Sunny, a medium-sized mutt with coarse, black fur, stubby legs and erect ears that fall slightly at the tips, is named for his temperament, not his appearance.
Ingrid Winter, 58, of Boulder, is an employee at the Longmont Humane Society who adopted Sunny after falling in love with the would-be-forgotten pet.
Sunny was about to be euthanized, or put down, after a long stay at the humane society due to an attack he made on his previous owners. Sunny has been through a lot. He is a lymphoma survivor, and he is now fighting a tumor in his back.
Narda Robinson, a veterinarian at the James L. Voss Veterinary Teaching Hospital, treats Sunny’s pain, muscle tension and arthritis with acupuncture. The acupuncture is also used to decrease inflammation and calm the dog.
Winter drove Sunny from her home in Boulder to the VTH because she “goes to the best.”
A far cry from the small spaces at shelters, Winter takes extra care of her puppy with her own brand of therapy as she drives him to his appointments. The sounds of Irish Celtic music filled her sedan as a relaxed Sunny slept on the car ride to Fort Collins.
Finally arriving, Sunny slowly climbed out of the car and on to the hospital’s padded floor mat, eagerly awaiting his pre-treatment cookies.
“Narda is another word for cookie,” Winter said.
Winter lay next to him as he slowly fell into a near-sleeping state before the doctor stuck 10 two-inch needles into Sunny’s back. Seemingly unaware, he looked up at her and happily received another cookie. Like Sunny, most of Robinson’s clients have a cancer of some kind and are being treated for the side effects.
Robinson describes the practice of alternative medicine as “influencing the nervous system to perform at its best.” She prefers to approach medicine in a way that is not upsetting to the animal.
“We are partnering with the animal instead of seeing it as an object,” Robinson said.
She began as a human medical practitioner, then began complementary alternative medicine when she began to learn of the benefits and began to work with animals a decade ago.
Although Robinson has changed her practice, she doesn’t want to change the minds of her clients.
“I don’t want to change people’s mindset to see ‘invisible energies,'” she said. “We list an array of information and allow the clients to decide.”
Robinson is also an assistant professor in the veterinary program at CSU.
“It is rewarding to see students opting toward compassionate ways of medicine,” she said.
Heather Fraser, a third-year veterinary student and Holistic Club president, is one of those students. Fraser has used complementary medicine – medical practices like acupuncture partnered with conventional Western medicine – to improve performance in her horses and has worked in veterinary hospitals using these practices.
“People see the results in their own life and think, ‘If it works for me, I wonder if it could work for my pet?'” she said. “Skeptics can see proof by the results.”
Fraser views holistic medicines as “adjunctive treatments” and not the solution to every health problem.
“Many people think because it is complementary, it’s benign and no harm can come from it,” Fraser said.
Holistic veterinary practitioners understand the implications of using antibiotics but can take that a step further.
“We have a bigger bag of tricks,” Fraser said. “We treat it the best we know how and then find things in our back pocket.”
Staff writer Emily Lance can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.