old English Mastiffs

My Dogs Taught Me Holistic Health

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Tess in woods CW

Tess was a gift from my husband a few months after our family mastiff, Jenna, had passed on. We traveled to another state to pick her up, and by the time we got home, we were extremely attached to our little bundle of love. We took her to the veterinarian for her first well-check within the first week and learned she had subaortic stenosis. Without intervention, the vet thought that she would live about six months. The breeder offered to take her back and give us another, healthy dog. What would happen to Tess? She would put her down. Why feed her and take care of her if she was going to die anyway? At first, I was heartbroken. Then I became determined.

Old English Mastiff puppy
Tundra as a toddler

We kept Tess and the breeder provided us Tundra, Tess’ healthy sister. And so my journey began to give Tess the best life that I could during the time that she had. I quickly learned that the traditional veterinarians didn’t have all the answers. Tess had some unknown problem that made it difficult for her to thrive on conventional dog food. The vet put her on prescription dog food, which was even worse. When we fed her as prescribed, she began slowly starving to death. I was a firm believer in traditional medicine at that time, but when it couldn’t help Tess, I took a left turn and found a holistic vet. He ordered a homemade diet for Tess and I gave it a shot. She improved. Through the years, my family honed our techniques for making a huge quantity of food for our two mastiffs, because that was what Tess needed. She gained weight and continued her mission of love with our family.

Old English Mastiff puppy
Tundra as a puppy

The veterinarian prescribed allopathic medications for Tess to manage her blood pressure and slow the progression of the stenosis, but we knew that it couldn’t work forever. We also integrated a series of supplements into her diet to support her general health. I began to understand more about how to develop health, rather than just treating an illness. Tundra was a stoic dog who was a bit indifferent to us, yet she was totally devoted to Tess. They were such a fun couple of girls! I have such fond memories of them on our frequent camping trips in the Rocky Mountains (look here).

At four-and-a-half years old, Tess died of a heart attack. Tundra left Tess’ shadow and became the star of the show. She taught me even more about alternative medicine. Tundra had an issue in her lower back and some days we would wake and find she couldn’t use her hind legs. At over 200 pounds, she couldn’t move with just her front legs. At all. I required a lot of help to get her in and out of the car and into the vet’s office. Once there, he provided acupuncture and a chiropractic treatment and Tundra would walk to the car and jump in to go home. A miracle!

Old English Mastiff

I was so ill with my autoimmune disease at that time, that I didn’t get to socialize much; Tess and Tundra were great company. I had been on the allopathic path and thought I would be for life. I didn’t question the doctors who restored me to better health until I saw the philosophy of holistic health with my dogs. Taking matters into my own hands, I began to look for supplements that would support my body so that it was in a better position to cope. I changed my eating habits, looking for healthier foods. Implementing the lessons from the veterinarian (while my rheumatologist scoffed), I eventually was able to go off all the allopathic medication and the autoimmune disease has been in full and total remission for many years now.

Old English Mastiff in snow

Tess and Tundra were my bosom buddies and companions. Determined to do the best for my dog, I learned how also to do what was best for me. I started receiving chiropractic care after I saw what it did for Tundra, and received much relief. Regular acupuncture has been a new addition for me, and I’m so grateful for this modality as well. Through the years, my diet has improved even more – and my health has improved each year. I miss these girls still, although they have been gone a number of years. They left quite a legacy in my heart and in my life, and I am grateful for their time with me.

old English Mastiffs
Tess and Tundra camping


  1. This story was beautiful! Animals teach us so much. Loving an animal and caring for it, we often think is a one way street, but they give so much! They teach, they protect, they love – oh how they love! What a huge amount we are learning from them!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Dogs bring so much to the human experience it would be hard to quantify just how much and only the special people know this! 😉 Thank you for not just handing Tess back for a ‘replacement’ as I have seen people do as if a dog is the wrong size trousers. You and I know she would not have lasted if the breeder is a pure profit breeder. I anoint you my hero for the week.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your kind words. When we learned that the breeder was going to put Tess down if we returned her, we insisted on keeping her. We had a contract for a healthy dog, though, so we took her sister (also) to fulfill the contract. When the sisters were reunited, they were so happy!! They were best buddies and our dog family was complete. I still miss those dogs; they just didn’t live as long as I needed them to.


      1. I know right? Dogs go far too quickly even when fully healthy. Plus I have always wondered what animals feel when liberally separated from their siblings for our convenience, your story is the first I have heard that suggests I might have point.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I loved your phrase, ” a legacy in my heart”. What a deep thought. That is what love should do.
    What a wonderful way to differentiate ones feelings to know which one is really love.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Wonderful story. I’m a big fan of alternative medicine — it’s saved me since when I first became ill allopathic medicine proclaimed chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia didn’t exist. They insisted nothing was wrong and my only option was to turn to alternative healing. I love hearing that it worked so well for you.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I didn’t want to stay on medications that could cause cancer as a side effect. And I’m so glad I refused all narcotic pain relief! I’m glad to hear alternative medicine worked for you, too. It amazes me how many people just want a prescription.

      Liked by 1 person

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