IT ALL STARTED WITH AGATHA
The earliest photos of me always seem to show a small child attempting to get as close as she could to whatever dog or cat happened to be nearby. A little dark haired girl that if you looked very closely, had eyes that were shadowed with sadness . Our home was not a happy one and was oftentimes filled with reasons to be afraid. My pets became my comforters, my friends. When I was with them I felt loved and I could forget for a little while that our home was not a safe place. I can still remember those childhood pets who brought so much comfort and help to a little girl who so badly needed it even though it only came from those who were covered with fur and couldn’t talk but showed vast sympathy nonetheless. I grew up loving animals, dogs and horses and cats and even an occasional rabbit or turtle. I devoured dog books, hiding under the blankets with a flashlight, reading till the small hours of the morning, escaping through the adventures of Lad Of Sunnybank, Grey Dawn, Treve and all those hero-dogs, Collies written about so gloriously by Albert Payson Terhune that grand dog author from the 1930’s.
As for so many of us, dogs helped filled an empty place in my heart and I developed a deep love and a bond that has lasted a lifetime. As a young adult, I searched for a career where I could work closely with animals and first became a veterinary technician. It seemed unbelievable that I was being paid to be with dogs every day. I couldn’t learn enough, about their personalities, their different breeds, about their health and the many maladies that they succumb to and about how to keep them well. I assisted in surgery and as much as I enjoyed animal medicine, unfortunately, too much of the time veterinary medicine just didn’t have all the answers and over time, that became a hard process to watch.
For a time I raised and showed purebred dogs, we imported them from out of the country trying to find the very best bloodlines. I traveled extensively, competing with my own dogs and handling dogs for others as well. We attended national specialties and saw many of the great dogs of that time. But as I became more deeply immersed in the world of purebred dogs there too I began to see disturbing trends in the health of the dogs I loved and decided that it was time to find another way to be close to them.
Eventually, my husband John and I opened a “Bed And Biscuit” in Charleston, South Carolina. Moonshadow Kennel quickly became one of the most popular boarding kennels in the area for nearly 20 years. We offered boarding and grooming to a whole host of animal characters. The stories from that time would fill a book of their own, but I tell you all of this to say that though I’m not a scientist, perhaps, more importantly, I’m a dog-lover with a strong background in veterinary medicine and I’ve spent several decades working closely with and studying dogs and cats of every description and I’m here to tell you there is an alarming downward spiral in the health of almost all of them.
I’ve always been very interested in nutrition and have researched and used supplements as long as I can remember. While I was quite convinced that John and I needed extra supplements to maintain good health, I was also convinced that if I bought a holistic top brand dog food, that I would be doing all that was necessary to maintain the health and longevity of my four-footed friends as well. I had been told for years that “dogs don’t need supplements or extra vitamins, everything they need is included in their dog food”.
Sadly, after these many years in dogs and dog medicine, I’ve seen a pattern that alarms me, not only in my own dogs & cats but also in the countless animal hospital patients, my boarding kennel patrons, seemingly most of the pets belonging to my friends and family. All seemed to be living for shorter and shorter periods of time.
Almost all these much-loved and well cared for animals were at their veterinarian’s offices all too frequently for an entire laundry list of ills ranging from chronic skin & ear problems to kidney & heart failure, allergies, arthritis and all too often, cancer was taking more and more of these beloved pets at younger and younger ages. I was spending a small fortune on the very best dog foods, on their veterinary care and still losing them heartrendingly too young.
It all came to a screeching halt though, when my beautiful Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Agatha, began having troubling allergy issues.
It seemed she was constantly chewing, scratching, digging, rolling back and forth to reach each new spot that tormented her. Soon she was going the same route of cortisone injections for the skin issues and scratching, repeated courses of medication to treat the chronic & very painful ear infections.
Yet again I was to see another of my beloved dogs begin to go down that declining path of ill health and sometimes tormenting allergy issues. I knew that ahead the only tools at my disposal to help her were seemingly what her veterinarian would prescribe, prednisone injections, courses of antibiotics, smelly ointments and medicated baths that not only seemed entirely ineffective, meant hundreds of dollars for treatments that did little to help and often did much damage instead.
I began looking for answers again in the dog foods I used, I researched brands and claims for dozens of foods that promised the end of this particular issue. I bought dog foods with wolves on the bag, dog foods made of venison and others made with ducks & potatoes, I tried foods made of fish, just opening the bag was unpleasantly smelly. I was simply convinced that it was the food and that the food could fix her problems.
Unfortunately, nothing seemed to help and poor Agatha continued to drive herself & us crazy with her constant relentless painful scratching, Medications were next to useless, and she had more medicated baths than I care to remember, We were nearly at our wit’s end.
One day, I was giving Agatha her medicated bath, and as I lathered her long coat, reaching under her to spread the lather, my hand came across a large tumor about as large as a hen’s egg, back between her legs located in her mammary glands The earth seemed to stop for a moment, disbelieving, I felt anxiously, a large hard oblong growth had appeared on my dear of Agatha in the few weeks since I had last bathed her…
It just wasn’t possible; she wasn’t even 5 years old. She’d been on the very best foods that money can buy, had the best of veterinary care. And yet here suddenly we were at that same terrible path of losing another of my much-loved dogs.
I’ve never been able to have children, suffered through the anguish of miscarriages, fertility treatments that brought false hope and repeated despair, I must admit that I have loved my pets with the love I perhaps would have given those lost children and have to tell you that I wept over this beautiful little dog, this little soul that has brought much joy to my life.
My veterinarian scheduled her for immediate surgery which revealed that her tumor was indeed malignant, and though she recovered quickly from it’s removal, my vet gave no comfort with his prognosis.
Frantically I began to research supplements and vitamins to support and heal her system. I had foolishly depended on commercial dog food to keep her healthy, finally realizing that my dogs simply needed more. I also began to pray, I’m a born-again believer and while my faith was shaken by this smallest of tragedies. I believed with all my heart that God had a plan and that if I allowed Him, He would bring good out of Aggie’s problems.
With the help of a Naturopath in Pennsylvania, I immediately put her on a course of Probiotics and other supplements.
I knew that probiotics are very healing and supportive of the human body, why not my little sick dog’s body as well? Within a short time I began to notice subtle improvements, Agatha wasn’t scratching as much, in fact, rather disbelieving, as the days went by, I realized that her coat had begun to grow more luxuriantly and incredibly, within a month, the dog who I had laughingly said made a career out of scratching, had completely stopped! Her ears which had been such a terrible problem cleared up too and lost the yeasty smell I had never been able to cleanse away.
I grew more astonished as each day went by and none of her skin issues returned.
I began to work with other supplements to support Agatha’s health and replace the missing but absolutely necessary things that our dogs need for optimum health, to hopefully avoid future heartbreak for not only myself but for the people who adopted our puppies.
I don’t know if it’s too late to save Agatha, I pray not, that the Lord will give me many more years with her, but I am somehow heartened by the thought that my little friend has been the inspiration for putting products into the hands of pet owners the supplements that will help their pets live longer, healthier lives.
The facts remain, the current methods of producing American dog foods, are creating a diet that has been produced under extremely high heat, a diet that is obviously lacking in basic life-giving nutrition, a diet that no matter how expensive is sadly lacking in some of the basic nutrients needed to keep our pets healthy.
These are early days for our new endeavor, in honor of my little Cavalier, I’ve named our product line “Agatha’s Apothecary” and the desire of my heart is that people who love their pets like I love my dear Agatha, will finally have the tools necessary to preserve the health & long-life of their four-footed family members….
Terry & Agatha
Postscript: The above letter was written almost 6 years ago, my dear Agatha continues to do amazingly well, she is as full of live and exuberance as a puppy, just this morning she raced me up the hill to get the morning mail, I am most grateful for these extra years with a dear little friend, one of the most amazing little dogs I’ve ever known. I pray for many more.
I pray for many more.