Magnetic Therapy for Dogs?!  Only in New York.

December 28, 2009

You have to admit it. This puppy is cute. Really cute. In my estimation, the cutest puppy in the world. Meet Arlo, the miniature dachshund who will become a part of my life next month.

Like every good New Yorker, I am doing all I can to ensure that Arlo will live a sheltered, pampered existence to rival that of any human child on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. My home has become a sort of doggie paradise, replete with plush floor beds, multiple enticing chew toys, a designer walking harness (with matching leash, of course), and the best puppy food money can buy. I even polled my dog-owning friends to determine the best "puppy kindergarten" class for Arlo. Although his arrival is still weeks away, Arlo already has transformed me from a jaded, hardheaded Manhattanite into a smitten, gushing, thoroughly besotted dog lover. Omia vincit amor.

In one respect, however, I remain a cynical New Yorker. When it came to choosing a veterinarian, my cold scientific rationalism held sway. As luck (or misfortune?) would have it, the veterinary group closest to my home specializes in "Eastern and Alternative Medicine." Their idea of doggy health care apparently focuses on "alternative veterinary practices," including pulse magnetic therapy, acupuncture, and "Bach Flower Remedies." My softhearted side will gladly open my wallet to purchase a luxurious dog den. But I stop short at paying for a "licensed pet therapist" to massage my puppy’s "energy field" with magnets.

Bach Flower Therapy turns out to have nothing to do with garden parties set to Baroque music. Rather, it is a form of homeopathic aromatherapy "discovered" by the British physician Edward Bach in the 1930s. The good Dr. Bach claimed to have discovered healing effects in 38 wildflowers through his own intuition and psychic powers. Bach claimed that the wildflowers have a spiritual energy that is transferrable to water. Place a few drops on a flower heated by the sun, and – voila! – the water absorbs the healing properties of the plant. To treat emotional pains or physical symptoms, one has only to drink a concoction of the "essence" of the appropriate wildflower, some mineral water, and brandy. (More brandy than mineral water, one would hope.)

The absurdity of adapting Bach’s remedies for ailing pooches runs deeper than one might first suspect. Bach claimed that the spiritual energy in his flowers possessed an affinity for the human soul. So far as I know, Dr. Bach wrote nothing about doggy souls. (And aren’t dogs, as opposed to people, supposed to lack immaterial souls to begin with?)

Instead of taking Arlo to the local holistic vet, I will walk the extra distance to the nearest Western veterinary practice. He won’t enjoy the shots as much as he would have enjoyed aromatherapy, but at least he will be healthier.

Aside from being more expensive, my choosing Western veterinary care requires me to purchase a veterinary health insurance plan as soon as I possibly can; according to my fellow dog owners, coverage can be denied for preexisting conditions. It looks as though we need Congress to pass a doggy health care reform bill. But that’s a subject for another blog posting.