It's just over 2 weeks since I returned from a fabulous road trip with one of our dogs, Django. We attended a Canine Flow Transformational Retreat in South West Wales. Usually after a break its a couple of days of feeling refreshed and then back to reality. The feelings I brought away from this break are still with me and get stronger by the day, hence I thought a little blog was in order.
I decided to do this retreat a few months back after seeing the inspirational Caroline Griffith speak at the end of the Natural Dog Expo. An event she organised as well as being the heart and soul behind Canine Flow. I have been aware of Caroline for some time, being an advocate for fresh feeding herself, a Nutritional Consultant for raw food companies and a lead voice in all things holistic. I however had quickly decided I couldnt do these retreats back then when I first saw them, with being a multi dog household, distance, yada yada yada. It just obviously wasnt meant to be. After the Natural Dog Expo, this year, I took another look and instantly knew I had to do this and Django, no question was the boy to come with me.
Not used to long drives these days, I opted to stop half way at a beautiful bed and breakfast. After an evening walk around the neighbouring park, we headed to our room. Django was finding it quite difficult to relax, missing his buddies? somewhere different? He did eventually, checking in a few times during the night though to see if everything was ok.
The next morning after breakfast we set off for the next stage of our trip. After about the half way stage I was on the look out for a place to stop. Too busy noticing the Red Kites in the sky and the beautiful scenery, we drove straight past the entrance to a cafe with a red kite viewing gallery, Doh! oh well, we'll keep looking. It didnt seem too long after this, a very smooth trip so far, we came over a hill and there in front was the sea, Cardigan Bay, beautiful!
This was to be our pitstop, only around half an hour from our destination but still worth it. We were going to land a little too early anyway. I was surprised at how many people wanted to stop and speak with Django (well he is darn handsome after all ) one gentleman in particular though, walking his old terrier (not so friendly) and an old boy, border collie, his friends dog who he was looking after while he was in hospital, stopped to say hi. The old collie was almost mesmerised by Django, so in the end I let Django go say hi. The boys had a few minutes chat, the gentleman went to move off, 'well you just made his day' talking of the old boy collie, of course, and off they went. Left me with a lovely warm feeling, such a little gesture yet it meant so much to someone. We also sampled sea salt blackberries! they were actaully very nice.
It was time to head off to our final destination for the next 5 days. Just a short 30 minute drive left. We were greeted with coffee and cake and met the first of our fellow retreaters. Django was beside himself with excitement! This however was to be his state for quite some time. Luckily what the retreat was about. The first evening we were sent off to do some one to one homework, to allow Django chance to ground and relax.
The following morning, after breakfast was the first of our meditations. Yes meditation with dogs is a thing and you'd be surprised how effective and beautiful it can be, with practice. Each day saw a transformation in Django and revealed things I hadnt noticed. We got to know each other more. I got to know me more!
The days were filled with woodland and beach walks, workshops, sharing time with fellow retreaters and eating fabuous food. It was soon time to say goodbye and head home again.
My amazing experience did not stop there. Each day I take time out with Django to sit, he loves it and he really does go into a peaceful relaxation, it is not just sleep. For me it is time to reflect, to reset, and to just breathe. My intention is to do this every day if I can. Im still working on that, life is so busy. do I really have the time, not really? Do I waste time, absolutely !! so I can find the time for this, its good for both of us.
When I planned to attend this retreat the idea was to learn something new to bring home to my dogs and the dogs that visit me. However a day or two after returning it dawned on me this was not just for the dogs but that I needed to bring this to their guardians too. Something has definitely changed!! Me wanting to teach, groups! Well just watch this space as this is something I do want to share with others, its too beautiful not to.
I've been an advocate of raw/fresh feeding for a number of years and always fed what is described as DIY. When I first started that was the only way to raw feed. Blending my own mix can keep costs down when feeding a number of dogs. I always believed I couldnt afford to do it any other way and to feed the really high quality, pasture raised, organic meats was out of reach, but it was always my aim to one day achieve that.
Instead I settled on at least feeding organic veg, fruit etc. In keeping my food costs down I had to select meats of lower quality and never dug too deep into the industry, as I normally do, but I had an idea, it probably wasnt good. Afterall it is a money making industry and as we know from the various pet food manufacturers, not all have your dog's welfare at heart and would rather make vast profits.
Recently our bulldog has been having a few health issues of which some presented in digestive problems. These upsets were relatively minor incomparison to the problems with his ears so the main focus was, his ears. I have been working with holistic vets to reslove his issues and it wasnt until it was suggested I remove all processed foods (this was basically shop bought treats) I also looked to upgrade his food to 'completes', to achieve consistency and perhaps stabalise his increasing gut issue. The transformation has been incredible. So much so I got to thinking could I upgrade the rest of the gang, after all, none of them were ill so why should I? I endeavour to feed my dogs the best I can, I want them to thrive and live a long healthy life, for their healthspan to match their lifespan. A famous Greek guy once said, 'let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food' The challenges that face us may have changed since his time but we have known for an awful long time that what we eat goes a long way towards the state of our health.
The hunt was on to find a brand that offered good quality at affordable prices that could also meet my ethical values. I was let down by one company of which I will spare the details here, and eventually got into investigating Paleo Ridge. I had used them before, our youngest weaned on this brand, but I had previously thought where out of my reach to continue. However these days, many brands including Paleo now offer deals, discount offers, subscriptions etc. It was looking promising my goal wasn't too far out of reach after all?
An avid follower of RPM (Raw Pet Medics) a team made up of 2 of the best holistic vets in the UK, Nick Thompson and Brendan Clarke, and Conor Brady, author of 'Feeding Dogs' the top rated book on canine nutrition and a Nutritional consultant to the raw feeding industry and dog guardians. I remembered Conor talking of Paleo Ridge. I came across an article written by Conor, which forced me to open my eyes to what is going on in the whole food industry not just pet food. (links at the end of my article, which I encourage you to read to help you make better choices for your dog). Conor discusses the shocking truth about the industry, animal husbandry and welfare, the AAFCO/FEDIAF guidelines for minimum and sometimes maximum requirements of essential nutrients and how they came about. Now can you imagine what they can hide in processed food that no longer looks like any of the ingredients that go into it?
After reading the articles from Conor, checking out the Paleo Ridge website, checking the figures on the calculator, evaluating the transformation in our bulldog, I thought I cant afford not to switch !
Paleo Ridge ethics:
This post was inspired by a 'Self Care To Do List' that came with a product I'd actually bought for one of the dogs, but then, who better to complete the list with than your dog.
I thought I would go through a few old photos to see if I could tick each of them off my to do list.
Im sure there are more therapeutic things we can do with our dogs, but we try to tick these off our list daily or at least weekly. Nourishing mind, body and soul.
Im still on cloud 9 after achieving a wee something with my eldest, Grace, this weekend. It has been on my bucket list for some time (perhaps not on Gracey's unless there's some food in said bucket) to perform in a heelwork to music routine. After eventually deciding 8 weeks ago we started training from scratch and took part in our first freestyle HTM competition!
There is a little history behind the madness. When Grace was born, the radio in the background was playing The Tymes, Ms Grace, hence her name. Her lovely breeder would sing it every day, until I took over the reins or the mic, and have sang it to her everyday since. She even sings a bit of the chorus herself! After seeing heelwork to music on TV some time ago, I put it on my bucket list to do this one day.
Now the saying goes you cant teach an old dog new tricks. Although I am in complete denial that my girl is getting older, but at 12 1/2 its been a while since she was eligible for puppy classes!. My Amazing Grace learned 8 new moves in 8 weeks, and could (almost) complete a whole 2 1/2 minute routine in time to the music. On the day a few things led to stage fright for both of us so we missed many of those moves but give Gracey her due she improvised well! We were welcomed and supported into the HTM world by some lovely people. I was overwhelmed when we were placed and absolutely honoured to also be awarded a very special special in celebration of a dog called Hope, Eternal Hope at MorgansR, a rescue who retired at this show last year and sadly passed away earlier this year. The whole experience as been uplifting and has made a marked difference to Grace's energy. After a forced retirement in 2020 from agility it has brought a twinkle into her eyes again. I also ticked off acheiving something quite out of my comfort zone. I have more of a twinkle in my eye too since doing this (if you know the lyrics :) )
I have thought for some time we shouldnt just retire dogs, or give them nothing to do but a little walk and a comfy couch just because they are older. This weekend got me thinking about this again.
Recently one of my senior visitors to clinic passed away at over 15, a grand age for his breed. I believe that it was not just his visits to me to keep him mobile, but he took part in his favourite activities (at his own pace) right up until recently, as well as having a home cooked diet and more love than you could pack into a thousand hearts!
I will also add Grace has been fed a fresh food diet since 8weeks old, she receives regular soft tissue therapy and leads as holistic a life style as I can possibly offer her. Oh and dont forget the oodles of love I have for her. Its all relevant. Ticking as many of those boxes that are part of a holistic approach to nurturing our dogs, goes a long way to a healthy lifespan. We cant forget why they are here for us too, more on this in another post in September, but listening to what they have to teach us, or remind us, perhaps what we have forgotten is another way to honour them.
I do apologies as this blog is ending up longer than I first thought but I hope you are still happily reading whilst I get to the point.
We all get wrapped up in daily chores, work, stresses etc and can end up just doing what we do as a needs must, guilty as charged your honour! Of course part of that for me is nice walks enjoying nature with my dogs. Its become a comfortable way of life. This year I am planning a few things that take me completely out of my comfort zone. More on this in another post too but one of those things was competing with miss Grace, in front of a knowledgeable crowd, and recorded. Probably why I have put it off, but I know I would have regretted not doing it. What I have learned though, that by doing this, stepping up a gear and learning something new, giving her a job has taken Grace from a lovely comfortable life and added twinkly bits!! She's loving it!
Trying to write this I am wondering who is having the senior moment!! However as I absolutely believe I am related to Peter Pan it cant be me :) So back to the point of this post. Should we not do more to enhance the life of our dogs? Im going to stick to older dogs even though I have since made a pact to find something for each of my 5 dogs (yes Buster the bulldog included) that makes them happy. Something extra, something new, something to learn, give them a job? What I will do is adapt to suit their needs and capabilities both physically and emotionally.
I dont mean we all have to go out and compete in something or climb a mountain but why not teach them a little dance move a new trick. Is your dog less mobile and only up for a slow sniff on his walks? Why not give him something to sniff out and find? Take them somewhere new (obviously if this will not cause stress) If you're a little out of touch with teaching new things I highly recommend reaching out to a good trainer, one that is aware of needs and capabilties and hopefully uses lovely techniques like shaping. If you're local to me reading this I highly recommend K9 Pursuits in Newton Aycliffe, kind supportive trainers with oodles of ideas to support your dog. It might also be worth getting you dog checked over before they take on anything more physical and any under veterinary care perhaps have a chat with your vet. Like I say we are not looking at mountain climbing, flyball or agility with our older guys but think about teaching them something new, it may just put a twinkle in their eye again.
What a lovely motto to live by
Thank you to Arti, Kai, Tilly, Briar, Lexi, Steel, and Fury for allowing me to take your photo and share your stories x x
I know some folk don't get what I do, but dog's do!
I don't really go by the book as such, but then neither do dogs. I don't mind if your dog doesn't go into a deep sleep, laid in perfect lateral recumbence. I'll adapt my methods to how your dog is comfortable, sitting, standing, sphinx like, even getting up and moving around, all this can tell me something.
I don't dive straight into completing a session of various techniques with your dog in a placed position of my choosing. I may not work directing where your dog has injured themselves which may be a little frustrating when you are paying money to 'fix' your dog. The reason being, if working directly where your dog is injured causes pain or discomfort then the chances are he will tense up, learn to distrust me, and it can slow down the healing process. I aim to make a dog feel as comfortable as possible, physically and mentally, looking to build and maintain trust throughout.
Don't get me wrong, I am clinically trained in proven techniques and continue to learn different methods to enhance my toolbox.
When assessing, I may find different thing to your vet, but this is due to approach as much as anything.
I also don't diagnose, besides not being allowed to, I don't have a diagnostic toolbox, like x ray, ultra sound or MRI. I don't look to instigate a pain response to find out where your dog is hurting but instead look for lack of flow, pulls and tensions for example.
I can't unfortunately offer a magic pill that some of us seek, and frustrating for me to, I cannot promise anything. The response to treatment is very individual and is based on the dog's response, age, issues, diet, exercise, environment and you!
My first priority is your dog's comfort and trust. This can happen quickly or can take time. In most cases I can reduce discomfort in your dog in the first session.
Although I don't work 'clinically' (some dog's think Im running a cafe!!) I can provide a written report for your vet if required. I find most people though, are happy that their dog enjoyed the session and is hurting less.
If I haven't come across an issue before I will be open and honest, but will also do additional research for the best options to help your dog and work along other therapies if need be. I am quite happy to admit I am still learning every day, from each dog I meet.
My focus is to work with natural therapies as much as possible. I have helped a number of dogs that would have otherwise needed surgery, or regular medical intervention.
In today's fast pace society, the need for convenience, everything to be done yesterday, the drive for that magic pill, unfortunately healing doesn't play by those rules, and neither does good health.
Those principles are not for me and it certainly isn't the choice of our dogs, even the super hyped ones!!
Times are changing though, as more people reach out to alternative methods to support themselves and their dogs.
I get that my perhaps unorthodox methods may not suit all. But if you get where this post is coming from then between us, I believe we can help your dog live a happier more comfortable, healthy life.
Ahh just spotted this blog that never got finished in my drafts. Quite timely though to share considering the subject of my new post to follow shortly. This is still a must have book for any dog guardians out there. It covers all aspects of dog health with research and studies, showing how we can improve the life and health of our dogs at home, reducing the need for vet visits and hopefully increasing the healthspan of our dogs and potentially life span. Its also available on audio if you havent time to sit and read, invaluable information (unfortunately I have no monetory gain by promoting this book :/ but if it helps 1 dog or 10 live a happier healthier life then hey that would be brilliant!
This handsome boy is Ruckie :) He's only been to see me a couple of times following a diagnosis of swimmers tail by his vet. He has responded well to his first treatment and after his follow up he can step up his exercise and with a few things his mum and dad can do at home to help him he is doing well, and should continue to improve. Such a delightful boy to work with :)
Honey says not! So do a number of other dogs I have seen who were lined up for cruciate surgery post injury, following a fall or a sharp twist whilst running or playing.
The success of conservative treatment for a cruciate injury firstly depends on how much damage has been done (full or partial tear). What I do is only part of the healing process, which is body alignment and alleviating compensation tensions and patterns. The rest depends on you! Honey's dad took on board all the advice about appropriate exercise, controlling jumping on and off furniture/the car etc and also preventing slipping by providing rugs on the ever increasing fashionable wood/laminate flooring. Exercise can also include rehabilitation exercises once pain is managed.
I always encourage the use of natural pain management, natural anti inflammatories, glucosamine and chondroitin supplements, hot and cold compress etc but this again has to be managed to the individual and may need veterinary support. NSAIDs whilst they can reduce inflammation they are not known to encourage tissue repair, although further studies are required to understand their full effects. According to Dr. Ross Hauser, “One of the most serious adverse reactions to NSAIDs, that is little appreciated, is that as a class of compounds they cause the breakdown of articular cartilage…”
“…thereby accelerating osteoarthritis, the very disease for which they are most commonly prescribed! The pathogenesis of osteoarthritis is accelerated by NSAIDs.”
Success is also increased with weight management and diet. Most of us know that carrying too much weight puts pressure on joints but excess fat also increases overall inflammation in the body, making us more prone to dis-ease. A high carbohydrate diet can also increase inflammation. Most kibble diets need to be a minimum of 30% carbohydrate to form the nuggets but most are found to be over 50% carbohydrate! If you cant feed fresh by adding 20% fresh to your kibble you can alter this ratio and reduce inflammatory markers (University of Helsinki Study, Video of Dr Hielm-Bjorkman discussing what the study is finding with Rodney Habib from Planet Paws (7 minute mark): https://www.facebook.com/rodneyhabib/videos/10155176513292028 ).
Bone broth is a great way to support an injured or sick dog. It is loaded with nutrients that can support collagen growth to speed up recovery. You can buy it ready made or make it yourself following a number of recipes that can be found online. I prefer to use ingredients from organic/grass fed sources and make my own in the slow cooker. I am a huge fan of fresh feeding and it is recognised by holistic advocates to support health, and increase recovery.
Honey after a number of regular sessions, following the guidelines above avoided surgery and is back to enjoying her normal walks and hasn't had to endure the dreaded crate rest!!
Im looking to revive my blog posts!! So here we go! Meet the wonderful Withnail. Some of you may know where his name comes from. I actually had never heard of the film so we watched it the following night after he was booked in for his first session.
Withnail has just celebrated his first teenth birthday!! He is doing amazing considering he was diagnosed quite young with arthritis. Both his mum and myself put this down to his go for it attitude, typical spaniel really. His mum also keeps his weight in check, manages his exercise, and uses natural and veterinary products to support him. However his mum had noticed he was starting to slow down, so through looking for complementary therapies, found me. He can be a little anxious about new things but taking time over a couple of sessions he is coming round to the idea it’s not all that bad and secretly I think he quite enjoys it. He is responding well and it is lovely to be able to build his trust and help him feel more comfortable.
I have been around dogs all my life. My life changed when I decided to turn a passion for dogs into a career. I have never looked back except to see what the past has taught me.