“How did you do that?!” the familiar question came from my startled client.
How on earth did I do that? … I was asking myself the same thing. I never cease to be amazed at the small miracles that take place when I meet animals and their human companions.
It was a particularly hot day in Tel Aviv. The whole city appeared to be covered with a steaming blanket and I had just come face to face with my new little 10 pound client, Cognac. Michal had informed me over the phone that her dog was somewhat anti-social both with humans and dogs, but I still decided to bring my dog Gadi with me, as if to challenge Cognac.
Well, our first meeting at the door had us growl at each other in turns. Cognac growled at us territoriality and I snapped back menacingly. That set the records straight and established our credentials. We took an instant liking to each other and I knew that I had passed the first and most important canine test – I was trusted and accepted into the house.
Four year old Miniature Pinscher Cognac was a nervous and incontrollable creature, according to his distressed caretaker. He had been itching continuously all his life, since puppyhood. Looking at him and his human I couldn’t help but notice how edgy their presence with each other was. Consequently, I wasn’t really surprised when I heard Cognac’s medical history.
Diagnosed with chronic skin allergies, Cognac had been treated with drugs periodically whenever the scratching became unbearable. Over time, the visits to the veterinary clinic had become very stressful, almost unbearable. Driving with Cognac had also become a nightmare, as he would get hysterical and uncontrollable. In fact, that is why I was coming for a homeopathic veterinary consultation at home.
After our dramatic greeting ritual, Cognac walked back into the living room and settled down calmly on his pillow, as if nothing had happened. Gadi, my dog, followed him and found a comfortable spot too.
Just as I was settling down to listen to Michal’s story, my gaze fell upon a framed photograph of a dog on a shelf nearby. Curious and forever nosy, I straightaway asked Michal who the dog was. My question triggered a long and detailed story about Michal’s previous dog, Milky, whom she had loved dearly and lost to Diabetes after three long and traumatic years of treatment. Listening to her story I knew that Milky’s spirit was still trapped inside Michal’s heart.
Several years after Milky’s death, Michal was still mourning her loss. In fact, when she came across Cognac, a cute little street urchin, just several months after Milky’s death she had no intention of keeping him. She was just going to take him to the nearest veterinary clinic for a checkup before giving him away for adoption. She was determined to do her duty, nothing more. While waiting for him to be adopted, she took care of him but made it clear that it was just a temporary arrangement. She wasn’t going to get attached or show Cognac any feelings. There wasn’t going to be any lovey dovey stuff with this one. She was still missing Milky bitterly and nursing a broken heart. She had carefully stored away all of Milky’s belongings, plates, toys and blankets as keepsakes, and the new pup wasn’t to touch or use any of those precious mementos.
As time went by and no home was found for the newcomer, both Michal and Cognac got accustomed to sharing the same living space, until one day it became apparent that they were stuck with each other.
But Cognac was a survivor, streetwise and stubborn; He wouldn’t settle for this convenient arrangement. He didn’t only want to find his way into Michal’s soup kitchen, he wanted to walk the path to her heart, bumpy and lined with roadblocks as it might be.
I was asked to treat a dog for chronic skin allergies and found a case of two broken hearts.
Cognac was fighting for something that all creatures on earth would be willing to fight for. It was through his skin that he was communicating his plight. The skin is the most superficial organ of our body and acts both as a barrier to the outside world and as a protective shield. It would be the first organ to reflect any disharmony and stress that we experience.
As Michal was coping with her loss, getting attached to her new dog despite herself, feeling guilty for allowing another dog into her life, Cognac found himself in a relationship of mixed signals and rigid boundaries. This, naturally, drove him to test his owner’s limits.
Whenever he got the chance, Cognac would sprint out through the door and run around the neighborhood endlessly while being followed by members of the family – the more the merrier – for hours on end. He would never disappear, just stand at a short distance, daring anyone to catch him. Then, when almost in reach, he would take off for another large loop round the grounds. These exasperating chases would end only when his human trackers surrendered and retreated back into the house, exhausted. Then, and only then, would Cognac return victoriously home, on his terms and timing.
As we were sitting in the living room, away from the bustling steaming city, our dogs snuggled at our sides, Michal went on to talk about her deep fear of death and separation. For her, the daughter of holocaust survivors, this natural human fear had a somewhat magnified dimension. It had in fact always been there, ever since childhood, an inherent shadow cast over her existence. Cognac was instinctively re-triggering that fear with his mischievous escapades. Or was he actually triggered by it?
Michal, an only child and living on her own, had always been close to her parents. They visited her very often, staying with her and looking after Cognac when she was working long hours. The frantic chases around the neighborhood often involved them as well.
It was, I thought to myself, as if Cognac was trying to teach them all, over and over again, to overcome their old fears – only they couldn’t follow him. The whole family, humans and dog, were caught in a vicious circle of anxiety and love, continually playing catch, or rather hide and seek, with life.
As time went by Michal grew increasingly annoyed with Cognac. Cognac reacted with vengeance…and itching.
I examined Cognac’s skin; it looked healthy in spite of his incessant itching. Watching his behavior and character through the long consultation, I could find no major flaws there either, just some repetitive patterns that seemed to be fuelled by Michal’s actions and reactions.
I gave Michal a few simple recommendations aimed at introducing a much needed component into the household: fun. I suggested long daily walks together. Michal was to let Cognac run around and play in their quiet neighborhood, without worrying that he would run away, be hurt, disappear or die. I also suggested short and calm trips in the car for them to override their previous traumatic rides to hell. Basically, I recommended going back to a simple and happy life, free of fears and bad premonitions.
Michal was willing, even relieved to be given the opportunity to recreate a healthy ambiance at home. She knew intuitively what she had to do, she just needed a guiding hand out of the labyrinth that she had built over the years and gotten them both lost in.
As we were walking towards the door at the end of my visit, Michal asked me to stop and wait for her to put a leash on Cognac so he wouldn’t run away and disappear through the door.
Recognizing the opportunity to start applying the much needed ‘letting go’- I just couldn’t resist it and opened the door without further ado. Michal was petrified. With a horrified look she watched Cognac shoot out and disappear. He came back after a few minutes and several laps of the neighborhood, surprised that no humans were chasing him, almost disappointed in fact. When he realized this time nobody was going to go after him, he simply walked up to Michal and sat down at her feet. Michal couldn’t move. She just stood there for a few long minutes until finally uttering a few words of encouragement as Cognac started jumping up and down around her, wagging his tail.
When Cognac came back home on his own free will, a little crack had formed in Michal’s wall of fears; she had caught a glimpse of how simple things can be with just a little bit of trust. She was going to try and repeat that experience with Cognac, she promised, just as soon as she could gather some courage.
As I walked out of the house and into the bright afternoon sun, I felt confident that Cognac would heal. The flow of events during that long consultation seemed to have interrupted the old vicious cycle. Michal and Cognac were on a new path that I had instinctively uncovered.
Homeopathy is about healing with the similar, using the same agent that caused the illness to cure it – like cures like, we say. We learn how to cure pathologies by going through them, not against them. A few days after my visit, Cognac received a few drops of the homeopathic remedy I had prescribed for him and his itching started to calm down. His remedy- Causticum– is suited for sensitive, excitable and perceptive individuals. They are aware of their environment and the feelings of others and tend to become anxious and worried about others’ suffering and stress. They do not like rules and can become rebellious and anarchistic. They react to authority with anger and spiteful actions. They are very sensitive to suppression, both physical and emotional.
Michal couldn’t let go of her old fears and accept her dog’s spiteful reactions and Cognac wouldn’t surrender to his human’s unacceptable behavior. This emotional roller coaster was fueled by both riders who seemed unable to stop it or get off. When Cognac’s drugs were replaced by a homeopathic treatment he calmed down and found his balance. Michal could then let him lead an unleashed life. The roller coaster could be brought to a standstill.
Over the next weeks Michal sent regular updates on Cognac’s condition, sounding more confident with each one. The treatment was clearing up Cognac’s skin, as well as the cumbersome ambiance at home. Eventually, even taking Cognac for car rides, became as easy as any other daily event.
Michal was leaving her guilt feelings behind, opening the door to her dog’s unconditional love. She was finally able to draw healthy boundaries. Whenever she was going through hectic or stressful times, Cognac’s itching would come back and then go away with a dose of his homeopathic remedy. With time Michal realized that Cognac was reflecting her moods and reacting to them.
Cognac never received steroids or antibiotics again. Several months after the homeopathic consultation, Michal sent a joyous email: We’re fine. Cognac is still testing boundaries but on the whole listens to me much more. The itching is gone, except for when I go through stressful times, which seem to trigger it somehow… but it doesn’t worry me anymore as it used to. His skin looks fine. He’s playful as always but seems calmer and content to stay at home. I entertained friends last week and he behaved beautifully, did not jump on the couch or bother us; he was just his gentle and friendly self. My friends were very touched by his admiring gazes at me and said that it’s obvious we have a very special connection. I was happy and proud.
Now I don’t fight him anymore when he asks to sleep in my bed because I know it makes him really happy. It makes me happy too. As long as no one objects, he will have his space in my bed. Of course there is room for improvement, but I catch myself in times of stress and try to lighten up, enjoy what comes and give him more space.
I love my dog.
Two years later Michal found her human love. At first, Cognac welcomed him with circumspection. He then took charge of initiating him into the house rules and regulations. After making sure that the new comer respected the well earned balanced state of harmony at home, he dropped his guards and accepted him wholeheartedly. He still sleeps happily in his humans’ bed since no one seems to have any objections.
So good, Dr.Ronit, that they both found you ! It’s interesting to see the human-animal interaction and how unresolved conflicts affect them both. Nicely written and well treated!