AN EXAMPLE OF SELF-MEDICATION: CANINE
Fear of Men
At A Rescue Home
Fear of Thunder & Lightning
Herman is a rescue greyhound from Illinois, born on 29th August 2005. He raced nine times between June 2007 and January 2008, and was placed first, second and third many times. He had severe PTSD when we first brought him home. Turning pages of a newspaper or raising your hand to cover a cough would get him running to the basement to hide. His only other problem that we are aware of has been his kidneys for which he is taking a Chinese herb called “Rehmannia Eight Comb.” Like most greyhounds he has teeth that have to be cleaned almost every six months and brushed constantly. He is very shy until he gets to know you, but even then may walk away from you. Herman loves to be petted and massaged and we regularly give him Rescue Remedy and CBD treats or oil. Sometimes he will want to turn back for home when we are out on a walk.
On the morning of the canine workshop in Sedona, Herman’s pet-parent wrote to me saying that she may have to cancel him attending the class, as if it thunders there would be no way that she would be able to get him out of the house, and thunder was scheduled for that afternoon. Even though it hadn’t begun when Herman walked into the classroom with his pet-parent, he stood shaking. After an hour I managed to gain some information on which plant extracts he needed. I offered Herman oils to support his physical body first. His main interest was in St John’s wort CO2, yarrow, garlic, clove, wild carrot seed and violet leaf. There was comparatively little interest in calming oils such as valerian or rose. Even after Herman had selected his remedies he remained standing and continued to shake; the storm was approaching. I tried to think of where to go next - Standing back for a few minutes and watching him I decided to work with rose water, so I sprayed some onto his pet-parent’s hand and asked her to offer it to Herman’s chest. He put his head down. Did he want it on his head or jaw? It was his jaw; his eyes softened to her touch and for the first time he stopped shaking and lay down. It’s well known that greyhounds often suffer from dental and gum problems.
Next, I chose appropriate oils from Herman’s favourites. I offered yarrow, known for its anti-inflammatory properties, and yes! Herman wanted it applied topically. As he was so sensitive to the aromas, I advised his pet-parent to lessen the concentration by rubbing the yarrow into her hands and then offering it around his jaw. Herman went into such a relaxed state that he didn’t even care that the thunder was now rolling and crashing overhead; the storms in Sedona can be intense. Next he wanted St John’s wort (chronic pain) applied in the same way. Herman had never before laid down and relaxed in the middle of a thunder storm. After about ten minutes Herman lifted his head and looked at his pet-parent. At this point I put the oils that had provided the most interest at the beginning of the session into individual inhalers. They were colour coded; garlic and clove – red, wild carrot seed – green, yarrow – blue, and violet leaf purple. Herman spent the remainder of the session placing his nose in front of the different inhalers working with the various vapourised molecules, spending most of his time with wild carrot seed and garlic essential oils. The session resulted in one very happy, relaxed boy! The aim was to find out if there were any hidden problems exacerbating his fear, which there were, as he only stopped shaking and lay down after his jaw had been treated with anti-inflammatory and pain relieving plant extracts. I could have persevered and tirelessly offered calming oils such as valerian, hops and hemp, knowing that eventually they would stand a good chance of stimulating enough GABA to reduce anxiety and act as a sedative. However, I have found working that way is usually only a temporary fix, like using a band aid. I would be no wiser as to why Herman was so terrified of a natural phenomenon.
A little fear is healthy but excessive fear usually means an underlying problem. Animals can become more terrified when they feel vulnerable and insecure, which is usually when they don’t feel strong, giving rise to all sorts of problems such as separation anxiety, fearfulness and irritability. Judging by Herman’s responses he may have been in pain.