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When food is the best medicine


February 24, 2011

Our six-year old Schnauzer Aengus has taught us a thing or two about love since we brought him home from a pet store in Port Jervis at eight weeks old. We named him Aengus, Dog of Love, knowing immediately that love was what he was all about, for us. His name was a play on words: Aengus is the Celtic god of love for whom Yeats wrote “The Song of Wandering Aengus.”

When I first held him in my arms, his small body sank into my breast. The other puppies in the litter were as cute, but none were as at home in my embrace as Aengus, the runt of the litter. Later, my husband said his experience was identical to mine. Aengus had chosen us for his family.

Recently, Aengus got into some food garbage that included fatty ham, a no-no for Schnauzers. Left alone, he indulged his appetite and by the next day became so ill that a vet was needed. He had contracted a bad case of pancreatitis that grew steadily worse and required 24-hour hospitalization in the ICU. Our normally lithe and feisty pup became stiff and lifeless. He could neither eat nor drink without vomiting.

In the hospital, with intravenous fluids, anti-emetics and finally, tubal nutrition, he gradually improved enough to come home. We were instructed to feed him a prescription low-fat diet the vet sold. I looked at the label and noted the ingredients included pork by-products, pork liver by-products (toxins?), corn meal and worse, gelatin by-products (animal hooves?)

When we got home, I fed him chicken and rice for a few days until the vet insisted I start him on the prescription food. He was doing well by now, but they said he was not ready to return to his normal healthy diet of protein and vegetables. Three days later, after giving him his dinner, a walk and a playful romp with his stuffed Schnauzer toy, I went to fix dinner. Within moments my husband called out. Aengus was on the floor in full grand mal seizure, his teeth chattering, legs spasming, mouth foaming. It was terrifying.