A Way With Animals - By Richard J. Holliday

A Way With Animals
Published in "Building a Holistic Foundation for Animal Health," By R.J. Holliday, DVM
Everyone in the county seemed to know that Jim had “a way with animals.” He was the herdsman for a large purebred beef cattle ranch on the edge of town. His ability to raise calves was legendary.  
People started telling me about Jim soon after I began practice in the area.  As a young, new graduate from vet school, I didn’t expect to be called to such a grand operation anytime soon. But shortly after I opened my office, Jim called me to come out and as he put it, “help him with a sick calf”.  It developed that he had already done about everything that could be done but he opined that maybe I could give the calf an IV or something to keep his strength up.  To this day I do not know if he called me because he might be able to glean a bit of useful knowledge from a new graduate or because he just wanted to give me a trial run.  If it was a test, I must have passed because he continued to call me as the need arose. Over the years, I learned a lot from Jim. He didn’t have any secret potions,  no magic herbs, no tricks up his sleeve … he just had “a way with animals!”  
Looking back, I am thankful that he gave me a chance to further my own veterinary education by watching a real animal “healer” at work. Jim’s most important lesson was that there is a lot more to healing than surgery, drugs, antibiotics, IV’s vitamins, herbs or anything else on the physical plane. He showed me that there is another whole dimension to healing … that of a caring touch that carries with it an inexplicable transfer of healing energy from the healer to the patient.  I can’t explain it, I don’t even have a good name for it, but I know that it exists, for I have seen it at work.
Our modern medical science has not yet advanced far enough to quantify or explain this type of healing. Without “scientific proof” many will scoff, ridicule and label as quackery anything that they cannot explain. So be it. To any one who has experienced this phenomenon, no proof is necessary: and to those who have not experienced it, no proof would be acceptable anyway.
The  first book I read on this subject was “An Anatomy of an Illness” by Norman Cousins, in which he explores the role of humor and a positive mental attitude in his own recovery from a serious disease.  Since then there have been many investigations into this mind/body relationship showing that the mind can influence the body in which it resides. If you can accept that, then it’s not too great a stretch to accept that it is also possible for a mind to influence a body in which it does not reside.
This knowledge goes back into antiquity.  In Biblical times there was the admonition;   “Is any sick among you?  Let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil …… and the prayer of faith shall raise him up.”  (James 5: 14-15)
Over twenty centuries ago a Roman treatise on agriculture, ‘De Re Agricola” used the phrase …  “The master’s eye doth fat the ox, his foot doth fat the ground”.  I interpret this to mean that in order to have healthy and productive animals or crops the master must be intimately involved in caring for both.
On a more modern note, Dr. Marvin Cain, a renowned equine acupuncturist, made this short but sage statement … “Thoughts are things.”  He went on to explain that the positive intent or attitude of the practitioner toward the patient was, at the very least, an aid to any treatment and at best a powerful healing force in it’s own right.  He also cautioned that a negative intent or attitude could be deleterious to healing.
or the fallacy of double-blind testing.
An essential part of modern medical research is the double blind test to establish a drug’s effect. Everything is done to eliminate any bias on the part of the researchers.  The results of the test group compared to the control group (which may or may not have received a placebo) gives an accurate indication of the drugs usefulness … or so it would seem. In reality, the test only establishes the relationship between the drug and the patient.  See Diagram 1. 
A more complete picture of healing is shown in Diagram 2. which portrays the influence of the practitioner on the patient, on the medication and ultimately on the entire healing process.  If a Doctor treats a patient and administers the drug with the same clinical detachment present in the test, s/he has failed to utilize a most important assist to healing. And if s/he relies only on tests and sight and never touches the patient, s/he is missing one of the best modes of communication, diagnosis and treatment.
This explains why some practitioners have great success using a drug or procedure that has been “proven” by double blind research to have no effect.  
It could also explain why folks who believe in the beneficial effects of DE have good results using it as a wormer, while those with a negative attitude toward DE have negative results. Unfortunately, for some “scientific” types, knowledge often gets in the way of wisdom.
It also explains why retroactive studies of patients who received a particular drug as part of a treatment program by a caring physician may show a markedly greater success rate than would be indicated by the double blind study.
Some random observations …
People that have ‘a way with animals’ tend to employ a more hands-on approach to healing such as chiropractic, massage and acupuncture. Acupuncture diagnosis, is based in part on noting the response when touching certain points on the body. It is a sort of a Braille reading of the animal’s state of health. 
I believe that this gift of healing is somewhat species specific.  A Vet could be fantastic with cattle and lousy with horses, not because of a lack of knowledge but because of a lack of empathy. Most people (vets included) have differing levels of affinity for different species. I know I did … I could do almost anything with horses but would frequently get clawed by my cat patients.
I have heard livestock owners occasionally complain that their Vet doesn’t like or isn’t real good at treating certain species, such as horses, goats, pets or others.  This may be true, not because they don’t like these particular animals but because their inexperience with them may make them uncomfortable or even apprehensive when they are called upon to treat them.  A fearful or suspicious attitude on the part of the owner only increases the Vet’s feeling of discomfort or inadequacy.   For whatever reason, if your Vet feels uncomfortable or even mildly fearful treating certain species his/her results will probably suffer. 
Whether a person has a positive or negative attitude towards animals is especially important when hiring someone to care for your animals such as a vet, a herdsman, a milker or a trainer. If a person is locked into a position dealing with livestock and is apathetic or has negative feelings toward his job, the animals will sense this and that person will probably never be a good herdsman or develop any intuitive healing skills.
I believe that almost everyone has an innate healing ability, but not all at the same level.  Some, such as horse whisperers and natural born healers have this gift at a very high degree.  Others may have this talent at lower but still very effective levels.  This ability will probably never surface if you do not believe in it or if you never have occasion to need it.  As with many skills, this one is enhanced by use. 
You must have as least a partial acceptance of the concept that a positive mental attitude can affect the health of your animals and you must have a positive expectation that you can develop this ability. 
You must eliminate all fear or negative attitudes towards your animals. It is well known that animals can detect fear in humans and will often take advantage of this fear by becoming more aggressive.  If you are fearful you will not be able to develop the rapport necessary for a healing touch. You must be at ease around animals and enjoy working with them. 
You must watch and study your animals as they relate to members of their own species. To the extent that you can mimic their intra-species body language they will be more comfortable in your presence and you in theirs.
You must establish a physical bond with your animals by grooming them, touching them and petting them as often as possible.
Above all else, to have “a way with animals” you must remember that “thoughts are things”!