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The Tardy Blogger: In Which Dr. Salewski Relates His Latest Goings On

I know, I know. Seems like I fell off the edge of the world, it's been so long between entries. But I have an excuse, I swear.

Winter is supposed to be the slow time for vets, especially those of us who work on a lot of horses, but, amazingly enough time has been at a premium in early 2011. Daniel, my oldest, played basketball for his school (and was nicknamed "Bullet" by the coaches). My youngest, Colin, had a birthday in February, which not only involved a trip to the
Oregon Coast Aquarium, it was the perfect excuse for Lynne to make the best Devil's Food Cake on the planet (the secret ingredient is beets). And of course, tax season approaches. So what?, you might say. I have children, I have work to do, I have taxes to work on and my only pleasure in life is reading Written In Hindsight. To which I reply: well, really, shouldn't you be getting out more? Regardless, I was able to get back to it this week and will use the time to catch y'all up on some of the recent highlights here at the practice.

A Trip to UC-Davis

This happened last week, but obviously took some time to prepare for. A few months ago I was asked to be one of the speakers at the UCD Veterinary College annual Holistic Veterinary Symposium, which is open to both veterinary professionals and the public. I had a Powerpoint (well, a Keynote, the vastly superior Mac version) entitled Performance: Strategies for Animal Athletes, which I had given before and thought might be appropriate. Had aspirations of posting the presentation here, but it's a two-hour talk, and thought a summary of the main points might work better.

The idea behind this lecture is to define "performance" and follow up with discussion on various holistic/complementary modalities as they apply to this definition. In the dictionary, performance, at least in the context of this talk, is defined as "an action, task, or operation, seen in terms of how successfully it was performed". Of course, success is going to be seen differently by different people. It might mean a blue ribbon to some, or getting through a course without penalty to others. Heck, it might be as simple as staying in the saddle for the whole ride. Point is, in my opinion there are three main factors influencing performance: movement, pain, and behavior. (Wonder if I can trademark something like The Performance Triumvirate? Hmmm, have to file that under Pretentious Ideas I'll Never Work On)

The lecture goes on to discuss therapies. Under movement, chiropractic, bodywork, and rehabilitative/physical therapies are put forth as the best option to optimize movement. Chiropractic frees up movement in the joints of the spine; massage releases restrictions in soft tissue; Physical therapy restores range of motion, neurologic health, and condition; especially following injury or surgery.

In animals with pain, all those above therapies can be utilized, but so can traditional Chinese veterinary medicine and homeopathy. TCVM holds that blockage of the channels, or meridians, is the mechanism that leads to pain. This blockage can be removed, most famously by acupuncture, but also with herbal formulas and tui-na, a type of Chinese massage. Homeopathy takes a different approach, using the energetics of very dilute remedies to allow the body to heal itself.

Behavior, in particular fear and aggression, are not generally treated effectively with the manipulative therapies. Acupuncture and homeopathy can have a place in altering behavior, but the botanicals really shine in this area. This includes Chinese herbal formulas, which work to balance the
Shen, or spirit; Bach flower remedies that dispel negative emotional states and aromatherapy, which affects the brain via the limbic system. Of course other herbal systems like Ayurvedic medicine and the North American herbs offer plant-sourced behavioral modification, like ashwagandha or valerian root.

Th essence of this talk was to give the attendees a different perspective on performance; looking at how what might be considered minor issues--a little stiffness here, a little anxiety there, can mean the difference between being in or out of the ribbons. An animal may still be able to go in the ring and do the job, but by having a good game plan we can optimize the chance of success.

Fingers To The Bone

More than a few people have been asking about my writing lately; and not just scolding about the dearth of blog entries. Mostly it's been about the sequel to my last novel, Barn Politics, and when that might be finished. Well, I'm happy to report that I've been getting a lot of writing done recently. Unfortunately, this has not taken the form of fiction writing. Jordan Pascoe and his latest adventure will take a back seat and remain in outline form for the time being.

The last few months
Dr. Signe Beebe and I have put the finishing touches on Veterinary Applications of Chinese Herbal Formulas, a comprehensive textbook on the topic that has taken years to put together. We expect this work to be published within the next few months. That sounds like plenty of free time for fiction, eh? Well, about the time Veterinary Applications was nearing completion I was approached by a British publisher about putting an equine chiropractic book together. This, as many of you know, is a subject dear to my heart. I'm being given a very lose rein (rimshot please) for this project, meaning it will be geared more toward horse-people than veterinarians and I'll be able to write in my casual smart-ass style. The other good thing is a tight deadline, meaning I should be able to get back to that sequel by the end of summer.

A Little Audio

Last month Megan Ayrault at All About Animal Massage interviewed me for some online training classes offered on her website. MP3 files of those interviews are below:

Equine Back Pain:

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Canine Hip issues:

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Hope that's enough to keep everyone entertained for a bit!
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Rose City Classic

Not really a blog as such, just some photos from the Rose City Classic Dog Show

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Story Time: Twas A Week Before Christmas

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Forgive me for pulling out another Alaska-themed tale, but the timing for this one is perfect: this time of year nineteen years ago I made my move west and north and it makes for a pretty good story.

Fresh-faced, black-haired, and naive, the wanderlust I spoke of in a previous post had taken hold and I accepted a job offer in Chugiak, which is outside of Anchorage. Preparations included getting Lynne's Jeep Grand Cherokee tuned up and having the transmission replaced. The West Virginia inbred who repaired the car installed the wrong transfer case and I had no four-wheel drive the entire trip, though was blissfully ignorant of this fact for most of it. Front seats were moved all the way forward to allow the back of the car to be filled with various possessions (mostly milk crates stuffed with books, if I recall), forcing me to drive knees to chest across the continent. A plastic clam-shell secured to the roof filled with what wouldn't fit inside added aerodynamic style. To save money, of which I had little, the passenger seat held a cooler packed with trail mix and jerky. My gastrointestinal system still holds a grudge over
that decision. For entertainment, my buddy Gary gave me a stack of cassette tapes of various comedians--Gary Shandling, Robin Williams, Robert Klein--invaluable during those long stretches where the only radio signal was from some Children-Of-The-Corn community in the American outback. Gary would continue to abate my homesickness by sending tapes of the Howard Stern Show to Chugiak. That my friends, is a true friend. My last act before leaving was to put an engagement ring on Lynne's finger. To this day I'm unsure if this was a gesture of commitment or a male marking his territory. Either way, it was apparently the right move because I've somehow managed to hold onto that little jewel ever since.

Day 1: Fairfax, VA to Altus, OK (1,456 miles)
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Coffee is a miracle. A full 24 hours of driving the first day. True, I was fueled by excitement as well as caffeine, but it still made for a long first leg. Looking at a map, you'll notice that this is not the straightest distance between two points. There was a method to this madness. My friend Matt worked for the Air Force at Altus and had a free place to crash and grab a meal or two (did I mention how small my travel budget was?). In the end, I spent most of my time there in bed, moving on shortly after waking, but his was the last familiar face I'd see for almost a year.

Day 2: Altus, OK to Salt Lake City, UT (1,045 miles)
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Aside from a free night's stay, going through Oklahoma also set me up to cross the Rockies near Albuquerque, something I thought might be best in late December. As it turned out, I hit an ice-storm in the Texas panhandle and drove through a fog in Utah that turned to ice on the windshield faster than the defroster could melt it. I drove a winding canyon road hunched over, navigating through the clear spot just over the defroster vent. When I finally found a cheap dive of a hotel on the outskirts of Salt Lake I was exhausted. I hated spending money on a room I would only be in for about six hours, but it was way too cold to chance sleeping in the car.

Day 3: Salt lake City, UT to Bellingham, WA (924 miles)
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Woohoo! A sub-thousand mile day! I was in a groove now. My ass was conforming to the car seat (or vise-versa) and the miles seemed to fly by. Things got interesting going over
Snoqualmie Pass in Washington. See, to this Virginia boy, the word "pass" conjures up visions of a low spot in the mountains where cars can pass freely in all seasons. The concept that a pass might actually close due to weather was beyond me. My AAA TripTik had no elevation markings, just a blue-highlighted I-90 that seemed to shout "clear sailing, by Jove that's a pass up ahead". I found myself in a blizzard, semis splattering my windshield with dirty snow. Cleaning fluid ran dry. It was then, trying in vain to see lane lines through a muddy smear, I realized, not for the last time, that I might be in a bit over my head.

Fortunately, on the other side of the pass snow turned to rain, which allowed for better visibility and a chance to get off the highway and replenish my washer fluid. From there it was a wet, but easy drive to Bellingham. The next day I would be headed over the Canadian border for my date with the AlCan Highway.

Day 4: Bellingham, WA to Dawson's Creek, British Columbia, Canada (722 miles)
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Slept in for the first time and was well rested crossing the border, with more than a few suspicious looks from the officers there. Sure, I
said I was moving to Alaska, but I had a car packed to the roof with all my stuff. Who would know if decided to find myself a cozy little town in the interior and become a Canuck? The drive on this stretch was not as easy going and fast, but the British Columbia scenery was fantastic, and I started to see the first wildlife of the trip, stopping to let a herd of Bighorn Sheep cross the road. (the pictures here were taken with a disposable camera almost two decades ago and scanned, so no cracks about the photography!). Across Canada I would see caribou, moose, bison, fox, lynx, and even a lone wolf on or along the road. There are definite benefits to driving dawn to dusk with almost no traffic on the road.

Day 5: Dawson's Creek, BC to Watson Lake, Yukon Territory, Canada (967 miles)
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Getting pretty far north now and the scenery was white and desolate, but no less beautiful for it. The road was now a line of packed snow and the distances between services so long I had to consult my Milepost to be sure I didn't pass up a chance for gas and get stranded in the Yukon like some character out of a Jack London story. The trip was wearing on me now, no doubt about it. The lack of sleep, the poor food, the concentration of driving on snow. You can hear a stand-up routine only so many times before the jokes get old (the official number is three, like a Tootsie Pop). By now I had figured out that there was something going on with the four-wheel drive. I had slid off the road, trying to stop too quickly to get a picture of a moose (by the end of the trip, seeing moose was such a common occurrence it barely raised an eyebrow) and had to get towed off the shoulder and back onto the road by some helpful locals. The Jeep wasn't in deep snow, so this was surprising, but i wasn't about to stop and try to figure it out--not that I could have done anything about it anyway. Future wildlife sightings were handled with much less enthusiasm--stopping in the middle of the "highway" was not an issue when you rarely saw half a dozen other cars in a day anyway!

Day 6: Watson Lake, Yukon Territory to Tok, Alaska (1,058 miles)
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USA! USA! Christmas Eve spent on a fourteen-hour marathon drive just so I could get across the border. I was able to find one hotel still open in Tok (it might have been the
only hotel in Tok, now that I think about it). The room had no phone, only a small tv with antenna reception. In the cliche of cliches, on the one grainy channel that was viewable, the thing playing when I checked in was--you guessed it--It's A Wonderful Life. I called both Lynne and my family collect from the phone booth in the parking lot, shivering so badly from cold I cut both conversations short and ran back to the warmth of the hotel. My room was tiny and dirty and I slept fully clothed on top of the threadbare comforter. I was very depressed and lay there wondering if I had made a terrible decision.

Day 6.5: Tok, AK to Chugiak, AK (303 miles)
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Morning didn't start out much better. It almost didn't start at all. The first turn of the key produced a weak "rrrrrroww" sound under the hood. Ugh. Of course. Too cold for the engine block. Second try: "rrrrrrow". On the fifth it started, I breathed a sigh of relief and was on my last, short sprint to the end. I had some money in my pocket and treated myself to a Christmas breakfast at a diner along the way. As is typical throughout the state, portions are of a size befitting Alaska itself and I gorged on pancakes, eggs and sausage. It was a cold, clear, gorgeous day and between the weather and the food, my dark mood lifted away. I sat at the counter next to a trapper. No, I mean it. An honest to God guy who made his living setting a trap line and checking it every day on his snowmobile. No electricity at the house except via gas generator which they fired up on Christmas to light the tree. Fascinating to talk with and the conversation renewed the sense of wonder this adventure had produced at the beginning. I pulled into my new job late in the afternoon, 6000-plus miles and a week after leaving Virginia. What more could a boy ask of Christmas?

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Celebrating Hallowine


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Forget Snickers, Smarties, and the dreaded penny from that lame house around the corner; it's harvest time!

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Lynne and I were invited to a friend's vineyard, Two Barns Farm, to help with the harvest today, a Tom Sawyer-esque bargain we were only too happy to take advantage of. The rains have come to the Pacific Northwest, but thankfully gave us a break this morning. It was cool and foggy, giving the grapes a sparkling cover of dew when the sun broke through. Pinot was taken off the vine last week; today was Riesling.

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Having never experienced a grape harvest we were coached on using our shears to snip the plump, sweet clusters from the vine, carefully checking for mold before dumping them in our buckets. from there we wiped our sticky, juice-covered hands and transferred our bounty to the FYBs, or "F'n Yellow Bins", so called because they will only stack properly in one direction, which ultimately, is always the second direction you try to place them in.
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After another sort for mold it was to the barn where the FYBs were weighed and put through the crusher; stems separated and the remaining slop went to the linen-lined press.

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From the press, the juice (tasting strongly of apples and sweet enough to induce diabetes right there on the spot) was poured into containers to ferment and go from grape juice to pure awesomeness. (well really, is there any other way to describe the result?)

Such a great experience to help with the process in person. Unfortunately, we missed going back into the vineyard for a run of Chardonnay because we had to get back home to make sure our own little demons got to have their fun as well.

Sheesh, who do they think this holiday is for anyway?
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Western States Regional Sheepdog Herding Championships

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McMinnville is right in our backyard, so we took the opportunity to go to this trial and see some of the final rounds. What a job these dogs do! This was a
"double-lift" gather, meaning the dog had to collect two different groups of ten sheep, each group about six hundred yards from the handler. After that, the entire small flock is driven through two gate obstacles then into a ring, or "shed" where five collared sheep need to be separated from the rest and then driven to a pen. This is extremely challenging, even for the best dogs and it was a real privilege to be able to watch them this weekend. Pictures are worth more than words, so here are a few I was able to capture at the event.


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Carnies, Coasters, and Corndogs--Oh My!

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It's fair season all across America and Oregon is no exception. I never experienced fairs growing up, perhaps it was the insulation of military bases, or being in more metropolitan areas, but once Lynne and I moved west we always made an annual pilgrimage to the Evergreen State Fair and this year continued the tradition in the Beaver State.

The Oregon State fair is held in
Salem, the state capital and a shy hour's drive from the house. Our good friend Mark, family-less while his wife and kids are visiting relatives, piled into the back seat with the boys and came along. Hard to tell which of the three enjoy fart humor more.

Is anything more quintessentially American than a state fair? Don't dare say Disneyland--Michigan holds the honor of holding the first state fair in 1849, fifty-two years before Walt was even born and century before Charlotte saved Wilbur with her own writings on the web. The fair showcases everything good and bad about the US--from entrepreneurship to obesity--but most of all it's just a heckuva good time.

First we had to get there. For the last mile or so it was a crawl, bumper-to-bumper traffic to get in the gate and to our parking space at the farthest reaches of the fairgrounds. And no charge for parking. How did the fair miss
that opportunity to make a buck?

Oh, the food! It is impossible, and should probably be illegal, to go to the fair and stick to a reasonable dietary regimen. Look, don't whine at me, you can always bump up your insulin by a couple of units, and God invented cardiovascular surgeons for a purpose.

Ice cream, scones, elephant ears and their super-sized cousin the mammoth ear, corn dogs, popcorn. If it can be put on a stick you can find it at the fair. If it can be deep fried, (never mind if it should) it will be. They were selling fried Pepsi, who even thought of that? And in this great melting pot of ours if you don't want hamburgers, hotdogs or barbeque, you can get Greek, Mexican, Thai, Indian, Chinese, Polish, German, Italian. Really, shouldn't that be the barometer for getting into this country: is your food good? Then come on in! My apologies to the English and Irish--but you had first dibs, and anyway, you get a pass for beer and whiskey.

To truly enjoy this smorgasbord it helps to ignore the migraine-inducing prices. When the kids each got a one-flavor sno-cone for $3.50 apiece I had to suppress the urge to ask someone how anyone could justify three-fiddy for a cup of ice and high fructose corn syrup. I shut up, took pleasure in the smile on my kid's faces, and thought about how much we had saved by not paying five bucks for the ultra-posh three-flavor version.

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The exhibitions were also a blast. I'm not talking about the booths of people hawking Seen-On-TV stuff, though they are fun to watch, little Billy Mayses in the making. I'm talking about the original spirit of the fair: craftsmen and farmers showing off their wares, 4H kids buffing their cow to a fine shine, church-ladies vying for the blue ribbon for best plum preserves. My youngest, Colin, a Legomaniac if ever there was one, loved the display of Lego creations, especially the 1/3 scale model of a Pac-Man arcade game. I liked the cakes, in particular a fondant masterpiece with a Taj Mahal-esque flavor. Seeing this cake next to a less, shall we say "unambitious" creation, Mark pointed to a purple onion dome and said, "wouldn't it suck to see that come in and get plopped down next to yours?" Hey, there's always next year, right?

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The fairgounds in Salem have some great buildings, most especially the Oregon State Fair Stadium and Poultry Building Ensemble, which is on the National Register of Historic Places. Wandering through, we came across a few young 4H-ers showing their lambs--shorn and cleaner than either of my two sons--and learning the finer points of sheep conformation.
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The logger competition was being filmed by ESPN and next door Stihl had an exhibition where you got to try your hand and sawing a simulated round off the end of a log. Think I'll stick to veterinary medicine.




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The fair is fertile ground for people watching as well. I heard Spanish, Russian, and Japanese being spoken and saw more ethnic groups than that. Tattoos abounded as did outfits worn by both women and men that should have know better. I'll give the elderly lady in denim shorts, black panty-hose, and sneakers a pass, but just barely. I have less patience for all the dudes in Ed Hardy tee shirts. Really? I may be middle-aged but I can remember the day when it seemed everybody was wearing a black shirt with the Jack Daniels label. Know what time that was? Time to get a new look. And ladies? The slutty biker-chick look is fine, in fact I heartily endorse it--if you can pull it off. Word to the wise: if your skin has more creases than your leather and that butterfly tattoo is starting to look like a California condor, you are definitely not pulling it off.

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Of course the boys are there for the rides, and ride they did. Colin is finally tall and brave enough to ride what was called the Ring of Fire in Monroe, and Super Loops in Salem. Watching his expression transform from nervous to joy is one of those experiences that makes being a parent fun.

Heading back to the car when you can no longer see the lights, no longer inhale the smells, you can still hear the fair. The clatter of the rides, the chatter of the barker, snippets of foreign tongues, screams, laughter, and music all blending together to form a soundtrack of America.


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