Guest Contributor—Maureen Keenan, JD, MAT Owner, Lead Behaviorist Downward Dog Canine Transformation. Maureen provides rehabilitation services and obedience training for dog owners and rescue groups throughout Eastern Carolina. As a non-profit executive for many years, Maureen left her position in order to rehabilitate and train dogs full time. She trained under Cesar Millan (“The Dog Whisperer”) and expanded her education under the guidance of several trainers across the country, including Lucas Agnew, Inc. and others.
I feel compelled to start by saying that I am not a veterinary professional. I have no medical expertise of any kind. I am a dog behavior expert and a typical dog owner who would do anything to protect my dogs and keep them healthy and happy. I have had dogs my entire life, but it was not until 2014, not long after our beloved collie mix Macy had a near fatal experience, that my dogs’ nutrition became a focus of my dog-loving life.
Macy is momma dog type of girl. We took her as a foster from a municipal shelter the week before she gave birth to 9 robust puppies. She was a great mother. She is an equally great friend, to me and Deb and to our three other dogs. She is a role model for my client dogs, and often steps in to provide calm assurance to my anxiety rehab cases. Macy is smart and funny. With some herder DNA, she is prone to nip for attention and to talk and “whisper bark” at us if we are not paying attention. She is the kind of dog who is so smart and endearing that you would swear she has a sense of humor. She is simply wonderful.
So, when Macy suddenly developed severe symptoms of diarrhea, vomiting, dehydration, and lethargy, with a distended and painful abdomen and fever, we were terrified. She almost did not survive. She was hospitalized for days and eventually diagnosed with pancreatitis. We are forever grateful to the veterinarians and staff who saved her life.
Her recovery was slow, and we were tremendously careful to follow the strict orders to feed her only Royal Canine ID and nothing else. No treats, no homemade food, no exceptions. We were told that if we did not keep Macy on this strict and limited diet for the rest of her life, that her pancreatitis would return, and she may not survive. At that time, our fear prevented us from asking questions or exploring options. We just bought our Royal Canine and stuck to the plan.
As the months went by with Macy’s interest in food lukewarm and her energy levels somewhat low, we crossed paths through our dog rescue with some folks who were bringing healthy, holistic and organic pet food options to our hometown of Louisville, KY. The woman leading this effort to transform pet owner awareness about nutrition, Kim, also happened to have a pancreatic dog and she and her boy, Otto, had been down the same path we were on with Macy.
As our conversations progressed about our dogs, we expressed our concerns about Macy’s overall well-being with her nutritional consumption limited to a food that was not only devised in a laboratory, but also consisted of things like corn, soy, beet pulp and animal by-products. While our trusted veterinarians seemed to feel more secure about the prescription food, they did not see Macy’s energy dim and her enthusiasm fade about food, play, walks, etc. She was free of pancreatic symptoms for those months while she ate only her prescription food. There is no doubt about that – the prescription food prevented symptoms. But she was consuming so much unhealthy material and we worried about how that would affect her health and quality of life. We did not want to trade one evil for another evil that just chipped away at Macy more slowly.
Kim shared with us her journey with Otto, one that took him from prescription food to a balanced raw diet with a complete disappearance of Otto’s pancreatitis. We met Otto and saw a happy, active and robust dog. We owed it to Macy to educate ourselves and to take responsibility for her health, her whole health. So, our research began. We read everything we could find. We talked to people with years of experience in different types of raw diets and we studied the diet and products offered by Answers. Our friend, Kim, used Answers and praised not only the quality and healthfulness of their products, but also the company’s value systems and prioritizing of animal health, small business, local sourcing and so much more. We studied until we knew that it was time to act for Macy.
In 2014, we spent four months transitioning Macy from her prescription kibble to Answer’s Detailed Beef, supplemented by goats milk and fish stock. The transparency of Answers product and practice made it easy for us to take control of the fat that Macy consumed while also providing her with a balanced and healthy source diet. At the end of the four months, Macy had no symptoms of pancreatitis and she was dancing for her food again. She could not wait to eat, and her overall energy increased noticeably. Her playful nature returned, and walks became a pleasure again. We had our girl back in full form. Macy was again sassy and happy.
Once she was on a full Answers raw diet, we kept a very close eye on her with daily observation for any signs of belly issues. We were prepared to act at the first sign of problems. But months went by, then years, and Macy was the picture of health. Her teeth improved, her muscle tone improved, and she ate with the enthusiasm of a puppy.
Here we are now in 2020. Macy’s health has been outstanding since we moved her to Answers, without any sign of pancreatitis since her diagnosis. We have even been able to expand Macy’s diet to healthy treats in addition to her meals and supplements. At a recent vet visit, we were having some lumps on Macy checked because she is an old lumpy girl now. All lumps were cleared as benign. Because we are those dog owners, we decided to have the vet do an ultrasound just to know how Macy’s organs are doing and whether she had any internal masses. The vet returned with Macy after the ultrasound and expressed surprise and delight at the pristine condition of all her organs. He said that she could not be in better shape internally.
Macy is at least 15 years old now, and while her joints may ache and her back legs may be getting weak, she is full of life and joy. We are certain that we still have Macy today because of the quality of her nutrition. It is the reason for her longevity and for the superior quality of her life. All of our dogs are following in Macy’s footsteps, and every dog who comes along in the future will be an Answers dog.
About the author: Maureen Keenan, JD, MAT, Owner, Lead Behaviorist Downward Dog Canine Transformation. Maureen owns Downward Dog Canine Transformation in Emerald Isle, NC where she provides rehabilitation services and obedience training for dog owners and rescue groups throughout Eastern Carolina. Before moving to North Carolina, Maureen founded Saving Sunny, Inc., a rescue that prioritizes Pitbull-type dogs, as well as services to underserved and low-income communities in Louisville, KY. For nearly 10 years she volunteered for Saving Sunny as a Board Member and as the leader of their behavior program, which rehabilitated shelter dogs to improve their adoptability. Maureen also provided free behavior services on behalf of Saving Sunny to low income families to help prevent the need to surrender dogs to shelters for behavioral issues. During her tenure with Saving Sunny, Maureen decided to leave her career as a non-profit executive in order to rehabilitate and train dogs full time. She trained under Cesar Millan (“The Dog Whisperer”) and expanded her education under the guidance of several trainers across the country, including Lucas Agnew, Inc. and others, before starting Downward Dog Canine Transformation. Maureen is a member of the International Association of Canine Professionals (IACP).