. This photo was taken 2 days later at a memorial service we had for my late dog, Henry, at the Rainbow Bridge area of San Dieguito Park. You can see that Rooster was respectful and always a gentleman.

The Vista family who adopted him is very, very lucky! (I'm jealous.)

By the way, Rooster was exited out of the Carlsbad shelter by the group, Shelter Pet Partners and adopted through a collaboration with The Dog Squad. The resources of Shelter Pet Partners are almost exhausted because of the growing number of animals at the county shelter. To continue their work they are in immediate need of foster families and donations used for medication and temporary boarding while permanent homes are sought. To help, please contact Alison Hardison at

Friday, June 12, 2009

First Visit to Dr. Carmine Bausone

Rescue volunteer Susan Healy, Mama and I had a "girls afternoon out" last Thursday when we visited Dr. Bausone at the Acacia Animal Health Center in Escondido for the first time.

Mama had what could only be described as a red carpet reception! We were there for almost 2 hours.

Dr. B began by giving her a physical exam. We were pleased to learn that her age is about 2. He noted that she was a purebreed but couldn't say exactly what breed until she lost the weight. A contributing factor in her obesity was a life of containment, he said. (We learned later that she also had a very low thyroid.)

Initially, his goal is to reduce her weight from 102 to 75 lbs. Once that objective is attained, he will most likely reduce it further. "She's carrying 60 percent of bulky weight that she doesn't need," he said.

Next, we discussed her diet plan. What surprised me is that Dr. B frowns on dry kibble, even the expensive, high quality brands. He wanted to get her on a homecooked diet immediately and provided me with a recipe which I've posted separately.

His reasons for advocating a homecooked diet is to ensure that Mama consumes exclusively human-grade food, with no by-products, that is grain-free, low in carbohydrates and high in protein. The problem with most dry food, he says, is that they contain high quantities of grains such as corn, rice and oatmeal -- foods that dogs don't eat in the wild. Cooking for your pet also avoids any danger of unwittingly feeding tainted food that has been responsible for numerous deaths in the past.

Dr. B also suggested supplementing her diet with a multivitamin.

Then he recommended these online resources:

Regarding an exercise regimen, I explained that Mama only made it halfway around the block the first morning I had her. Since that time her endurance has improved and she has been able to walk the entire route.

With that in mind, Dr. B prescribed 2 to 3 one-half hour walks a day as opposed to one long walk. "Push it a little more each day," he advised.

Following the consultation, Dr. B left Susan and me in the examination room while he led Mama on a leash down the hall for a blood panel and xrays.

After they returned, we checked out at the front desk where, at his request, we made an appointment for acupuncture next Thurs., June 18 and VOM (veterinary orthopedic manipulation) treatments with Dr. John Harrison beginning Sat.

As we exited the building, it was clear that Mama didn't want to leave. She may be obese, but she has the strength of a bull.

Mama led Susan and me around the periphery of the building on her leash, then down a slope and back to the entrance (see photo above) where she gazed through the glass door waiting for someone to open it. Finally, 3 staff members came to our aid by trying to coax her to the parking lot. They were equally unsuccessful. Mama continued to hold her ground until an employee, holding a dog biscuit, lured her to my van.

It was a great day!

For more information about weight loss for pets call the Acacia Animal Health Center at (760) 745-8115 or visit

Meet Mama

Meet Mama, a 102 lbs., two-year old stray picked up by a Good Samaritan in Valley Center, CA on May 21 and delivered to the Escondido Humane Society. The following day Mama was transferred to San Diego County Animal Control in Carlsbad where she remained in quarantine, for observation, until June 3. Judging by her massive size, and signs that she had recently given birth, shelter staff said she most likely had been a backyard breeder.

That morning I visited the Carlsbad shelter to view Rooster, a German shepherd mix whose mental health was quickly deteriorating due to shelter stress. I had just lost my beloved 12-year-old dog, Henry, and was approached by friend Susan Healy, a rescue volunteer, to consider fostering Rooster due to the high kill rate at the shelter brought on by the economy.

As I got closer to Rooster's kennel I saw that he was miserable, whining uncontrollably. I happened to glance to the right where I noticed an unmarked kennel with what looked to be a Shar Pei. On closer examination I recognized that underneath the layers of fat and skin was the forlorn face of an English labrador. Her breasts were almost touching the ground.

That afternoon when I returned with my nephew, Joey, Mama's condition had worsened. Her breathing was very labored, her eyes blurred and unfocused. I arranged through Alison Hardison of Shelter Pet Partners to foster Mama so I could get her on a low-calorie diet and walking regimen. Two days later Rooster arrived home.

Both dogs were well mannered and grateful to finally be in a home. Mama proudly walked around the first floor snorting, a large stuffed polar bear in her mouth. Sometimes a whistling sound traveled through her nostrils. When Rooster and my dog, Ollie, raced up the staircase to follow me, Mama stayed behind, too heavy to get beyond the first step. Instead, she stared sadly up the stairs, clutching the polar bear in her mouth.

I wondered what health implications were brought on by her obesity - possibly a deviated septum, heart failure, arthritis and who knows what else? When I walked her around the block the first time, she was only able to make it halfway before stopping, then staring at the sidewalk and lying down. It was obvious she needed medical help.

I hatched a plan to recruit a veterinarian to design and manage a custom weight loss program. In turn, I would propose to write a blog so that the cybercommunity could follow her progress while giving the veterinarian publicity for his efforts.

My strategy was to approach the veterinary hospital who could offer the most comprehensive services. I've always believed that it's better to shoot for the stars and end up with an arrow in the moon then shoot for the moon and end up with an arrow in the foot.

At the top of my list was Dr. Carmine Bausone of the Acacia Animal Health Clinic in Escondido and his associate Dr. John Harrison, a veterinary orthopedic manipulation (VOM) practitioner. I had profiled Dr. Harrison's work in a newspaper article in March and was impressed with both doctors and the services offered by the clinic that also included acupuncture and Chinese herbal therapy.

When I called to present my proposal, both doctors enthusiastically agreed to take on the challenge. Dr. Bausone explained that pet obesity was an issue near and dear to his heart and that he welcomed the opportunity to reach out and educate the public.

At his request, I called the office and scheduled an appointment for Mama for Wed., June 11 at 2:45.