Thursday, July 30, 2009

Birth of a Diva: Lara Enjoys a Day at the Spa

Last week Mike Dougherty, an AKC-licensed judge who owns the Windsong Resort for Pets with wife, Michelle, invited Lara for a follow up beauty and spa treatment.

I look forward to our visits to Windsong which is modeled after the prestigious Golden Door Fitness Resort & Spa, also off Deer Springs Road north of Escondido.

The grounds are serene and healing with lush gardens, sounds of splashing water and sculptures nestled in the woods created by Michelle, a gifted artist and horti-

The Dougherty's greeted Lara like the celebrity she's become.

After I left for a few hours, Lara began the day with playtime, running around the field with Mike and Toby, a Goldendoodle who was a guest at the resort.

"Lara's made some amazing progress," Mike remarked. "Having lost some weight, she has become an active, vibrant labrador."

"She's now running and jumping, where once she just struggled to walk across the yard," he said. "Her attitude is now cheery and can actually note a bit of a smile when you look at her."

Playing aside, it was time for the real fun for this new canine diva -- some serious pampering. With a little assistance, Lara climbed on the grooming table for her pedicure. Head groomer Jessica Lynch trimmed some of her longer nails first, then 'dremeled'
them all to get a nice smooth finish.

"Now it was time for the spa treatments," Jessica said. "Being the time of year it is and the noticeable amount of hair Lara was shedding, we selected a deshedding shampoo and conditioner to help get all the loose hair off."

Jessica also applied an aroma shampoo to moisturize her dry skin.

"Lara really enjoyed being in the tub and the little massages she got as I rubbed in the shampoo," she said.

After Lara was rinsed and towel dried, Jessica used the FURminator tool on her coat which helps remove the hair she is shedding.

"Lara sat very still, like a queen on her throne," Jessica said. "She is a very sweet and happy girl. Her story really warms my heart and I’m glad I get to be part of her recovery. I look forward to our next spa day and my chance to pamper her again."

It meant a lot to Lara, especially, to earn the admiration of Mike who has served as a judge at the world-famous Westminster Kennel Club dog show.

"Her coat now shines and her eyes are sparkling and happy." Mike said. "She's a new dog, and we are excited to follow along with her and Lillian as she continues in her quest to regain her youthful figure, vitality and joie de vivre."

Photo Credit: Michelle Dougherty

* Check out Michelle's new Windsong Resort blog at:

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Paralyzed Little Bella Needs Guardian Angel ASAP

I was approached this afternoon to post the sad tale of this 10-week-old golden lab, Bella.

Since she shares a story similar to Lara's, we're hoping there might be someone in cyberspace reading this blog who might feel moved to step up to the plate and be a guardian angel to this little one.

You know what they say: You don't find your pets; they find you.

Little Bella has a spinal injury and, I was told, was dumped at an animal hospital in San Diego by the former owner of her parents.

Here is her story written by her foster mom, Gina Farnsworth, email

Bella has more then just paralysis going on. It is just her hind legs, that little girl can move her front legs like no other! She SO wants to investigate everything! Shes a doll! Full of life!

She manages to drag herself around with her front legs and she is ok at standing on her stiff back legs to eat. I've been using a raised food/water bowl and she seems to stand okay for that.

She's quite the medical case unfortunately...and funding may or may not play a large part in finding her that special person willing to take
her on :(

Let me explain further. Little Bella came to us as a puppy who "fell off the couch" and couldn't walk at 6 weeks of age. A precious baby!We took x-rays and found a spinal problem. The neurologist said to give her 4 - 6 weeks to see if her spine heals since she's so young!Her owners chose to euthanise rather then to wait 6 weeks to see if she would 'heal'. At that time Bella had no name.She became sweet "Little Orphan Annie" to us!

Well, after 2 weeks her hind legs were becoming stiff, something didn't seem quite right! We repeated the xrays and it seems her
spine has started to heal somewhat. The legs were now becoming
another problem.
Her left hip has popped out of socket [she's a puppy so that was almost to be expected] and we are now dealing with that situation carefully as well. Sure doesn't seem to bother her, she has NO clue all of this is going on! Right now the left hip is pretty much seized up and they are thinking either surgery [IF it is possible] or amputation of that leg. We will know more in the up and coming weeks.

Last Friday I got back from taking her to the Veterinary Surgical
Specialists and sadly the Specialist didn't give her much hope of walking
again given the current condition of her legs, etc.

The Dr I work for says she will more then likely be in a wheelchair [doggy cart] and that's ONLY if we can find someone who has the time, patience to deal with it. So frustrating because I live with her and see how sweet and happy she is.

I doubt a wheelchair will be a problem for prospective adopters because right now she RUNS with me assisting her with a towel as a rear leg 'harness.' I am starting to notice her right rear paw is almost acting like it wants to work!! Promising! A doggy cart would be great therapy for her and that back leg - I'm sure!

Anyways, we've been doing some therapy trying to get movement back
into her legs [mainly that right rear leg]. No real improvements as yet...and as I say there very well may never be. Then again, you never know! She sure acts like she can 'feel' something back there! With such a young pup there's a chance of some recovery.

Hydrotherapy may be of help here as well! I've heard other stories of puppies at 6 months of age being able to use their hind limbs after paralysis, and this is why we don't want to give up on her. There IS hope!

There is constant caring for her throughout the day for her mild incontinence. I do not need to express her little bladder. I'm not

certain if she can feel anything when she's urinating. She doesn't seem to mind diapers at all. Just the past 5 days she's been urinating outside when we 'go potty'. I've noticed she's managed to hold it longer. Even overnight!! Again VERY promising!I am potty training her as you would any other 10-week- old puppy.

Her bowel movements just fall free at present and at times it can be messy to clean. We recently changed her diet s l o w l y to a special mix of "EN" canned food and Science Diet puppy canned food. Her stools have now become a normal consistency and easy to clean.

It almost appears like she knows when she needs to poop. She tries to lick at her bottom [but she cant reach it] I mentioned this to our doctor and she felt positive about this! When she needs to poop she barks at again very promising signs.

She will need surgery for the entropion in her left eye [her little
eyelashes curl inwards] actually very common and the surgery is no real big deal at all. This is the least of her problems. I am working on getting funding for this surgery as well.

She had a prolapsed rectum until last week when the doctor placed a purse string in [pulls her rectum back inside her bottom]...hopefully that will heal. As of today things are looking brighter in that aspect now we are only feeding her special canned food diet. The purse string comes out in a day or so.

The prolapse may reoccur on occasions due to her dragging her bottom? Then again if we can get a doggy cart for her this may not be the problem it seems to be and may never reoccur. This we wont know for sure. I believe there is a surgery for this problem also, but dont want to have to 'go there' as yet!

I've had diapers on her on certain occasions, but when I have her here with me at home I prefer to just wipe her little bottom throughout the day and have her on the tiled floor [easy to wash and disinfect] and some soft towels for her to lay upon. Washing/cleaning will become routine for her prospective owner I'm sure. For how long , we wont know. There are special 'rear limb doggy sacks'that these special needs dogs can wear so they dont leave 'snail trails' on carpet, etc.It's amazing what they have out there on the market for handicapped pets!!

She is currently being kept penned up [per doctors orders] although I do take her out throughout the day .....that way she can sniff the grass and flowers and just "live" a little.

Puppys need socialization and need to be exposed to certain things as they grow up so we are doing our best to let her get that too.

Apart from that this little girl is of course GORGEOUS! *sigh* Such a sad story. If I could, I certainly would take her but I already have a house full of animals and I simply cannot afford what it will take to save her.

Basically this lil girl needs to have a chance at living a wonderful life since shes the happiest little puppy. I think you already got that point though :)

Euthanasia is what we are so trying to prevent! Quality of life? Well, that will be up to the person who adopts her.

There is NO adoption fee...all our Doctor would like is to meet the prospective adopters and make sure she is going into the right home..She will come fully vaccinated and she has been dewormed already. Right now we are just seeing if there is anyone out there willing to go through with the time, patience and funding to give her a wonderful life!

If you can help please email Gina at

Thank you!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

A Word About Hypothyroidism

I was walking on the Oceanside Pier the afternoon of June 9 with a friend when I retrieved a voice mail message from Dr. Bausone. In a tone that seemed more serious than usual, he reported that he received the results of Lara's blood panel. He explained that she had thyroid disease and would have to be put on medication. After a month, I needed to bring her back for a retest to make sure the dose was correct. He went on to say that the blood test would have to be repeated every six months for the rest of her life.

My heart sunk as my mind raced to the worst case scenario -- that this was a progressive disease that at some point would become life threatening. Fortunately, I couldn't have been more wrong.

I learned her hypothyroidism is quite common, easy to treat and that the cost of the medication is very affordable.

When I saw Dr. B he gave me a handout by Dr. Ernest Ward, DVM explaining how the thyroid gland regulates the body's metabolism. When it is overactive, pooches (and people) tend to be thin. This is called hyperthyroidism. Conversely, an underactive thyroid, called hypothyroidism, causes the thyroid to slow down.

Lara demonstrated many of the classic symptoms of hypothyroidism:
  • Weight gain.
  • Lethargy and a lack of desire to exercise.
  • Dry, dull hair with excessive shedding.
  • Increased dark pigmentation in the skin.
  • Thickening of the facial skin resulting in what is called "tragic facial expression."
Four weeks ago she began a dosage of .6 mg of Thyrosyn (sodium levothyroxine) tablets every 12 hours. Since then she's been losing weight at a steady pace. Even better, she has the energy and zest for life of the young dog she is. I love this photo because it shows her doing something she couldn't do at all when she first arrived: climb up and down the staircase all day long clutching her favorite stuffed animal in her mouth.

Once again I learned that knowledge is power. The diagnosis has given her a new quality of life. As I reported earlier, Dr. Bausone even held out the possibility that once she is down to her ideal weight her hypothyroidism might be managed with supplements only.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Countdown: 102 to 92 lbs.! Only 17 to go!

Thankfully, Lara is on target to meet all goals set by Drs. Bausone and Harrison when they met her a month ago.

On Saturday she weighed in at 92 lbs., down 10 lbs. since her first visit to Dr. B's office on June 11.

She had her first session with Dr. Harrison on June 13.

At that time he explained that it would take 4 more consecutive sessions, a total of 5, to get her into alignment. She accomplished it in 4 sessions!

"Lara is showing all signs of success," he said. "Everything's working well together. She's showing a better sense of mobility, movement, balance and coordination."

Even before she stepped on the scale, Dr. H. noted that she had lost weight and that her muscles were toned.

"We're now in the phase of reeducating the system to help in realignment by continuing with VOM, acupuncture and diet," he said. "All of a sudden you have a happy pet that doesn't need so much work."

He beamed at the sight of a vital, healthy and spirited young female dog with a lifetime of good memories in front of her.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Lara Visits Rebekah of Sunnybrook Farm

When Lara was examined by Dr. Bausone the first time, he referred us to Rebekah Peterman of Sunnybrook Farm Holistic Pet Care in Encinitas. I followed up and arranged to meet with her last week.

Upon arrival, Lara and I were greeted by Rebekah’s dogs - Ranger, Cassie and Fancy - and two goats - Honey and Lil’ Goat. It really was like a small farm in the middle of Encinitas. As Rebekah and I exchanged "hellos" there was immediate recognition. A few years ago we used to chat at an off-leash dog park as our animals played. About the same time a friend in Del Mar highly recommended Rebekah to me as a pet sitter.

Since then Rebekah opened her Sunnybrook Farm, a reference to the family farm in Pauma Valley where she says she learned to care for creatures. She offers a wide variety of services from energetic screening to acupressure, Reiki, aromatherapy, flower essences, healing stones, homeopathy, individualized diet screening, non-anesthetic teeth cleaning, daycare and boarding. Dr. Bausone recommends her cooking classes to his patients.

Rebekah began the session by picking up a small pendulum to perform an energetic screening on Lara.

Pendulum dowsing, also called "divining," is known for its ability to gather information using simple questions. The pendulum is thought to be a powerful antenna that receives information from the vibrations and energy waves emitted by the pet.

Albert Einstein, who used dowsing, attributed its powers to electromagnetism, the same force that causes birds to migrate using the earth's magnetic field. Leonardo De Vinci and Gen. George Patton were also dowsers.

"I developed my own dowsing technique using a series of charts that enables me to obtain information from sources such as glands and organs to auric fields and meridians," Rebekah said. “The priority information I gather assists the owners in dealing with everything from behavior issues to constipation and diarrhea."

After the assessment, Rebekah concluded that Lara was suffering emotional pain. She explained that this was most likely due to the premature loss of her puppies.

"She's also been hurt by a young person in her life who doesn’t have much time for her," she added.

Rebekah coaxed Lara to her "dog couch" to begin acupressure.

“I used specific points on the meridian that helped to shift blocked energy in the gallbladder, spleen and conception vessel,” she said.

Rebekah also used Reiki, a Japanese healing technique that releases stress and tension while unlocking the healing potential of the body.

Lara appeared to be quite responsive, relaxing and even leaning into Rebekah as she worked on her. After a few minutes Lara seemed to slip into a trance. Rebekah said this is not unusual.

“I had a greyhound who looked like she needed to have a cigarette after her hands-on treatment,” she said laughing.

To promote healing, Rebekah suggested introducing more raw fruits and vegetables into Lara’s diet. She also recommended using flower essence to reduce the emotional effects of being teased about her weight. Finally, she suggested using an iodine supplement for thyroid health, a recommendation also made by Dr. Bausone.

Rebekah practices what she preaches. Several years ago she was diagnosed with hyperthyroidism. It evolved into hypothyroidism after undergoing radioactive iodine therapy.

"I took synthetic medicine and finally decided that I wasn't going to live like that," she said.

Since then she has been able to manage her thyroid using natural medicine.

For more information about Rebeka's services call (760) 230-0748 or visit

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Lara Gets F.I.T.

Since embarking on a strict health regimen 4 weeks ago, Lara has benefited from a number of therapies: veterinary orthopedic manipulation (VOM), acupuncture, acupressure and Reiki.

Dezi, a ferret who frequently stays with me while his owner is out of town, has taken a genuine interest in Lara's rehabilitation.

Yesterday I watched as he kneeded Lara, then treated her to a a full body massage for 10 minutes.

I've coined his technique, "Ferret Induced Therapy" or "F.I.T."

As you can see from Lara's expression of pleasure in the photo below, and her involuntary leg kicking, Dezi seems to know what he's doing.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Drum roll. . .Meet Lara (nee Mama) with Her Bling!

Yesterday was a banner day for Mama. She got a name, a shiny new identification tag and a mauve, patent-leader collar studded with rhinestones!

It was long overdue. Poor Mama has been wearing the ID and collar of my late dog, Henry, while I wrestled with the task of giving her a proper name.

Lara (pronounced LAR-ah) was the first one that came to mind when I began contemplating the issue a few weeks ago. Because she was blossoming more each day, it was important that any name had staying power.

The name Lara has origins in Russian and Latin. It means "protection" and also "cheerful" and "famous." She is all of these -- especially the last one. On July 4th her blog broke previous records with more than 100 hits from as far away as France, Germany, Finland, Iraq, Qatar and India!

Many people of my generation remember the character of Lara, played by Julie Christie in the 1965 Oscar-winning movie "Dr. Zhivago." With the backdrop of the Russian Revolution, Lara displayed grace and strength despite famine, poverty and the loss of her family.

A younger generation has grown up watching a modern, techno-savvy Lara on the movie screen -- Lara Croft, the brave and independent super heroine played by Angelina Jolie in the "Tomb Raider" series.

The clincher for me in deciding on the name "Lara" was its similarity to "Larry."

On May 29, two days after bringing Lara home from the shelter, my dear friend Larry DuBois passed away after a three-year battle with vasculitis, a rare condition characterized by inflammation of the blood vessels. He was 88.

Like Lara, Larry was fearless and protective, a Navy combat medical corpsman in the South Pacific during World War II. Later he founded the FMF (Fleet Marine Force) Combat Medical Personnel Association.

More than anything, Larry loved dogs. During the 28 years that I have had the honor of being a family friend I have heard countless stories about Larry's efforts, beginning in youth, to rescue stray dogs.

Over the past 20 years he has taken a special liking to Australian shepherds. He's pictured above with his last puppy, Ruff, who died of heart failure last November.

In the past, following a period of mourning, Larry would typically go out and purchase another Australian shepherd from a kennel. Instead, media coverage of the current shelter crisis made him determined to get a rescue dog this time.

Last March, he called and asked if I would take him and Mary, his wife of 69 years, to the county animal shelter on Palomar Airport Road.

When we arrived, the large selection of deserving dogs was overwhelming. This, coupled with effects of the vasculitis, made him too weak to stay long enough to deliberate on the most appropriate decision. We decided to leave and return another day.

The last time I saw Larry was at a small family gathering on April 27 to celebrate his 88th birthday. He didn't look well, but still had the characteristic twinkle in his eye. As I got up to say 'good bye' he said, "Lil, we need to go back to the shelter and get a dog!" I said I was ready any time. He passed away a few weeks later. . .

Well, Larry, I got a dog. A dog with heart. Her name is Lara.

Below: Lucy (bird)and Ollie (dog) admire Lara's new rhinestone collar.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

A July 4th Salute to USMC Military Working Dogs

Four years ago I had the privilege of spending half a day at the Camp Pendleton kennels where elite military working dogs live and train. This Independence Day I'd like to share some of those memories.

The Marine Corps began using dogs as messengers and scouts during World War II, recognizing that they could reduce casualties and find the enemy in hiding places. Dogs were donated by civilians eager to contribute to the war effort. Two organizations, Dogs for Defense and the Doberman Pinscher Club of America, provided many animals.

Clyde Henderson, a high school chemistry teacher from Ohio and chairman of the Doberman Pinscher Club's training committee, was recruited to lead the 1st Marine Dog Platoon into combat.

"After a five-day cross-country train trip, the 1st Marine Dog Platoon led by Henderson went into temporary quarters at Camp Pendleton," wrote James A. Cox in Marine Corps League Magazine in 1989. "With the help of Carl Spitz, owner of a famous Hollywood dog training school, Henderson trained the platoon intensely for a few weeks while awaiting a convoy, making up the rules as he went along, since he had no precedents to guide him."

The dog platoon joined up with the 2nd and 3rd Marine Raider Battalions for an assault on Bougainville, an island in the South Pacific, that began Nov. 1, 1943.

Six dogs were recognized for heroism on Bougainville. Among them was Caesar, a 3-year-old German shepherd who was donated by his owner in New York City. A messenger dog, Caesar received a promotion to sergeant in recognition of his bravery.

On Jan. 23, 1944, The Plain Dealer of Cleveland published this account of his record: "Caesar was wounded on the third day and had to be carried back on a stretcher. While with his company, Caesar made nine official runs between the company and the command post, and on at least two of these runs he was under fire." Caesar also forced a Japanese soldier to drop a hand grenade he was about to hurl at the dog and his handler, the newspaper reported.

Other dog platoons saw action on Guam, Saipan, Peleliu, Iwo Jima and Okinawa.

Soochow was a veteran war dog beloved by many San Diegans. After World War II, he retired at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot. On Oct. 29, 1946, a parade was held to honor his ninth birthday.

"Soochow hit the foxholes with the other Marines during the siege of Corregidor, and fought alongside his buddies," said Ellen Guillemette, archivist at the depot's Command Museum. "He was captured when the island surrendered on May 6, 1942.

"Soochow spent nearly three years in various prisoner-of-war camps. He and 17 Marines were liberated by American Rangers in February 1945. He held the Philippine Campaign, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign, Good Conduct, World War II Victory and American Defense medals."

Today, Camp Pendleton is the largest base for Marine dogs in the United States. Dogs working in all branches of the U.S. military are recruited and trained at the Military Working Dog Center at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio.

The dogs are part of the Military Police, and are trained to perform patrol and bomb-and drug-detection duties. Each dog is assigned to one handler for a two-year rotation. In Iraq, the dog and handler work and live together.

Currently, Marines use only German shepherds and a variety of Belgian shepherd called the Belgian Malinois.

"The Marine Corps began having problems with Dobermans and Rottweilers," said Sgt. Greg Massey, the kennel master at Camp Pendleton. "They are good attack dogs, but not good at detection."

Although Marine dogs are required to be aggressive and protective, that doesn't mean they have to be large, Massey said. The Belgian Malinois is a medium-size dog, weighing 40 to 80 pounds.

"Size doesn't mean much. You can have 50 pounds that can leap and grab your chest, arm, back, leg, anything," he said. "If it grabs your hamstring, I don't care if you're (former Miami Dolphins running back) Ricky Williams – you're going down."

Massey said he prefers female dogs because they tend to be more loyal than males.

Marines interested in working as handlers go through a competitive process conducted by the Military Police.

"As a trainer, you are critiqued just like a dog," said Sgt. Vince Amato, chief trainer of the base. "If you are thin-skinned, you will have a hard time."

Amato said the Marine Corps goes to great lengths to match the dog's personality with that of the handler.

"Dogs learn just like we do," he said. "If the dog's not learning, it's because the handler isn't training the right way. It takes time, practice and patience."

Massey said choke chains and pinch collars are only used to give a dog a correction.

"If the handler abuses a dog, he's out of here," he said.

Army veterinarians care for dogs in all branches of the military, assigning their working weight and establishing their diet.

"Working dogs are known to get bloated, probably from playing too soon and too hard after eating," Massey said. "For this reason, they are fed twice a day."

After a career that typically lasts about 10 years, today's military dogs are rewarded with a variety of retirement options. Many are available for adoption by previous handlers, veterinary technicians and the public. Some are used by law enforcement agencies or returned to Lackland, where they are used to train new handlers.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Three Pounds in Five Days!

What a way to celebrate Independence Day weekend!

Yesterday Mama weighed in at the Acacia Animal Health Center 3.2 fewer pounds than she did last Saturday.

No lap band. No tummy tuck. No liposuction.

She's been doing the hard work and it's paid off!

For the first time, she stepped on to the scale without hesitation.

Dr. Bausone was pleased, even suggesting that her hypothyroidism could improve as she continues to lose weight.

"Obesity is the worst disease," he said. "Often if we can control it, we can lower the thyroid medication and in some cases even substitute it with iodine supplements."

Afterwards, Dr. B gave her a second acupuncture treatment.

The goal again was to raise her yang, or "positive energy," and promote tonification, an acupuncture term meaning "to strengthen the body."

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

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Guest Blog: Michelle Dougherty, Windsong Resort for Pets

What Does A Dog Know?

Dogs know when they are with people who like them.

They know how to make choices that will affect their situation.

Recent studies have shown they have a sense of fair play (“Rover got five biscuits and I only got one, I’m not doing the trick anymore”).

Dogs and other animals can detect fear, or maybe they sense it because of a perceptiveness to changes in our body chemistry. They can sniff out disease and find misplaced items or lost people.

Dogs know when we’re sad, and they occasionally are mad (“What do you mean I can’t sleep on the bed anymore?”), but then quickly forgive us.

Dogs could survive just fine without human companions, as the marauding coyotes in my neighborhood attest to, yet they choose to stick with us. How infrequently dogs are walked on a leash these days. How is ‘Dog Beach’ even possible? Quite often when people arrive in our parking lot, they fling open the car’s rear door and out jumps Fido, free as a bird. The humans trust that Fido will not wander too far, and will quickly return when called… miraculously he does. He listens despite new smells that need to be explored and investigated, despite the little bird sitting on a branch over there that would be fun to chase, despite a pressing obligation to mark every low growing shrub as newly conquered territory.

Dogs know when a person is putting trust in them, and they desperately want to live up to our expectations. (Training and bonding over time go into developing this kind of relationship, and understanding of a dog’s distinct personality. It would obviously not be a good idea to let a dog off-leash without reasonable assurance that he or she will come back when called.)

If Mama could talk to us with human words, what else would she tell us that she knows? Instead she communicates with her eyes, with sniffs, with quiet gestures - like her head on your shoulder, or a gentle paw on your wrist. She surely must be wise beyond her years. Could she have tried to make the best of a bad situation, while hoping for something better to turn out for her? What does she dream of? How does she feel about her life today? Hopefully when modern science allows us to more effectively communicate with animals, Mama will still be around, so she can write her memoirs.

Visiting the San Diego County Fair this weekend? Stop by and see Michelle's musical bears exhibit in the Flower & Garden Show.