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Two fat Cheshire cats lie passed out on the pleather couches in the waiting room. Like a feline Cheech and Chong, they barely lift their heads when I enter with my dog, who would like to eat them. We are all here to see Dr. Roger Valentine, the holistic pet allergist at Whole World Pet in Santa Monica.
He is going to show me how he treats dogs for smog allergies, using my pit mix, named Stevie (as in Nicks), as a mock patient. Valentine bears an uncanny resemblance to David Carradine (especially as Bill in Kill Bill). Even his voice swaggers as he explains that about 50 percent of pets are kept indoors, where a variety of pollutants can affect them, for example, the “gassing” of couches and mattresses. I had no idea couches passed gas, but in the event of untimely flatulence, it’s good to know you can blame the furniture.
In the case of smog, it’s the other 50 percent that we’re concerned about: the dogs and cats that stay out all day, especially those that live near densely polluted areas. Valentine claims to have 10,000 patients and says he was a “hardcore” Western-medicine doctor after graduating with a veterinary degree from Ohio State University. It wasn’t until he moved “out here” from Boston that he found alternative medicine and a method called NAET, or Nambudripad’s Allergy Elimination Techniques, named after its inventor, Dr. Devi S. Nambudripad. (Dr. N, while working on her doctorate at Samra University of Oriental Medicine in Los Angeles, discovered that people with allergies responded favorably to acupuncture and acupressure, and devised a method to combine them.) Valentine says he’s the only veterinarian in Los Angeles who treats pets using NAET.
But Stevie would have to wait. Pet owners “create a confused energy space for the animal” and need to be treated first. Valentine opens his briefcase, revealing more than a dozen small red binders, and pulls out “Emotional Test Kit 1.” Lining the inside are about 20 small vials filled with a clear liquid, each one marked with a different trait. Holding my extended arm in his hand, he glides his free hand over the vials “self-esteem” and “co-dependence” and stops at “meanness.” I’m instructed to hold the vial, and my free arm is “pumped” — where it goes weak, truth is revealed. Valentine says someone was mean to me when I was 4 years, 3 months old. He takes out a geisha hair ornament and places it on the back of my head, closes his eyes, and, with a few deep, rather creepy breaths, I am cured. “It has left your cellular memory,” he declares.
And now the dog can be diagnosed and treated. I act as surrogate and hold Stevie by the collar, while my arm is pumped again like a waterspout of yore. To get an accurate reading for smog, he used to just take the pet outside and then apply a geisha stick to its head. He says “there is nothing in the vials but water and alcohol,” but a few years ago, some scientists figured out how to re-create electric charges released by the brain in response to illness and emotion and use “some hardware device” to imprint the vials with it. The cost of this painless and confusing treatment varies. The average for a dog is $1,000.
Now, while this treatment doesn’t sound all that sound to me, studies have been done on dogs, to test for the effects of smog. There have been 19 studies done since 1957 on long-term canine exposure to ambient air pollutants. All of the tests concluded that exposure to high levels of nitrogen dioxide, ozone and sulfur dioxide results in lesions. And, as in humans, the effects are irreversible.
Given the import of those studies, I thought I should see what Western medicine had to say on the subject. Dr. Barry Baum of Center-Sinai Veterinary Hospital said that while it’s hard to diagnose lesions on the lungs as smog-related, there are warning signs. Ever see your dog scratching himself silly, biting and chewing in areas until there are bald spots? That’s a topical allergy; it may be related to air pollution or dust particles. Eyes get mucky and swollen with conjunctivitis; this, too, is an allergy that could be smog-related. If your dog is out of breath on a short hike, or if he’s coughing, wheezing or sounds congested, it could be the toxins in the air. “I treat them with prednisone, or antihistamines, but the best idea,” Baum says, “is to use common sense — when there’s a smog alert, don’t take your dog for a run in the park. You shouldn’t be running in the park, and neither should your pet.” Okay, but what can you do for meanness?