Callie is an adorable West Highland White Terrier. When I met her almost three years ago, she couldn’t walk. Upon examination, I couldn’t tell if she couldn’t walk or wouldn’t walk because she wanted a belly rub and preferred to be carried.
Over the course of a few visits, I determined that she was seriously painful in her knees, shoulders and lower back, and that she was truly too painful to walk. For the next few weeks, she came to my office frequently for acupuncture and cold laser treatments, and soon we added an appropriate pain medication to our treatment plan. Her human mom brought her faithfully and followed all my suggestions. She still comes for her treatment every month, and you wouldn’t believe the difference in Callie today. When it seems these patients have reached the end of their options for healing and pain control, acupuncture can be a breath of hope.
Acupuncture is such a useful tool in veterinary medicine. After ten years of traditional veterinary medicine in general practice, I became frustrated with my limited choices for pain and healing, and I began to investigate other options. I decided to add acupuncture to my arsenal of treatments, and I am so glad that I did! While members of my family suspected I just wanted to spend a few months in Florida, I was actually learning a whole new way of approaching my patients’ physical and behavioral problems and retraining my brain to think more holistically. Tampa, Florida was nice, but my experience there was so much more than a sunny vacation.
When I returned to my rural hospital and began my acupuncture practice fourteen years ago, I basically saw two kinds of clients. The first type had experienced acupuncture themselves. They were believers, and had faith it would also help their pets. The second type was desperate to find help after all conventional routes had failed. They didn’t really believe it would work, but they didn’t want to surrender either. Often by the time the pet reached my exam room, he was in pretty bad shape, and that situation was frustrating for everyone. Today, acupuncture is more recognized and available to animals, so I see patients earlier in the disease process. Traditional veterinarians are also appreciating the benefits, so they send their patients my way when appropriate. Earlier intervention gives the patient many more options and much more hope for healing and recovery. The veterinary team approach is a win for everyone— especially the patient.
Acupuncture and cold laser therapy are great treatment options for dogs and cats with arthritis, intervertebral disk disease, hip dysplasia, and chronic knee pain. Many animals with allergies, behavioral issues, feline asthma, and chronic skin disease respond well to acupuncture, and animals recovering from surgery are great candidates as well. The list of conditions that improve with acupuncture is long, but the ones I’ve listed are the most common problems I see in my practice. In addition, I use Chinese herbal medicine in appropriate cases to enhance the effects of acupuncture. Most herbal formulas can be given with western medicines without any harmful side effects. Using western medicine hand in hand with alternative treatments can be the perfect recipe for an animal with a chronic disease.
About five years ago, I sold my traditional veterinary hospital and moved home to Asheville. I decided that I would focus my practice on acupuncture and Chinese herbal therapy. As it often goes with those of us with an entrepreneurial spirit, I found myself on a journey searching for the right home for my clinic. Having come from a large, general practice, it took some trial and error to find the right environment for my new, more intimate setup. I moved FOUR times before landing in the place my heart knew was perfect, and sweet Callie and her mom followed me all over town to continue her treatments. When I would announce a move, Callie’s mom would say, “Where are we going now?”. I’m very fortunate to have built special bonds with humans and their pets who trust me enough to be patient and tolerant of my winding path.
One day while driving through downtown Asheville, I passed by Three Dog Bakery on Battery Park Avenue. I have always loved the bakery, and my own pets had already owned or eaten just about everything they sold in there! On this particular day I saw a “FOR SALE” sign in the window. Someone told me later that the sign had been there for a while, but this was the day my eyes were meant to see it. Could I possibly own a dog bakery and see my patients in the same place? How would that work? Could I manage both businesses? After some discussion, calculating and planning, it turned out that it was entirely possible! In November, I bought the bakery and set up my exam area in a quiet room in the back. I even have special free parking dedicated to my clients so that they don’t have to search for parking in downtown, which we all know can be a challenge.
The bakery is a place of happiness. People from all over the country and beyond— often with their pets— come in to find something special. Whether it’s a “Drooly Dream Bar” baked right in our oven, a beautiful handmade collar, or an indestructible frisbee, they find just the right item. Pure joy abounds! Our regular canine customers trot up to the gate where they know they will receive a sample of a fresh baked cookie or pastry. One schnauzer in particular sits down and opens her mouth in excited anticipation. The happiness is contagious.
And then in the other part of our space, there’s healing. There animals relax and receive gentle, compassionate therapies that are specifically chosen for them. We experience undisturbed time, and many times I get to know their humans pretty well too. We work together as a team to give our animal patient the best chance for health and awesome quality of life.
So now Callie comes for her monthly appointment at the bakery. Her mom parks for free in the garage and walks right to the door, and Callie trots right beside her, happy to be back for another visit. We have our treatment time in our private room, and then Callie can visit the bakery for treats, toys, beds or clothing. She also loves to say hello to the staff— particularly the ones who are baking the cookies! I could have never dreamed back in veterinary school that I would find such a wonderful combination of services to offer my patients and the other furry family members of Asheville.
I have the best job in the world!
Dr. Beth Hampton Jones is a veterinarian and owner of Three Dog Bakery at 21 Battery Park in downtown Asheville. You can reach her at 828-450-0851 or through her website at www.ashevilleanimalacupuncture.com.