MAGGIE: the dog who changed my life

MAGGIE: the dog who changed my life
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Friday, June 26, 2009

Not all Pet Foods Are Created Equal

When my black labrador, Maggie, was 8 years old, she developed a mast cell tumor. Maggie's surgery for this tiny skin tumor was much more extensive than I was prepared for, and it took a greater toll on her energy level and well-being than I could have imagined. Her vet informed me of the potential for a high rate of recurrence of mast cell tumors. Determined that another mast cell tumor would not be Maggie's fate, I set out to educate myself about how to keep my girl healthy. Of course the first place I looked was into the world of pet nutrition. I was nothing short of appalled at what I learned about what was and wasn't in dog (pet) food. Like so many others who feed their animals veterinarian recommended brands, I had fallen into the category of feeding Maggie a very reputable food recommended by a veterinarian that I trusted. After eight years of feeding her this vet recommended brand with corn as the first ingredient, meat byproducts and the preservatives BHA, BHT, and ethoxyquin, I discovered, much to my dismay, what poor quality food I was giving to my best friend and companion.

Without going into detail here, I changed Maggie to a raw food diet, with the help of a competent veterinarian to determine the proper balance of nutrients that Maggie needed. Maggie thrived on her new diet. Her shedding of eight years simply stopped. Her coat developed a shine that made people stop and ask us what we were feeding her. She developed more energy than she had prior to her surgery. (To learn more detail about my discoveries about the frightening truths adout the pet food industry and the benefits of a raw food diet for your pet, see Chapter 9, "What's Really Best for Your Pet" in MAGGIE: the dog who changed my life).

Although a raw diet is probably the best way to feed a dog or cat, as long as it is nutritionally balanced, most people just don't have the time it takes to both prepare the food and to learn about the proper balance of vitamins, minerals, and nutrients needed for their pets. Fortunately there are now many higher quality pet foods available, both online and at specialty food stores, for people who want to feed a high quality pet food to their dog or cat. These foods will contain a specific meat or a specific meat meal, such as chicken or chicken meal as the first ingredient. It will not contain any meat byproducts, corn, wheat, gluten or Brewers rice.

I'd like to share with you today one such high quality pet food called Life's Abundance. According to Janet Roberts "it is so nutrient-rich, you don't need to feed as much as most pet foods." The formulator of Life's Abundance pet food is Dr. Jane Bicks, who "has devoted her entire life to helping animals live longer, healthier lives ... She keeps up with the latest nutritional research and uses this information to provide the best formulations she can to provide excellent nutrition and a safe product. She is the author of 3 books on nutrition and responsible care for animals, has received 3 presidential citations, the Outstanding Service to Veterinary Medicine Award, and sat on the advisory board for the Cornell University Feline Health Center, among her many other outstanding achievements. She was a pharmacist, then practiced veterinary care for 10 years before entering the field of formulation. It was her desire to truly help animals and she became aware of a distinct need for high quality nutrition. She decided she could help far more animals in the long run by providing a food that supplied 100% nutrition without all the harmful ingredients normally used in the industry, so she developed Life's Abundance. Dr. Jane (also) has a non-profit foundation (The Dr. Jane HealthyPetNet Foundation) that donates to rescue groups. A portion of all sales goes to the foundation."

This seems to me a very noble mission on the part of Dr. Jane Bicks. Janet Roberts has been feeding her labs Life's Abundance for 5 years now, and says they have never been healthier or had more energy. I asked her what makes Life's Abundance pet food different/better than other natural, holistic dog foods, and she believes that Dr. Bicks and her formulation is the key. Janet also shared the following about Life's Abundance pet food that she thinks makes it a notch above the others:

"Quick Cooking time: 15 seconds maximum. We have a special extruded process that allows one of the quickest cooking times in the industry. We know that the longer a food is cooked, the more nutrients that are lost.

Low Cooking Temperature: 250 degrees Maximum- usually at about 218 degrees. We also know that cooking temperatures are important for nutrient retention in the final product.

Excellent Quality Control: Quality of ingredients are of the utmost importance. We start out with the freshest ingredients possible. Brought in the day of manufacture, inspected for freshness and contaminants. Dr. Jane Bicks oversees the manufacturing process and refuses to hold any ingredients over if one does not meet her criteria. The batch simply will not be made that day, all ingredients are removed from the premises and new fresh ingredients are brought in again for the next batch.

No Steroids or Hormones: We use fresh hormone and steroid free meat sources. Our supply of farm raised catfish for the food undergoes testing for contaminants. They are raised under controlled conditions to ensure that high levels of mercury are not present in the flesh of the harvested catfish. We use chicken meal because the water has been removed and this concentrates the protein and allows her to produce a food with a higher protein content per serving. Our source comes from only high quality USDA range free chicken meat with no bone or other by products.. We do not use organic chicken at this time. The supply for organic meats to the pet industry is very limited. The supply of high quality organic prime meat in a large enough amounts and consistent supply is just not available to allow for the quantity we need to keep up with demand. What is available to date is what is scraped off the equipment and contains too many organic by products and Dr. Jane will never compromise her protein source. Protein is the building block of all the repairs and growth of the animals body. She would prefer to use organic meat sources, but not at the expense of the animals nutritional requirements. We do use organic fruits and vegetables in our products ...

No Chemical Preservatives, additives, by products, or artificial coloring agents. No Corn or Wheat Powerful Antioxidants

AAFCO & APHIS: We strictly follow AAFCO regulations. Our food exceeds the requirements to be 100 % nutritious. Our food is certified by APHIS for the European market. This means that we cannot mislead the consumer with the labeling of our ingredients. To be able to be sold to the European market a food must meet higher standards of excellence.

Absolutely Fresh: Life's Abundance is shipped directly to the consumer & is never more than 6 weeks old when shipped. Compare this to 12-18 months that some other brands are kept in warehouses or storage trailers without any climate control.

Micro Encapsulated Probiotics: This is very important as it guarantees the friendly bacterial cultures to be alive in the food after manufacture. Our food supplies 5 different strains. It is not known in the industry exactly which strain is the best or necessary. By providing 5 different strains we are covering all the bases. Our food also supplies the digestible fiber to feed the probiotics in the digestive tract. The digestible fiber is in the form of beet pulp. It comes from a small grey beet, not sugar beets. Not only does it feed the bacteria but it provides a medium to produce a nicely segmented stool. Most other foods supply no probiotics in their food. Probiotics and the fiber to feed them is imperative for the overall health of the animal. Proper immune function begins in the digestive tract. A healthy digestive tract allows for greater absorption of nutrients. It should always be present in a high quality food. No exception.

The cost for the dry food for a 12 lb. cat is about $.30/day, and for a 60 lb. dog about $1.04/day, plus tax & shipping. The products are shipped directly to your door by UPS."

To order or learn more you can go to Janet's website at:

Posted By:

Dawn Kairns
Author of MAGGIE: the dog who changed my life

Monday, June 22, 2009

The Commercial Breeder Act Passed in Tennessee

Taken from ASPCA

"TN SB 258/HB 386—The Commercial Breeder Act
Sponsor(s): Senator Doug Jackson / Rep. Janis Sontany, Rep. Debra Maggart
ASPCA Position: Support ...

Update—June 19, 2009: Great news, Tennessee! This week, SB 258/HB 386 passed the Tennessee General Assembly nearly unanimously! The new law will be called the Commercial Breeder Act, and it goes into effect January 1, 2010.

After three recent, large-scale puppy mill busts in Tennessee (the ASPCA was the lead agency on one of them), it was clear that the state needed new legislation to address the humane care of dogs and cats living in commercial breeding facilities.

The newly passed Commercial Breeder Act is humane legislation that will also protect consumers. It mandates the creation of a licensing and regulatory program to ensure that humane standards of care are met for dogs and cats in commercial breeding operations where 20 or more breeding female dogs or cats are kept and used to produce offspring for sale to the public. The act requires breeding facilities to keep proper records, obtain licenses and submit to annual inspections. It also requires breeders to operate as legitimate businesses by complying with state sales tax rules.

Kudos to the members of the Tennessee General Assembly for taking this issue seriously and for passing legislation that will protect both consumers and animals from unethical and inhumane breeding practices. The next step for this legislation is the governor’s desk!

... Thank you, Tennessee—together, we made a difference!"

Posted By:

Dawn Kairns
Author of MAGGIE: the dog who changed my life

Friday, June 19, 2009

Advocate for Your Pet: Misdiagnosis Happens!

Let me start by saying that my dog, Maddie, is the picture of health, except for some environmental allergies that manifest as itching. But in the past seven months Maddie was misdiagnosed twice with two different serious health problems, by two different well-meaning veterinarians.

Maddie's allergies were bad last summer and fall, and I was trying to avoid giving her Prednisone. In addition to diet changes, I took her to the Dermatology department at Colorado State University and reluctantly began Maddie on allergy shots, which I gave under the skin in the back of her neck.

Now one lesson I learned the hard way with Maggie, our previous black lab, was to always bring my intuition to the table when obtaining the advice of an expert, such as a veterinarian, regarding her health. With each allergy injection I gave Maddie, I noticed my incongruence. I didn't feel this was the way for her. But I wasn't sure what else to do right then.

About one month into the allergy injection regime, Maddie barked one day and immediately screamed in pain. I was shocked and frightened. I thought she must have a stick lodged in the back of her throat, or an infected tooth. I also noticed her hesitancy to yawn fully. To our vet we went, a man I really like. When I explained her symptoms, he nodded, told me I wouldn't like what he was about to do, and opened Maddie's mouth wide. Of course, she wailed, and I held her close to comfort her.

"Maddie has immune-mediated masticular myositis, an inflammation in the muscles of the jaw that go up into her head," he told us apologetically. "That's why opening her mouth is so painful. Her response to my opening her mouth is classic for this disease. We can also do a blood test which will be positive if she has it."

I ached to hear this. "How do you treat it? Will it return?" I asked anxiously.

"With massive doses of prednisone, tapering over 6 months." Her best chance to be out of pain was to get the inflammation down. Our vet wouldn't say it would definitely return even if brought under control, but indicated it sure was a likely possibility, and I knew chances were it would if it were truly an immune-mediated disease.

He knew how I'd resisted treating Maddie's allergies with Prednisone, and how much I'd hate this treatment plan. But I couldn't let her be in pain.

"Is there any chance this was brought on by the allergy shots?" My feeling was that this is what had precipitated this "attack" on Maddie's muscles.

"No," he said without a trace of doubt.

My gut told me otherwise. My gut knew we needed to stop the allergy injections. We left with the dreaded Prednisone & began it immediately. I also made an appointment with another vet who does an energy treatment called Bicom, and left for Texas soon after Maddie was treated. This vet did think, as I did, that it was likely that Maddie's myositis was due to the allergy injections.

The bottom line is that Maddie was only on Prednisone for 12 days in total, including the wean. I threw the injection vials in the garabage & Maddie never received another shot. (I never heard back from CSU when I left a message in the Dermatology department asking if this reaction ever occurred with allergy injections). I believe the Bicom helped Maddie's allergies and her rapid healing from the myositis tremendously, (the climate change helped alleviate her itching, too).

Oh, and Maddie's test for immune mediated masticular myositis came back negative.

Please don't think I'm advocating to not give your dog allergy injections. They do work for some dogs, and most dogs will probably never have the reaction Maddie did. What I am encouraging is that you tune in to your intuition regarding your own pets, and whether a diagnosis and/or treatment feels right to you for that pet at that point in time.

Life continues to show me with my animals how important it is to advocate for our pets with their veterinarians, especially when our gut tell us something different is happening. Our animals can't talk, which makes a veterinarian's job tough. Vets are human, and we need to keep in mind that our close bond with our animals may allow for information to pass between us at a sixth sense level that the vet may not have access to. If a diagnosis regarding your pet doesn't make sense or feel right to you, don't hesitate to speak up and ask questions. Let your vet be yours and your animal's partner in health, while you remain your animal's top advocate. Remember, no one knows your precious animal souls like you do!

Stay tuned for Maddie misdiagnosis #2 in an upcoming blog post.

Posted By:

Dawn Kairns
Author of MAGGIE: the dog who changed my life

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Explore the World of Animal Communication

I didn't learn about animal communication until after Maggie, my dog, passed on. Talking with an animal communicator after she died opened doors for me into yet another aspect of the spiritual world between dogs (animals) and their humans -- a world that was previously unknown to me.

The Source of today's post comes from: Animal Talk, the website of Penelope Smith, animal communicator.

People often wonder how one communicates with animals, and whether it is a psychic ability.

Penelope Smith has been communicating with animals telepathically throughout her life. She has also helped launch the careers of numerous professional animal communicators. For over thirty years, she has been the founding pioneer for the field whose name she originated, interspecies telepathic communication. Her methods foster people's ability to understand and communicate with animals on many levels - physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. Here is Penelope Smith's response to how she communicates with animals, which helps me better understand the questions I raised in my book about how Maggie and I communicated:

"Psychic comes from the Greek word "psyche," meaning soul or spirit. Yes, I communicate to the individual animal, who is a spiritual being with a particular type of animal body, just as humans are spiritual beings with human animal bodies. This awareness of animals as intelligent beings with a spiritual essence is central to the ease in which animals communicate with me and increases their willingness to understand and change in positive directions. With or without physical contact, I communicate with animals telepathically, with feelings, intentions, thoughts, concepts or mental pictures. They communicate back to me in the same ways, and I translate their thoughts into words for human understanding. Animals can also understand the meaning of words when humans clearly transmit what they wish to communicate. Animals pick up the intentions, images, and feelings behind what people verbalize. Some animals even relay words mentally, especially those animals who are very close to people and so have learned the meaning of words or who have had past life experience in human form."

Smith discovered in 1971 that animals could be relieved of emotional traumas and other problems through the same counseling techniques that helped humans. Penelope feels that the sacred connection we make through telepathic communication with other species is essential for human wholeness. She believes as I do that everyone is born with the power to communicate with other species, and that, although it is long lost for most people, it can be regained for the benefit of all beings on Earth.

Ms. Smith is often asked what animals say to her:

"They give their viewpoint on what is happening with them and what they have wanted to communicate to their people. Most animals are willing to answer any question about what they think and want, although they don't have the same priorities as people do. They have varying experience and interests due to their body types and their particular environments. They have different sense organs and functions, and therefore cannot be expected to talk about human activities that are not applicable to them, like golf or the stock market. When asked the right questions, they usually can recall their early experiences and even past lives. As with humans, their experience often has relevance to current behavior. Non-humans are individuals and communicate in different ways according to their awareness, intelligence, ability, and experience, as do humans."

Besides asking animals if they have any pain or where it hurts, Ms. Smith can perceive inside their bodies for areas of distress or blocked energy and help locate what needs veterinary attention. Telepathic communication functions successfully both in person and at a distance. She can focus on and contact animals telepathically through their connection with their people along with a physical description of them.

How does she know she is getting across to animals and receiving their communication?

"While I know that we understand each other, it is also evident to others because of the response of the animals or the results. Behavior problems often disappear, animals visibly become brighter, more active, relaxed, or cooperative. Illnesses lessen or the animal improves dramatically or gradually after a consultation."

What is Penelope Smith's purpose in communicating with animals?

"To help all species co-exist in greater understanding, co-operation, and happiness. I love helping people and animals appreciate and learn from each other more, and I hope that this in turn will increase the health and harmony of all life on the planet."

Penelope was able to use her ability to communicate with animals more effectively when she became a counselor for humans. She discovered that the techniques that worked with people to help them sort out problems and relieve emotional traumas usually worked more rapidly with animals. As she helped her own animal companions, and then those of friends and acquaintances, the word spread.

Penelope Smith believes that other people can be taught to increase their abilities to be receptive and communicate with other species, if they love animals. Some people are more sensitive and open than others and learn faster. Willingness to listen and realize that animals are fellow spiritual beings from whom you can learn a great deal is a major factor in opening up receptivity.

Penelope has worked successfully with thousands of animals using mental, spiritual, and physical communication techniques. She has books, tapes, and courses that aid in increasing telepathic communication ability. Please visit her website at You can also subscribe to her newsletter, Species Link: The Journal of Interspecies Telepathic Communication at Or, contact Penelope for an individual session with your pet.

Posted By:

Dawn Kairns
Author of MAGGIE: the dog who changed my life

Monday, June 8, 2009

Frankie the Walk 'n Roll Dog -- An Inspirational Story

I'm happy to have Barb Techel, the author of Frankie the Walk 'n Roll Dog, as my guest today on my blog. Barb's wonderful book is a truly inspirational story for children and adults, especially for those facing physical challenges. Welcome, Barb!

Thank you, Dawn for having me as a guest on your blog today! It is an honor to be here to share with your readers how my wheelchair-bound dachshund, Frankie, has changed my life.

Each morning when I wake, I slowly rise and lean over the side of the bed. I hope to catch a glimpse of Frankie before she wakes up. She sleeps content in a crate at the end of my bed. Because of her paralysis she does not have control of her bladder so she no longer sleeps with me.

Within minutes she begins to stir. As she lifts her head her green blanket encircles her sweet face. “Oh, my little babushka,” I say.

Sometimes tears fill my eyes, and my heart catches in my throat. There is not a day that goes by that I don’t thank God for the gift of Frankie.

Three years earlier on Easter Sunday the holiday brought me much heartache. While vacationing in Florida I received the call that every dachshund owner fears. Frankie had ruptured a disc in her back. My sister-in-law rushed Frankie to a nearby animal hospital for surgery. The surgeon gave her a 10-30% chance of walking again.

I was scared and angry, and I felt helpless so many miles away from home. How could this be happening, I wondered. I had lost my chocolate lab to cancer nine months prior. In a moment of anger I yelled at God, “This is not fair!”

You see, I had my life all planned out. I was writing a monthly column for our local paper called, “For the Love of Animals.” After losing Cassie Jo and realizing the amazing bond I had with her, I brought home another lab and named her Kylie. I was in the process of training her to become a therapy dog. I wanted to share the love of animals with others who didn’t get that connection on a daily basis. I wanted to share those stories through my writing.

Now my life was turned upside down. How would I care for a handicapped dog? How would I have to adjust my life? What did the future hold?

Little did I realize, in the beginning of Frankie’s ordeal, that my purpose for being here on earth was about to reveal itself. After three months of physical therapy and acupuncture, it was determined Frankie would not walk on her own again. She was custom-fitted with a dog cart from Eddie’s Wheels.

This is where Frankie changed my life for the better. I realized Frankie’s spirit was fully intact, and she was still the same sweet dog. She just looked a bit different now with the help of her wheels to get around.

As I took her out in public, people would ask me what happened. I told the story over and over again, never tiring of telling it. What was especially heart-warming was how children responded to Frankie. One young boy after hearing Frankie’s story said, “It does not matter what you look like on the outside, but what is inside.”

Frankie taught me that with all challenges there is normally a blessing in disguise. We just have to be open to see what the blessing is. I knew without a doubt I was meant to write Frankie’s story. The knowing was so intense that I knew if I didn’t write her story, I would regret it at the end of my life.

How do I thank my angelic little dog who has taught me compassion, kindness, integrity, generosity, patience and tenderness? It really is quite simple. I pay it forward by sharing Frankie with others, and giving them hope that all things are possible.

So each morning when I rise, I am eager to start the day once again knowing I have a wonderful opportunity to make the world a better place because of Frankie, and how she changed my life for the better.

About Barbara Techel

Barbara is a writer and animal lover. Her column, "For the Love of Animals" has appeared in the Depot Dispatch. Frankie the Walk 'n Roll dog, her first children's book, was awarded the 2008 National Best Book Award (children’s picture book soft cover) by USA Book News, the Merial Human-Animal Bond Award by Dog Writer’s Association of America, and the Editor’s Choice Award by Allbooks Review. It was also a finalist in the 2008 Indie Excellence Awards. Frankie herself was inducted into the 2009 Wisconsin Pet Hall of Fame.

About Frankie the Walk 'n Roll Dog

Frankie is a dachshund, and this story is told from her point of view. She survives the normal challenges of puppyhood, including a struggle with house training, after Barbara and John adopt her. After a spinal injury, her human family nurtures her through a long period of rehabilitation and buys her a custom-fitted wheelchair. It takes a while to adapt to her new wheels, but soon she is joyfully rolling and playing.

Barbara wrote this book to offer hope and inspiration to people who face challenges. A lifelong animal lover, she realized Frankie's paralysis was an opportunity to spread a positive message.

Thank you for reading about Barbara Techel and Frankie the Walk 'n Roll Dog. To learn more, and to order a copy of this multi-award winning picture book, please visit

Other Sites to Check Out:

Barbara's Blog:

Frankie's Blog:

To See the Tour Schedule:

There will be a SPECIAL OFFER FOR VISITORS TO THE VIRTUAL BLOG TOUR. Each guest who comments on a post in Barbara and Frankie's tour will be entered in a drawing for some fun, unique gifts that will especially appeal to Frankie fans and other dog lovers. We will give away several items from Frankie's store -- These include two Frankie t-shirts and two Frankie tote bags.

Posted by

Dawn Kairns
Author, MAGGIE: the dog who changed my life

Thursday, June 4, 2009

What If Humanity Saw Dogs (Animals) As Different, Not Lesser Beings?

Last night at my book event at the Parker Library as part of their Colorado Author Series, I was once again met with smiles, nods and stories when I asked the group of dog lovers and dog guardians gathered there if they ever experienced their dogs reading their thoughts. Of course they had! Why is it, then, that animal behavioral science doesn't study this phenomenon in dogs when it is so commonly known among those of us who live with dogs?

It's not just about mind reading, it's also the way our canines understand so much more of what we're saying than most of us were led to believe. My dog, Maddie, has picked up where Maggie left off demonstrating how much she understands my complete sentences. Just the other day my husband and I were trying to decide which one of us would take Maddie with us when we left our house. I thought I'd ask Maddie.

"Whichever one of us you want to go with, touch us with your nose," I told her.

Back and forth she paced twice. I repeated my statement. Pace. Pace. Pace. And then -- poke, poke, poke came her wet nose on my leg! Likewise, just a few moments ago I was tossing the stick for Maddie outside. She rips them to smithereens until there's nothing left for me to pick up, although she continues to bring back the splinters for me to throw.

"Go get a bigger stick; I can't throw this," I tell her. Off she goes to get one, first trying to pull a still rooted stem out of the ground before returning with a bigger stick for me to throw.

Why do I continue to be astounded by this canine level of understanding when it happens over and over, as it did with Maggie? Perhaps it's because scientifically it's such a well kept secret; it's certainly not what we were taught about dogs, is it?

I can't help but wonder if seeing dogs and animals in general as incapable of understanding our words, tuning into our thoughts, or experiencing feelings serves a purpose for humanity as a whole somehow. For example, we are taught a hierarchy through science and religious, with humans at the top and animals, plants etc. all beneath us. In my book I share the realization that I think I always felt unconsciously, but finally became aware of at a conscious level. it is that animals are not lesser beings, they are simply different beings that we share the planet with.

Many of us were also taught by religion that dogs/animals are not spiritual beings. That is, we have souls but they don't. Really? Please tell me who has more soul, more unconditional love than our beloved dogs?

One of the reasons I love talking to people at my book events is to bring to light this idea that animals simply are different but not lesser beings. Why? Because I believe that seeing animals as lesser beings allows humans to commit atrocities against them, such as the deplorable ways dogs are treated in puppy mills, animals are cruelly experimented on in laboratories, horses are enslaved to obtain the hormone Premarin, calves live in the dark barely able to move in order to create veal that is tender, and chickens ... I could keep going but I think you get the drift.

It's not our place to have "dominion over the animals" the way humans have interpreted it and the license that's been taken with it. Perhaps a more appropriate way to say it is that we have "stewardship of the animals." What would change in the way humans treat animals if we began to see dogs and all animals as thinking, feeling, communicative, and yes, even telepathic at times? What if we even began to see them as equal beings? If that's too hard for you then just different, but certainly not lesser beings.

I, for one, see animals as spiritual beings. As I said to the group last night, aren't all living things Spirit in different forms? What do you think?

Posted by:

Dawn Kairns
Author of MAGGIE: the dog who changed my life