For many people, a pet is an important part of their life. The relationship between owner and pet can be a sacred one. No one knows this better than animal naturopath Michelle Rhodes. She has dedicated her life work to helping animals and their guardians care well for one another.
Michelle’s work is unique and intriguing so we spent some time interviewing her to learn more about who she is and what she does…
What type of people/symptoms do you generally work with?
I am honored to work with cats, dogs and horses in all types of situations. Typically, these animals are suffering from some type of chronic health or behavioral condition that hasn’t been resolved with traditional veterinary medicine or training. I see a lot of animals with gastrointestinal problems and allergies that can often be helped with some simple but effective changes.
How does your work differ from other therapies similar to yours?
I offer a holistic approach to animal care and wellness. As an animal naturopath, I’ve worked hard to learn and offer a full complement of healing modalities that can work together for optimal healing and wellness. With that in mind, I am sensitive to the limitations of any owner to create a program that fits into their own budgets, beliefs and lifestyle. I bring together a full lifestyle program that includes diet, supplements and behavior modification in a way that honors the animal and addresses issues at the root cause.
Was there a specific moment that ignited your holistic flame?
I found my way to Continuum Healing at a time in my life where my health and mental state were in a less than ideal state. I was suffering from almost constant anxiety and chronic illness that I thought I would have to deal with for the rest of my life. Modern medicine had not provided me with anything more than prescriptions, and they felt like a tiny bandage on a gaping wound. At my first naturopathic appointment, when asked what I wanted, my reply was simple, and in hindsight a profound truth: I just wanted to be okay.
As I stuck with the program, took my supplements, and did my homework I began to feel better than I had in years. I wanted more and I wanted everything. If just a few months of work could produce such a profound change I wondered who and what I could really be. I wanted to find the true cause to dis-ease and make the effort to live vibrantly.
Once I began feeling better, I had a desire to offer the exact same thing to my pets. Our animals have no choice but to live the lives that we’ve created for them. Their health, wellness and energy have a direct impact on our own wellbeing as we share a significant portion of our day and lives together.
I am a lifelong animal lover. I’ve had the privilege of caring for horses, cats, dogs, pigs, goats, hamsters and a love bird. A connection with an animal may be the only relationship that some people ever have. These beautiful connections to Nature are yet another path for healing in this world. Our pets are forced to live with the decisions we make for them. Those decisions can come with consequences: shortened life span, health problems, and behavioral problems. Many people are searching for answers for their pets, but they are buried in hours of research, hundreds of dollars in possibilities, and a lot of conflicting information.
This is where I love to come in. I can offer a comprehensive plan that really addresses the animal as a whole and that provides effective and often quick results.
“The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.”
― Mahatma Gandhi
I know a lot about a person just by the way that they care for their dog or cat. Many people don’t realize it, but a lot of my appointments are about helping the owners in some way more than the animals!
How was your educational experience? What important things did you gain from it?
My education process has been rigorous and ongoing! As I pursue my Doctorate in Animal Naturopathic Health Sciences, I’ve had courses on biology, behavior, food, macronutrients, and healing touch, just to name a few. I’ve done a nine-month internship with another animal naturopath and worked in an alternative pet food store. The most important things I’ve gained from my education so far is that you just have to dive in and start applying the information you’ve gained. Opportunities will never come your way unless you start by making a request. In addition, until an owner or person is ready to change you can only help them as much as they’re willing to be helped. Be ready to be an advocate and a source of information but don’t take it personally if someone doesn’t follow your advice. The old adage “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink” is a reminder that we all have a path to follow.
In the depth of your despair, can you find your call to action?
When the going gets really tough I always end up in a place that leads me to believe there’s a lesson to be learned. That lesson doesn’t even have to be about self-improvement. A very wise person once told me that often you can only help someone once you’ve been through it yourself. These life lessons are often filled with despair and are highly emotionally charged, but as time passes and we come out on the other side, they all have one thing in common that I call “exquisite pain.” I am so grateful for the ability to feel these feelings, to love deeply, and live authentically as I navigate this life and body for the time that I have in this place.
My husband and I have just had a baby and bought a small hobby farm. The place needs a lot of TLC, but we’ve never been afraid of hard work. I am absolutely swamped with planning new projects and setting up the life that we’ve always dreamed about! As we set up the new space, we’ll be making space for a menagerie of animals – horses, goats, bees, etc – and loving every minute of it!
About: Michelle Rhodes is an animal naturopath and owner of Whisker Wellness offering health consultations for animals and their guardians. Michelle addresses both acute and chronic health concerns such as gastrointestinal issues, skin and coat problems, allergies and emotional or behavioral problems.