I don’t know about you, but I’m a simple soul where breakfast needs are concerned. I like to drift gently downstairs, plink the kettle button on and plop my teabag into the mug for that essential first brew. Nice and peaceful. Fat chance of that happening around here. The place is heaving with fur.
Kitten-Claus, our latest rescue cat, has already been chirruping in the bedroom since 5 am. Ravenous and in need of attention, she begins by killing the duvet before moving up to lick our ears (raspy and a bit unpleasant). If that doesn’t have the desired effect, she’ll knock items off window ledges.
For goodness’ sake, close the bedroom door at night, you idiots! I hear you cry. We try that from time to time, but the subsequent wails and frantic scratching at the door are just as intolerable.
Back in the bedroom, if still foiled, K-C starts shoving our Kindles, hoping the resounding crash as one or other hits the floor might work. It does.
Jack, my husband, had given in before me. I joined him surrounded by a muddle of ecstatically happy cats and dogs. Well, all except one.
“The poor lad can only turn left.”
“Um, what are you talking about? Who?”
“Max, he’s crocked again.”
“Aww, what a shame, how on earth has he done that? He was fine yesterday.”
I knelt beside Max on his left side. He twisted to give me a smiley lick, but it wasn’t his usual standing ovation-type welcome. He looked strained. I moved to his other side and encouraged him to rotate right. No. Not possible, his back was rigid. He winced.
Instead, as usual trying his best to please, Max manoeuvred like a freighter, tippy-toeing his way in a slow sweeping motion. It was pitiful to watch. It had also happened before. There was nothing for it, a trip to Doctor Alice was needed.
Being an accident-prone mutt, Max, an Australian Shepherd, has spent lots of time at the vets. Among his various injuries is a recurring vertebrae issue. When he has a flair-up, anti-inflammatory drugs are prescribed, which help ease the pain and swelling. I keep a stock of them at home.
My French doggy pal, Andrée, and I had chatted about his various maladies. Being a natural remedies sort of a lady, she had an interesting suggestion.
“Why not take him to an osteopath?”
“H’m I’m not sure. Anyway, is there such a thing as a bone doctor for dogs?”
“Yes, of course! Why not? She works with many vets in the area, she is often recommended. I have taken Baltik, our Labrador, to Doctor Alice, she uses homoeopathic medicines. She’s excellent.”
“Poof! You English have no idea!”
One always knows where one is with Andrée. It’s one of the reasons I adore her.
The next time he injured himself, Andrée came with me to see Doctor Alice. It was lovely to have her moral support as well as help with French language complications. Our expert has a strong accent.
True to her reputation, the strikingly attractive bone doc worked miracles on him. I was impressed. Since his latest symptoms seemed similar to those last ones, without hesitation, I made an appointment for a couple of days later.
This was our first solo visit, and I was apprehensive about directions. Doctor Alice and her family live in the middle of rural nowhere. Snuggled at the base of benign hills, their home is surrounded by lush meadows. No close neighbours. Just lots of bliss. It’s a location our GPS navigation system has never heard of.
Max and I set off extra early in the direction of Beaumont-de-Lomagne. This is a 13th century fortified town, particularly famed for its central square and huge medieval wooden market hall. Actually, it’s well worth a visit, especially for the market, but not for us on that day.
Driving along the ribbon-like road felt as though we were on a different planet. I was starting to get a bit twitchy when I spotted a lone farmhouse in the distance. Eureka! I turned onto their long drive with five minutes to spare.
Their homestead oozes charm – and animals. A selection of horses and large goats watched me park the car. And they weren’t the only ones who thought we were captivating.
Cats burst out of from nowhere. Little ones, big ones, lots of tabbies with a couple of black ones added into the mix, they all bundled up to say hello. While this was fun for me, they had a different reaction on Max.
Regularly mugged by Kitten-Claus when asleep, Max, the big wuss, seemed convinced they were about to gang up and give him a good old muzzle slapping. He stood next to me, smiling nervously at the swarm of fascinated felines.
Doctor Alice came out of the house and shooed them away. Ever tried getting a cat to do something it doesn’t want to do? Yep. It never works. She had a better idea.
“Christian!” she hollered towards the house. “Feed the cats, please, I have a nervous dog here.”
Max, now surrounded and having his legs rubbed by a kitten, was looking like a condemned canine.
A couple of minutes later, a window opened and handfuls of feed were chucked outside. Like magic, all tails shot up and the cats bounded off meowing for breakfast on the patio.
“That worked well,” I chuckled. “Gosh, Doctor Alice, how many animals do you have at the moment?”
“Ooh, good question. Well,” she said, starting to count, “we have nine, no, ten cats, umm, yes, 16 horses, those goats,” she added, pointing at the bleating Greek chorus, “and a few sheep.”
I nodded, my theory confirmed about Doctor Alice being an inveterate rescuer of injured and abandoned animals.
“Let’s go inside before the cats come back,” she added. “I’ll just put our dog in a different room.”
She had forgotten to include the dog in her family roundup.
We walked into the cosy farmhouse kitchen, it’s very typical of the style in this area. An open fire warms the room, no doubt heating the others behind and above. Max beamed anxiously at Doctor Alice, who considered his behaviour.
“Yes, I can see he is not so confident. This will help.”
With that, she grabbed a small bottle, opened Max’s mouth and squirted liquid onto his tongue.
“You should buy some for him. It’s a natural product that will help him relax during stressful periods.”
Max was now wandering around the kitchen, looking as though he’d just swallowed a plum. I’m not sure whether it calmed him down, but he certainly didn’t open his mouth again for a while.
Doctor Alice began her treatment. She knelt and put her arms around Max, her countenance almost hypnotic. Max stood nobly like a wounded hero, succumbing to her gentle manipulations of bony pressure points. No winces, no whining – unusual for him. It was mesmerising to watch this specialist at work.
“Ah, I know where the difficulties are,” she murmured soon after.
She continued, quietly working her way along Max’s chest, stomach and then spine. She suddenly smiled and released him.
“That’s it, he will be fine now.”
Max padded towards me. I motioned for him to make that right turn. Easy. He moved flexibly, completely relaxed.
“That’s fantastic, Doctor Alice, thank you so much!”
“It’s a pleasure. Max has stiffness in his neck and shoulders, and a partially slipped disc in his back. I have fixed this. These injuries are typical of a high-energy dog. His stomach was tense because of the pain, and did you know he has a haematoma on his right side?”
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.
“No, I didn’t. How do you know?”
“Here, feel this,” she said, placing my hand on his right shoulder. “This area is hot and hard, also raised, they are typical indications.”
“Oh, yes! No wonder he was so sore, poor Max. He’s always accidentally self-harming. I had no idea, although come to think of it, last week he tried to jump into the car before I had fully opened the door and crashed sideways into it.”
“Yes, that will have been it. Again, it is very common for dogs like this to have accidents. Haematomas last for three weeks. I will recommend a natural product that will help with the soreness. It sounds as though you will need to buy a bottle!”
Doctor Alice sat at the table and used a diagram on her tablet to show me the problem areas.
“What do you suggest now? Do I give Max the anti-inflammatory medication from the vet? I have some at home.”
“No, nothing, he is back to normal now. Make sure he has 48 hours rest, though, his body will be fatigued after this treatment. I suggest you come back every three months. I have a feeling Max will be ready for another session by then.”
I could have hugged her.
We walked back outside to see a goat halfway up a tree twanging branches as it enjoyed a leafy snack.
“Chèvre rôti! shouted an enraged Alice’s husband from the house.”
“Non!” yelled Alice back in mock anguish.
Giggling at the pair of passionate animal lovers, however naughty their goats might be, I couldn’t quite imagine one of them ending up in the oven.
Taking a moment to check my tyres in case the pesky critters had taken a chunk out of them too, I put Max back in the car. Thanking Doctor Alice again, we headed home.
For someone who had previously been reticent about this form of alternative medicine, I didn’t need any more convincing. And here’s why. As we all know, animals can’t tell you where their pain is. They compensate to avoid discomfort and stop when it’s too much. To see the transformation in Max’s painful wooden gait to complete flexibility within 20 minutes was utterly remarkable. Yep, we definitely love our dog bone doctor.