Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Book Review: Head to Tail (dogs, cats, alternative medicine)

Head to Tail Wellness: western* veterinary medicine meets eastern wisdom, by stacy fuchino [sic] (Howell Book House [Wiley], 248 pages, 2010, $19.99)

Balance is the Theme

How intriguing! The cover (right) shows the ancient yin-yang symbol**  superimposed with a sitting dog silhouette looking leftward and a white cat in front of the dog looking out at the reader. Yin and yang represent the balance among mind, body and environment as well as movement, interconnection and interdependence – worthy concepts all.

Purposeful Petting

Filled with plenty of case histories of both dogs and cats (thank goodness, cats get equal billing), Head to Tail nevertheless does not convince this scientist and natural skeptic to convert. I had agreed to review Head to Tail for the publisher primarily because, as a canine massage instructor, Chapter Two appealed to me: Evaluating Pet Wellness through Purposeful Petting. I love the term, purposeful petting, and plan to incorporate it into my massage sessions! However, this chapter is circular and doesn’t really say anything substantial, much like the rest of the book.

Convince me!

As a scientist, I am not a proponent of unsubstantiated methods but am open to all ideas: if I can be convinced of something I previously did not believe, the argument is indeed outstanding and will sway me to the other side (that is what null hypothesis testing is all about). The author does not make an outstanding argument for eastern wisdom in this reviewer's opinion.

Do You Have a Fire Dog, or an Earth Cat?

Head to Tail is well-organized and focuses on the five ‘kinds’ of pets: the fire pet, the wood pet, the water pet, the earth pet, and the metal pet. These terms refer to temperament and Fuchino discusses their characteristics and traits, and the issues that are common to them as well as the solutions to those problems. Case histories abound and cats are given equal attention.

However, . . .

Head to Tail covers food (‘the root of all health’), early intervention, and managing common life transitions – all good and helpful topics – as well as my favorite topic, purposeful petting. However, I am still not converted to the value of ‘eastern wisdom’ compared to western medicine. The data and explanations just wasn’t there to convince me how it works or even that it works. The placebo effect is indeed great, as is coincidence. However, if you are a believer, you may just love Head to Tail!
*I never know if I should capitalize words that should be capitalized but aren’t. Sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t. Here, I didn’t.

**The roundness of the yin-yang figure represent the globe and the larger universe while the dark component, yin, holds a small dot of lightness and the light component, yang, contains an element of darkness. Together, they describe the opposing, complementary qualities in natural  phenomena. (p. 18-19)

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