Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Voodoo Doctor

This past weekend we were visited by a Voodoo Doctor. At least, that’s how we think of her. I’m not truly sure what she calls herself – animal naturalist? That sounds a little strange since some naturalists are people who like to be nude and some naturalists just eat strange things. Animal healer? She is certainly that, but that seems to have American Indian connotations. I checked her website (http://www.perfectanimalhealth.com/) and she never really spells it out. But what she does say is the reason I asked her to come here and work on my animals – “Do the basics properly and nature will take care of the rest.”

I met Sandy when I attended the Horse Expo a few months back. Just in case you’re scratching your head and wondering, “what the heck is a horse expo?”, the Horse Expo is a convention-type gathering of people who are a little too much invested in their four-legged friends where you can find just about any product, trainer, or attire for just about any kind of horse. I’ve got fantasies of actually one day getting on the unbroken four-year-old Quarter Horse that lives in my pasture, so I went there looking for a clue. I met lots of cowboy trainers that kept saying things I didn’t understand, poked gentle fun at us amateurs, and then finished every explanation with, “It’s that simple, folks.” They left me feeling more than a little inadequate. In between the training demonstrations, there were lectures held in the far corner of the building, where you could sit on metal chairs in bad lighting and listen to horse experts struggle with bad AV equipment to share information on Equine nutrition, pasture maintenance, choosing the right trailer, and the lecture that caught my eye, “Natural Horse Keeping”. That’s where I met Sandy.

I was impressed by her intelligence, and her common-sense approach. She didn’t let on at first that she was a Voodoo Doctor. Mostly she said the same things about horse care that I say about human care. “Feed them what their bodies were designed to eat. Don’t cram them full of chemicals and toxins. Help their bodies heal themselves by giving them the nutrients and care they need.” This all made sense and it was as if a light bulb went on in my slow mind - why don’t I apply the natural methods to my animals that I apply to my own life? Why do I think that feeding them whatever’s on sale at Target will do? Why do I pay too much money for a supplement with ingredients I’ve never heard of to fix a problem I don’t understand? As Sandy talked about the horses she had worked with and clicked through her powerpoint (when the AV gods allowed), I grew more and more convinced that I needed to change the way I was caring for my four legged friends.

When the lecture was over, I went to find Sandy’s booth, I needed to know more. Sandy’s friendly demeanor and her incredibly soft sell drew me in. I learned that Sandy travels all over the country healing animals and educating owners. She happily listened to me drone on about my creatures and my epiphany during her lecture. She even seemed interested; although I’m sure she’d heard my story a thousand times over. I was desperate to gather all the information I could from her because I was certain I couldn’t afford to fly her to my little town to see my animals in person, so imagine my excitement when she told me she’d be visiting clients just 20 minutes away in a few months. We made tentative plans for her to include me in her trip to York, as I mentally tried to figure out how I would pay for it, and more importantly, how I would explain the expense to my skeptical husband. Turns out, I didn’t need to worry on either front – Sandy’s not expensive and my husband’s a smart man who likes dogs more than horses. Sandy works on dogs too!

So that’s how this past weekend’s visit came to be. As usual, you get much more information than you really wanted. Sandy arrived in her BIG pick-up truck. The size truck I dream of that can pull a huge horse trailer and sounds like an 18 wheeler coming up my driveway. I imagine it’s not a hybrid. The first animal I presented her with was my four-year-old uneducated, oversize horse, True. She was unflustered by his squirreliness and lack of manners, gently suggesting a few things I might want to do differently as I handled him (so he might grow up to be a bit less rude). Then she got down to work. Hard to explain what she did. I was determined to understand it, but honestly, I have no clue why she did the things she did. What I do know is that True never wants to stand still for long, but he would have stood for her all day. He relaxed and stood for more than 30 minutes as she maneuvered his joints and poked and prodded him in all kinds of ways. I tried to ask questions, but I couldn’t keep up with her mind. True has always been funny about people touching his head, but for Sandy he dropped his head down and practically begged to be scratched behind the ears.

My other two horses reacted much the same way. My 27-year-old gelding, Shoebee, became almost stumbling drunk. Sandy told me she was “realigning” them and “getting them right”. I would compare it to sacral-cranial massage or maybe the things a chiropractor would do, although I’ve never seen either in action. Or maybe it really is Voodoo. My old horse’s back used to sag like the old horse he is, but after Sandy showed me some exercises I could do to manipulate his muscles, he was standing noticeably taller and some of the sag was gone. She assured me if I continued to do the exercises with him, the sag would be completely gone in about a month. Amazing.

Next Sandy talked to me about what I was feeding them. She explained, without a trace of schoolmarm in her voice, that I was feeding my horses like cows. In my defense, I must say that I’m feeding my horse the way “everybody else” feeds their horses. At least all the horse people I know. I give them a salt block to lick, which Sandy explained is fine for cows which have salt-paper tongues, but a horse’s soft tongue (my horses eagerly showed her their tongues, licking her all over like a puppy) can’t gather as much of the important minerals. She told me to take a sledge hammer to my salt block and then offer the mineral salt loose so that the horses could get all the minerals they needed.

We talked about the alfalfa hay I’d been feeding my old guys because all my life I’ve been taught by much more experienced horse people than I that when you want to get weight on a horse and give it energy – feed alfalfa, if you can afford it. I’ve paid a premium over the years for thousands of bales of alfalfa hay thinking I was giving my horses the best. Turns out alfalfa hay is also cow food and very hard on a horse’s more delicate system. But they love it- much the same way a kid loves candy but it’s not good for their system either. And candy will make them fat and give them energy – but at the expense of their health. And then we looked at the molasses laden feed I was feeding – they love that too, but here again I’m throwing all kinds of stuff at them because they like it with no thought to what I’m actually feeding them. If they were my kids, it’d be like feeding them a steady diet of Lunchables, M&M’s and Kraft Macaroni and cheese, and making them lick their vitamins off a jawbreaker. I learned a lot this weekend, but I’m not sure why none of it occurred to me sooner.

Sandy also encouraged me to get my animals on probiotics to help their poor stressed systems and suggested I think carefully before worming them with chemical wormers which effectively bombard their system with toxins to kill worms they most likely don’t even have. The most “effective” wormers are designed to kill pretty much any bacteria and parasite growing in their system, including the good guys and the bad guys. She suggested it might be better to test their manure to see what kind of worms they have, if any, and then treat those worms only. Duh. Why didn’t I think of that? She was skeptical on the vaccine front too, and again encouraged me to learn more about them.

I know if you’re not a horse person, you’ve either already stopped reading or you’re rolling your eyes right about now, but next I’m going to tell you about the Voodoo she worked on the dogs.

She applied the same kind of hands-on therapy to my 12 year old running buddy, Lucy, who has been struggling to move about these days and hasn’t been able to run with me for nearly a year. We talked about what I’m feeding her and she suggested some brands that might be better choices because they aren’t full of fillers and grain products – more unnecessary feed that we use simply to get our animals to eat it and fill them up, but not necessarily to actually give them the nutrition they need. Sandy asked me what’s in the feed that I’m feeding now and I had no idea. Pretty crazy that I adore this animal and yet I haven’t given a second thought to what I’m feeding her. Actually that’s not completely true, I’ve been spending a fortune on IAMS food for seniors on her, but I’ve never read the label.

The crazy part is that it’s not like with my kids – Lucy doesn’t get a choice. She’ll eat whatever I give her and she won’t complain at the dinner table or beg for junk in the grocery store aisle. I learned that Lucy needs to be eating more vegetables and protein instead of the grain-laden food I’ve been giving her. She also suggested the probiotics for her to help repair some of the damage done. Now, I know some people think of their animals as little people in furry suits, but I don’t, so I’m not ready to start cooking for the dog. I will seek out a better feed for her and already have my feed store searching for a supplier that carries Eagle River or Canadie, the two brands Sandy suggested. And I will stop giving her pasta leftovers and offer her the kids’ uneaten broccoli instead. I’ll also stop buying her “treats” and try the treat Sandy says some dogs like – frozen spinach. And if she doesn’t like the spinach, I’ll just offer her my affection instead.

So what do you take away from this? If you’re still reading, you must have an animal you care about in your life. I think the basic premise is - think about what the animals you own would have eaten in the wild and try to find the food that was designed for their bodies. That means reading your labels, just like you do for your own food. If you’re creative and more inclined to think of your pet as a person in a furry suit, maybe that means cooking their meals. My Mother-in-law, who was here for the visit with the Voodoo doctor, cooks hamburger and brown rice for her elderly dog, Ginger. Sandy also laid hands on Ginger, who is nearing the end of her life and hadn’t eaten a bite since they arrived a few days prior. After Sandy left, the dog had a spring in her step and gobbled down an entire bowl of food. The morning before Sandy visited, Ginger had blood in her stools, which is scary and indicative of bad things. We treated Ginger with trace minerals that were purchased from Sandy and she’s had no blood in her stools at all. My MIL says she’s not a Voodoo doctor, she’s a Miracle worker.

This isn’t meant to be an unpaid advertisement for Sandy Siegrist, it’s meant to make you consider how you’re caring for your four-legged friends. They mean a lot to us and we owe them the best care we can give them. I’ve gained a wealth of knowledge this past weekend and it’s changed the way I care for my animals. I’m headed out this morning to buy a different feed for my baby chicks. Our animals are even more dependent on us than our children; we owe them our best efforts at feeding them what they need.

1 comment:

  1. I feed my dogs and cats, Avoderm and have had great success with that!! May I suggest some Natural Horsemanship Authors you might enjoy: Buck Brannaman, Ray Hunt, Tom Dorrance, and Martin Black. My favorite Ray Hunt Quote is: Let your idea become the horses idea.

    Even my fancy saddlebreds work and learning has roots in Natural Horsemanship. Kudos to your Voodoo Doctor.

    I use oat flower and human grade flax for 2 of my horses supplements.

    I would be really interested in some of the Authors, foods and supplements your Doc suggested.