Welcome to Cinnamondog, named for my Shetland Sheepdog, Sander. Like most dogs, Sander had a number of nicknames, and the nickname that I called him when I sang to him was “Cinnamondog.” Yep, as in, “I want to live with the Cinnamondog, I could be happy the rest of my life…” with apologies to Neil Young!
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Sander was an extraordinary, once-in-a-lifetime dog. Some people refer to those as “heart dogs,” to denote the special bond that exists between the dog and its human. I thought of him and referred to him as my companion. A dog-owning friend once told me that the word “companion” comes from Latin words that translate into “to share bread,” and Sander was always there for a bite of whatever meal I ate.
From the day I brought him home as a puppy, Sander and I adored each other and were inseparable. He and my other Sheltie, Briar Rose, went everywhere with me. I loved taking care of both of them and I believed that my choices regarding diet, vaccination, and veterinary care were informed and enlightened. Then, when Sander was seven, I noticed an odd lump on the roof of his mouth. The biopsy yielded a diagnosis of cancer. I was devastated.
Three weeks before that diagnosis, I had lost Briar Rose, who died at age 9 of complications from dermatomyositis. I know now that it’s more likely that Briar died from the treatment of her dermatomyositis, which consisted of Prednisone and more Prednisone, interspersed with repeated vaccinations for anything and everything. If I had known then what I know now, Briar’s life and death could have been very different.
But I didn’t learn much of what I now know until Sander’s cancer was found. At that point, I opted to spare him any surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation treatments. In early October 1998, the vet told me that Sander had only weeks or months to live, and I accepted that as a fact. With the aid of an experienced herbalist, I started improving Sander’s physical health so that he might get a few extra months, or at least have an easier death. I added dietary supplements to his regimen. I stopped vaccinating him and stopped using any pesticides to prevent heartworm or repel ticks and fleas. After six months passed and Sander didn’t die, I began feeding him, and my other Shelties, a natural, raw diet. I took him regularly for acupuncture treatments to relieve the discomfort of his arthritis; he had severe degenerative joint disease, which we identified at about the same time that the cancer was diagnosed. I found a wonderful chiropractor and kept regular appointments with him so that Sander could be adjusted. Sander had a course of hydrotherapy sessions that didn’t do much to improve his mobility, but lifted his spirits enormously. He loved walking on the treadmill in the heated pool.
Months turned into years. Years passed, Sander aged, his physical limitations from the arthritis became more apparent, but the cancer failed to defeat his immune system. The tumor in his mouth grew at a glacial pace. Veterinarians and oncologists were surprised, and told me that Sander was “a statistical anomaly.” Translated, that meant “something we can’t explain.” I had no trouble explaining it: Sander’s health was due to an excellent diet, nutritional support, chiropractic, the minimization of toxins in his environment, and love. My younger Shelties, who got modified versions of the same protocol, enjoyed robust health and were all but strangers to our veterinarian.
Sander died in early January 2006. He was five months short of his 15th birthday, and although he still had the malignant tumor in his mouth, he did not die of cancer. He died of liver failure and old age: he wore his body out. He died peacefully, happy and secure in the home and the love that had been his since the day the two of us saw each other in that pet store. I miss my Cinnamondog, but it is only his physical body that has gone. The love he gave, and the things I learned through him, still remain.
This website is my attempt to share a good deal of what I learned and how I learned it. This website is not a substitute for veterinary care, and the information here is an account of what worked for Sander, not a prescription for any other dogs.
It is impossible to overstate the improvement in the quality of Sander’s life that resulted from a natural diet and regular visits to a chiropractor. Although the veterinarians who knew Sander found the length of his life remarkable, what was truly wonderful was the quality of that life. Sander had fun, plain and simple. He enjoyed his life right up to the end. When the cancer was diagnosed, I made Sander a promise: that he would never be hurt, confused, or frightened by anything that he might undergo. I believe that I kept that promise to him.
And when Sander died, I made him another promise: that I would not waste what I learned from him. This website is the beginning of my attempt to keep that promise to Sander, my companion, the Cinnamondog.
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