Archive for November, 2008

TTouch – Linda Tellington-Jones

November 29, 2008

Linda Tellington-Jones is a legend amongst people who love and care for animals. She truly understands what makes them tick, not just from an intuitive standpoint (although her intuition is remarkable and powerful), but from a scientific point of view as well. Linda is world renowned for TTouch, a form of bodywork that evolved from her time spent working with Dr. Moshe Feldenkrais. The Feldenkrais Method teaches mind-body integration for the human nervous system. Over the course of several years, Linda applied what she learned to hundreds of horses and observed remarkable improvements in their behavior, balance, and ability to learn. Her work became known as the Tellington Touch Equine Awareness Method, or TTEAM. Her work didn’t stop there. Linda learned that dogs could be helped by many of these same techniques. She has authored several wonderful books all of which provide clear, easy-to-follow instruction for anyone interested in learning the Tellington Method. Linda travels worldwide giving instructional clinics.

I recently had the pleasure of auditing a Tellington TTEAM horse clinic in Northern California, close to where I live. I was profoundly inspired by what I observed. There were approximately 25 participants including people with their horses, teachers, and Linda herself. What an inspirational woman! After the hundreds, perhaps thousands of clinics Linda has taught, I anticipated she might be supervising rather than actively teaching. Boy was I ever wrong! Linda was a completely “hands on”, patient, enthusiastic, compelling instructor. She has the energy of a twenty-year-old and that energy is contagious to her students (the energizer bunny has nothing on this woman!).

The clinic participants and their horses literally blossomed before my eyes. There was Jonelle’s mare, so “out of her mind” and difficult to control that Jonelle was afraid to even lead her from paddock to arena. Within just a couple of days, they were a team- the mare calm, in fact, downright peaceful, and Jonelle’s fear was gone. Darran was there with her new horse who could not hold his feet still because of pent up anxiety. Within a few days, she was able to ride him at liberty (no bridle) around the arena because he had transitioned to such a state of calmness.

I particularly enjoyed my time spent chatting with Linda. Here is what I learned. She has traveled the world and lived in some of the most beautiful places imaginable. She has interfaced with people from every walk of life and her stories are fascinating. She’s a definite “people person.” Her interactions are relaxed and comfortable and she’s a good listener- clearly something animals sense about her as well. In summary, Linda Tellington-Jones is a true master at teaching techniques that improve the quality of life for animals and the people who love them. It simply doesn’t get much better than that!

Dr. Nancy Kay meets Linda Tellington-Jones
Dr. Nancy Kay meets Linda Tellington-Jones

Linda Tellington-Jones (left), Dr. Nancy Kay (right)


Please visit to read excerpts from Dr. Kay’s book. There you will also find “Advocacy Aids”- helpful health forms you can download and use for your own dog. SPEAKING FOR SPOT is available at, local bookstores, or your favorite online book seller.

Governor Schwarzenegger’s Very Bad Idea!

November 19, 2008

Calling all California animal lovers!  Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger recently announced a plan to tax veterinary services as part of his budget plan to stimulate the California economy.  This was part of a larger combination of program cuts and revenue increases to solve the multi-billion dollar budget shortfall.  If passed, this proposal will automatically increase your veterinary bills by nine percent!  Not only might this wreak havoc on your personal finances, I am concerned that this new legislation will result in an increased incidence of euthanasia and animal abandonment- a scary thought indeed.

By the way, no other health professions are taxed within this proposal.  Rather veterinary services have been “lumped” together for taxation with appliance, furniture, and vehicle repair services.  Perhaps Governor Schwarzenegger equates “repairing” a beloved four-legged family member with repair of readily replaceable inanimate objects!

We need to wake Governor Schwarzenegger up!  Please voice your concern at once by providing him and your state representatives with a letter expressing your opinion. You will find the letter I wrote to Governor Schwarzenegger at  Visit to find mailing addresses for your government officials and to learn more about this tax proposal.  Last but not least, let your veterinarian know that you are interested and concerned.  He or she will thank you for that!

Who will become the new first dog?

November 7, 2008

Who will become the new first dog?

Barack Obama made a lot of promises during his many campaign speeches. Let’s hope he keeps the promise he made to two of his most ardent supporters, namely his daughters. President-elect Obama vowed that, once the dust settles, the first family would open their home and hearts to a dog.

The ideal first dog would need to be a goodwill ambassador- welcoming people of all shapes, sizes, and colors to the White House (this would include news reporters, a lesson Barney Bush seemed to have missed out on). He would need to be adaptable- able to be on his best behavior whether in the Rose Garden, on Air Force One, or in the oval office. Starting with an adult dog who has a proven track record might make better sense than dealing with issues of house soiling and destructive behaviors that go hand-in-hand with raising a puppy.

A number of breeds would certainly fit the bill in terms of having the attributes of the ideal family dog. Apparently, Malia Obama is allergic to dogs, so the Obama’s are leaning towards breeds that are considered to be “hypoallergenic”. Word has it that a Poodle or Poodle-mix is in the running. Regardless of breed, I’m dubious that allergies will become an issue- the new first dog will likely be bathed so frequently (I suspect the new pup will have a full time nanny) that any allergy-producing danders will likely be washed down the drain.

My hope is that the Obamas find a dog that fits in with the multicultural nature of the upcoming presidency. Rather than choosing a purebred dog, I hope they will be smitten by a mixed breed. I would just love to see a mutt in the White House!


November 2, 2008

If you share your home and heart with a dog sooner or later you will be called upon to step up to the plate and make tough medical decisions on his behalf (the odds of avoiding this are right up there with winning the lottery). In exchange for all that tail wagging and unconditional love, you’ll need to sort through unfamiliar medical terminology, risks and benefits, cost analysis, your value system and beliefs, along with your dog’s opinions and character to come up with choices that will serve his best interest as well as your own peace of mind. This can be a daunting task, especially if you have no medical training.

I’ve decided to use this blog format to provide you with some decision-making guidance- periodically I will include stories about my real-life patients (dogs) and clients (the humans at the other end of the leash). Only the names will be changed to protect the innocent! These vignettes will supplement the chapters in Speaking for Spot: Be the Advocate Your Dog Needs to Live a Happy, Healthy, Longer Life that are devoted to teaching people how to make tough medical choices for their four-legged best friends.

Decision-Making Vignette
Patient: Zoe, a nine-year-old female Doberman Pinscher- an incredibly sweet girl with a successful career in agility competition. She’d become reluctant to complete the agility course, she had diarrhea, and her food intake had diminished. When I entered the exam room, Zoe was reluctant to get up, her breathing was somewhat labored, and she did a good deal of deep moaning and groaning. She was thin with pale gums and atrophy of her musculature. I performed chest X-rays and ultrasound of her abdominal and chest cavities. Unfortunately, my workup discovered a huge mass within her chest cavity that was displacing her heart from its normal location. Additionally, multiple tumors were found throughout her liver- a clear indicator of malignancy and metastasis (spread of the cancer). Ultrasound also documented the presence of blood in both the chest and abdominal cavities- evidence that the tumors were bleeding.

Client: John, an intelligent and highly concerned middle-aged gentleman. He and his wife share their lives with a handful of Doberman’s. He loves Zoe deeply and is proud of her accomplishments in the world of canine agility. John expressed that he would gladly do anything and everything to help Zoe- cost was not a factor.

The Decision: Although John’s initial response included some shock and denial, he came around to the reality of the situation- Zoe was terribly sick and uncomfortable, and the prognosis (predicted outcome) was terrible. The ultrasound appearance of Zoe’s tumors combined with the fact that they were bleeding internally suggested that her disease was very likely hemangiosarcoma, a cancer made up of cells that normally line blood vessels. Unfortunately, Zoe’s cancer was too widespread to be treated with surgery or radiation, and chemotherapy is of minimal if any benefit with hemangiosarcoma. John and I discussed every single option I could think of:

  • Take Zoe home for purposes of carving out some “closure time” during which time she could be treated with medication to control pain and a Chinese herb to help slow internal bleeding.
  • Perform a biopsy of the mass in the hopes of being 100 percent (rather than 95 percent) about the type of cancer. This procedure would have the potential of creating risk and discomfort for Zoe.
  • Treatment with chemotherapy without knowing with certainty the type of cancer. This could cause adverse side effects, and in Zoe’s case would unlikely provide significant benefit.
  • Hospice care- making Zoe as comfortable as possible at home (even to the point of induced coma) until she died naturally.
  • Euthanasia

John’s initial reaction was to proceed with the biopsy. When he voiced this decision, I gently suggested that I agreed- I thought it would make sense to proceed with the biopsy as long as John could answer “yes” to at least one of the following questions:

  • Would the biopsy results change what we would do for Zoe- would John want to try chemotherapy even if it was highly unlikely to be of benefit?
  • Would the results provide John and his wife with some necessary peace of mind?

For John, the answer to both questions was, “no.” Given this response, he was hard pressed to come up with a good reason for subjecting Zoe to the biopsy procedure. He opted to take Zoe home for purposes of some closure time prior to euthanasia.