I’m the proud owner of two chocolate Labs and these dogs are a part of our family unit. They come with us on trips, are always there to listen and cheer up the kids, and keep us outdoors and active. They are lovable happy dogs…Do you have any pets? Are they a big part of your life? Tweet me and let me know.
Keeping our pets healthy and happy is an important topic.
I had the chance to sit down with Susan Blake Davis, well known Orange County based Pet Nutritionist, founder and president of AskAriel.com and Ariel Rescue Inc., a nonprofit 501(c)(3) charitable organization dedicated to helping animals. Susan’s specialty is also holistic, natural care, a topic that deserves more attention.
Here’s a recap of our chat:
Bryan: How did you get started in this important work?
Susan: For as long as I can remember, I have always loved animals. I had a Dalmation and a pet chicken growing up. Through all stages of my professional career, I was always looking to incorporate my passion for animals into my work but I could never find a good fit. My professional training was in business and psychology and for many years I worked in middle management corporate positions. I always felt a void that I wasn’t achieving my true potential. Moreover, I didn’t believe the jobs I held, no matter how prestigious, were enabling me to fulfill my personal dream to help animals and in some small way, make the world a better place.
When I got my first house, the first thing I did was get a dog. We named our husky/shepherd mix Ariel. She taught me how precious one dog’s life was. In 1999, I decided that I wanted to give back to the community in the name of my beautiful dog who had taught me so much. I wasn’t quite sure what was the best way to volunteer, so I went to a number of different animal groups in an effort to find an opportunity where my talents were best suited. I volunteered on a marketing committee at the Orange County Animal Shelter to try to help them find more homes for the shelter pets.
It was heartbreaking for me to visit the shelter as so many of these wonderful pets were being euthanized because of the high volume of animals coming in. (This was before the Internet which has made a tremendous difference because now potential adopters and rescuers can be informed about available dogs and cats.) What bothered me most, was that in many ways, the pets were being blamed for their unfortunate situation and labeled as having “something wrong with them” when in fact, the only thing wrong was their owner’s negligence.
I decided I had to do something to help and started by rescuing one dog and trying to find a home for it. My plan worked! I was a corporate professional during the day and a dog rescuer at night. I would drive into some of the poorest neighborhoods saving the lives of dogs that didn’t deserve to be in a high kill shelter. My family eagerly participated and we all helped to foster and care for these wonderful dogs. One dog successfully adopted after another led to me form a grassroots nonprofit called Ariel Rescue, Inc, an organization of volunteers that has rescued and saved over 1,500 dogs and still continues to sit rain or shine in front of PETsMART in Aliso Viejo every Saturday afternoon.
Some of the dogs had health problems such as diarrhea or skin problems that made them hard to place. Sometimes the dogs were even at the shelters because their owners didn’t want to deal with the health problem. Even though our charity would take the dogs to good veterinarians, the dogs would still have health challenges. I was very involved with holistic care myself and started to research what could be done to help animals using the same principles. What I discovered was amazing……basic changes in diets and a few supplements could turn the dog’s life around! We even once had someone look at a dog for adoption saying “I can’t take that dog, my last dog had skin problems” only to come back two weeks later and then comment on how nice the dog’s coat looked. The holistic care made an immediate difference in the life or death of a shelter pet.
A few years later, my beloved Ariel was diagnosed with a fatal condition: kidney failure. The conventional veterinary treatments for kidney disease were very limited and I had to try to save her life. I did an enormous amount of research and developed my own diets for her, going weekly to my veterinarian for laboratory testing to assess the effects the food and supplements had on her kidneys. What was remarkable was that Ariel rebounded. She went on to live past her 14th birthday and maintained a good quality of life even with kidney problems.
I realized I had found “my calling”. I approached Dr. David Gordon, holistic veterinarian at VCA in Lake Forest about my idea to become a pet nutritionist and he encouraged me to pursue it. I left my corporate position, went back to school, gained hands-on veterinary knowledge and established my practice slowly over a few years.
Bryan: What can pet owners do better for their pets?
Susan: The saddest and most frustrating issue to me is that many people wait to schedule an appointment until their pet is near death. Holistic care takes time to work and it can be too little too late. The best way to help your pet with holistic care is to get your pet on the best diet and use a few preventative supplements such as fish oil and probiotics BEFORE the pet gets sick. Also, getting annual laboratory testing (not just a vet exam) is extremely important. Pets often hide their illnesses and getting a routine blood and urine test along with an exam from your veterinarian can often add years to their lives. If a problem is discovered, pet owners should be proactive about helping their pet immediately instead of waiting for it to get worse.
Here is an example: Protecting your pet’s joints and mobility. Why wait until your dog’s mobility is impaired and your dog is limping from arthritis? Take preventative measures before your dog has joint problems and give them natural joint support vitamins and fish oil to help keep them going strong later in life.
Bryan: What inspires you to carry on this important work?
Susan: What inspires me is when I know I have helped a pet to feel better. Many clients who come to me have practically given up all hope and are extremely frustrated. If I don’t think there is anything I can do, I will let the pet owner know upfront. This is usually the case when the pet owner has waited too long and the pet is too far gone. But, most of the time, this is not the case—they just need to take a new approach. Receiving a testimonial from a happy pet owner that their pet finally got better makes my day!
In addition, I am very inspired by the amazing rescue stories that have occurred in this current economy. There are many volunteers, not only in my nonprofit organization Ariel Rescue, but throughout the United States who have dedicated themselves to helping save the lives of homeless animals. The euthanasia rate is very high right now due to the number of people affected by the economy. Many animals have suffered and some have been terribly abused and neglected. I am always inspired by learning about rescued pets and volunteers that continue to thrive and make lemonade out of lemons.
One great example is the selfless dedication of the woman who saved my dog Bleu. Bleu was a gorgeous white purebred Siberian Husky who was purchased from a breeder and then dropped off at the shelter by his owner when they were moving. They advised the Lancaster shelter not to put him up for adoption (he was only a year old) because he had a pancreatic disorder with constant diarrhea. Thus, his only chance, by law, was to be picked up by a rescuer within 48 hours or be euthanized. Volunteer Rhonda Hallden of Husky Haven (www.huskyhavenofla.org) was leaving to go out of town but rushed to save him from the shelter. Bleu was hard to place because of his digestive problems but Rhonda kept him for 3 years waiting and hoping that someone who “wouldn’t mind the extra care giving him his special food and enzymes: would come along. There are so many healthy pets at the shelter and for someone to spend the effort and money on a sick dog, truly inspired me. My other dog Legend was rescued by another good Samaritan who drives into Mexico every weekend to save cats and dogs that would otherwise perish.
Thanks for reading and staying connected!