Last week, my black Lab, Jack, started limping as we were playing ball in the backyard. I looked at the paw he was favoring and noticed a little blood beneath one of his nails as if it had been nicked. Against Jack’s wishes (evidenced by him baring his teeth), I tried to wipe it with antiseptic. Then, to alleviate further trauma for either of us, I opted to let it heal on its own. Since that day, Jack has regularly tended to his wound via licking and — voila! — the healing process is very nearly complete.
This reminded me of when I was visiting my parents in Texas recently and my father let his Bichon Frise, Ally, lick a wound on his own hand, swearing by the curative powers of her tongue. Once I got over the gross-out factor (which is hypocritical because, to be honest, I make out with Jack plenty), I got to thinking, Do animals really have healing powers?
Yes, I remember the story of Oscar the cat in a Rhode Island nursing home who curls up on the bed of a patient hours before the patient’s death. In fact, Oscar’s predictions are so accurate, the nursing home now calls the family to alert them to a death watch once Oscar has settled on a bed. True, that’s not healing per say, but, according to numerous patients and their families, it is comforting and in a way that’s healing, isn’t it?
As for my Dad, he calls Ally his “Cancer Dog,” meaning not that she has cancer, but that she has the power to cure cancer. Well, shouldn’t this win us that long awaited trip as guests on Oprah?
Okay, Ally may not cure cancer, but according to several experts, dogs do have antibiotic properties in their saliva and some of those experts have even conducted studies to see if dog saliva could be the next wonder drug. And, yes, for those naysayers out there, a lot of bacteria does also reside in a dog’s mouth. But when it comes to a dog healing a minor wound on himself or on his master via licking, the prevailing theory seems to be: Why the hell not?
After all, maybe my canine step-sister is on the road to curing cancer.