Skeptophilia (skep-to-fil-i-a) (n.) - the love of logical thought, skepticism, and thinking critically. Being an exploration of the applications of skeptical thinking to the world at large, with periodic excursions into linguistics, music, politics, cryptozoology, and why people keep seeing the face of Jesus on grilled cheese sandwiches.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Canine crystals

Given the upsurge of woo-woo alternative medicine in the last thirty years or so, I suppose it was only a matter of time before people begin recommending this nonsense for pets.

This comes up because of an article a loyal reader of Skeptophilia sent me a couple of days ago.  It's from the website Dogs Naturally, and it's called "5 Healing Crystals to Help Your Dog."  Right in the opening paragraph, we hear about how important it is to keep your mind open about such things:
Shifting your thinking from conventional to natural can be freeing but at the same time overwhelming.  You’re opening up a whole new world of possibilities to wellness and healing.  Many healing modalities are pushed aside as being unscientific, unreliable, or ineffective, primarily because they are not embraced by conventional medicine or don’t have a long history of clinical trials.
Of course!  Who needs things like clinical trials?  Silly, silly medical researchers.

The thing is, it's not that I'm averse to suggestions with regards to pet care.  I have two dogs who certainly could use some help.  First, there's Grendel, who looks like a canine genetics experiment gone horribly wrong.  He appears to be the result of an unholy union between a pug and a German shepherd, with possibly a little bit of pit bull thrown in just to make things more interesting.

The guy who came up with the term "hang-dog expression" had Grendel in mind.  Grendel always has this forlorn look on his face, like he's in the depths of depression, or possibly simply wants more doggy kibble than we gave him and therefore has no option other than to ponder how unfair the universe is.

Then, on the other end of the spectrum, there's Lena.

Lena is eternally cheerful, never stops wagging her tail, and has the IQ of a prune.  This is the dog who stared at our Christmas tree for hours on end, over a period of about three weeks, because we'd put a stuffed toy at the top as a tree-topper, and her lone functioning brain cell decided it was a squirrel who was going to Do Something Interesting.  The fact that it never moved did not dissuade her in the least.  She was, I believe, absolutely convinced that she had to remain vigilant, because if her attention wavered for one second the stuffed toy was going to scamper down the tree and get away.

So you have to wonder what kind of crystals I could use for these two.  The article is clear that I should give it a try, though:
Crystals, just like herbs, flower essences, and essential oils have incredible effects on healing in the body.  Often not understood by conventional medicine practitioners, crystals are helpful tools to bring about balance and wellness, without concern of causing harm.
So that sounds promising.  But how will I know if I'm choosing the right crystal?  The author, Brenda Utzerath, has some concrete suggestions:
Introduce the crystal to your dog by holding it in your hand or placing it in front of him letting him smell and investigate.  Be careful he doesn’t take it in his mouth and try to eat it.
This would certainly be a possibility with Grendel, who is prone to eating anything that is even vaguely food-like.
Give him plenty of time to check out this new thing.  Watch for indications of interest like softening eyes that look as if he is in a daze or ready to fall asleep, moving a paw or rolling onto the crystal, drooling or dripping from the nose, and an overall sense of delight.  If he shows interest, set this crystal aside as a “yes.”  If he seems to be more interested in playing with the crystal or shows no interest at all set it aside as a “no” – at least for now.
The problem is, Grendel looks sleepy and sad pretty much all the time, and Lena expresses exuberant delight even when she's in the vet's office getting her rabies vaccination.  So I'm not sure that their reaction to a crystal would tell me all that much.

Be that as it may, we're then told that when the dog has selected the correct crystal, the best thing to do is to put it under his bed, or into a little pouch to hang from his collar.

As far as some good ones to try, Utzerath suggests clear quartz, amethyst, amber, black tourmaline, and selenite.  Selenite, for example, has "a very fine vibration" which means that it can be used to "clear confusion."  So that's probably the best one for Lena, for whom confusion is pretty much a state of being.  I'm thinking of amber for Grendel, because it's "calming and energizing," and brings "a sense of calm and positivity," which is certainly preferable to the existential angst he seems to suffer from most of the time.  We're also told that amber is good for "detoxifying your dog," a topic that is dealt with on a whole different webpage, wherein we find out about how Chemicals Are Bad.  We're told, for example, that vaccines contain mercury and aluminum that are "like a nuclear bomb hitting the nervous system."  We also learn that GMOs "damage virtually every organ," that all prescription drugs and agricultural chemicals are fat-soluble, and that everything from hypothyroidism to inflammation is caused by "toxins."

So all in all, I'd honestly prefer the crystals.  At least there's no mistaking the fact that crystal energies are unscientific bullshit.

My general reaction is that all things considered, my dogs are doing well enough.  They're both nine years old, and their last checkups resulted in a clean bill of health for both of them.  (Although Grendel could stand to lose some weight, which would be easier if he'd stop sneaking into the laundry room and snarfing up the cat's food.)  I'm guessing that any changes I'd see in their overall demeanor from waving amethyst crystals around would come from the fact that they'd think I was playing some weird new game with them, which would elicit enthusiastic and joyful tail-wagging from Lena, and Grendel's mood improving from "dejected" to "glum."

So I probably won't even run the experiment.  I'll wait until they come up with a modality for treating cats, because my 18-year-old decrepit cat Geronimo has a personality imported directly from the Ninth Circle of Hell, and it'd be interesting to see if there's anything we could do about that other than an exorcism.

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