Although I grew up in the rural South, I had lived and worked in most of the major cities in the United States, New York, Los Angeles, DC, and a few others; But when my mother became terminally ill, I returned to rural southern Mississippi. A beautiful bearded collie mix that I named “Thor” found me. The vet could tell from his teeth that he was eleven years old.
It was a typical summer day in Lumberton. It was six in the morning but something was very different. Thor, who usually woke me up at 6 in the morning, was not in the bedroom. I walked through the house, which was a large three-bedroom room, and found him in the living room staring at the wall. Thor was generally very attentive and every day he would run to the door where he would hang his leash and put it in my hand and start a “special bark”. I always got the message. “I want to go out dad.” Not this time. Just a strange look. I said “Thor”. No response. I reached over to caress him and this creature, usually very affectionate, moved away from me and continued with its haunting gaze.
What was different today? Had he done something different? Yes. I had taken him to the vet when he was itching non-stop and the Advantage gel wasn’t working, or so I thought. The vet recommended that it could be a food allergy and until I could resolve it, give Thor an antihistamine every day, which I did. I took Thor back to the vet and this time he was sure it was “juvenile canine seizures” and wanted to put him on various drugs that would erode and shorten his quality of life.
Although the vet was ready to write the recipe, I was not ready for Thor to take it. I told him that I would go home and sleep. I took Thor home and the first thing I decided was to take off the antihistamine. Within 24 hours, the callous gaze stopped, but it was still moving very slowly. He did not eat his dry food and hardly drank water. I was puzzled. He knew that at thirteen he was old, and probably not very old for the earth, but he was willing to find out if there might be a possible answer.
I started my study of the Internet. There were all kinds of fad diets, herbs, vitamins, etc. all pretending to restore health to a nearly dead dog or cat. But when I explored it further, it was often a multi-level scheme, with very little nutrition or “life force” by the time it reached the animal’s digestive system.
Then I found Dr. Ian Billinghurst in Australia. He is a vet and part allopathic / part holistic vet surgeon and is full of good information. He had just published a book on BARF (Biologically Appropriate Raw Foods) and was generous with his time and knowledge with back and forth emails. He took me to other places like Shirleys Wellness Cafe or Barfworld. I joined forums and groups and debated with others when I started Thor on the diet.
Spent a month of Thor still very slow and sleeping in the living room on the floor. He had always climbed into my bedroom bed with me at bedtime and slept at my feet. One night, as I was turning off the light, I heard it in the room. He barked twice and jumped onto the bed. He had the energy of a puppy. He and I barely slept that night.
The next day, he grabbed his leash and demanded a hike of about 2-3 miles. He passed it without a hitch.
Several years passed and we moved to the Ouachita Mountains of Arkansas. Thor had no issues with the fit and even at eighteen he was hiking 4-6 miles of mountains with me.
His favorite meal was an organic ground hamburger with several organic vegetables ground in a food processor. He also loved raw watermelon, chicken and pork (with the bone attached) and many other raw delicacies. The secret seemed to be crude. I added several herbal tinctures. Most were tinctures; many from the Amazon rainforest. I added flax seeds, CO Q10, and some other goodies.
From thirteen to twenty-one, when Thor’s heart began to sag, he spent his life without a veterinary account. I stopped vaccinating him and bought my own homeopathic vaccine nosodes that worked well. Although I sadly watched it drastically decline as I turned 22, I knew it was time. When he couldn’t leave his blanket in my room, I made a promise to myself that I would. The vet dissuaded me twice and I slept on the floor with him on his blanket, his last night with an alarm clock, waking up every four hours giving him morphine. He stopped breathing around 6am on December 11, 2007. I buried him on top of his favorite mountain near the closed portion of Upper Dogwood Trail. I still think of Thor on a daily basis, as he was the first dog to be my shadow. I’d had dogs my whole life, but this was my first time working from home, and I was home most of the time, and Thor was always at my feet by my desk while I worked on my cartoons. It inspired numerous cartoons about cats and dogs found on my website.
I plan to eventually find another dog at the shelter, and he / she will start the BARF diet from the beginning. People tell me that Thor was lucky to have someone who cared so much about him. Many of them are not dog lovers and would never understand that Thor gave me so much more than I gave him. One was the ability to love unconditionally. I grew up to believe that cats and dogs are temporary gifts from God so that we can unlock and truly learn to love and care deeply for those around us.