Talk to the animals

Veterinarian Norman Ralston favors acupuncture, herbs, and homeopathy instead of traditional animal medicine. He says pets speak to him through a channeler, and he lets them prescribe their own treatment. It's no wonder state regulators are keeping a clos

"In my house, we had eight dogs," he says through heavily accented English. "My father, he made a huge pot of rice every day and fed our dogs. That is what they ate. And they were healthy."

Trespeses has a lovable mutt dog and a cat. "They eat what we eat. Rice, vegetables, some meat."

The animals that come to Ralston are "so fragile," Trespeses says. "They can't climb, they can't jump, they're very overweight. I think it's all in the nutrition. We have to fix their diet."

Try telling that idea to Stevie and Eileen McCarty, two elderly sisters who share a home with two dogs in Oak Cliff. Shelley is the alpha dog, the dominatrix who decides who gets to eat first and how much, and Toby her diminutive male companion.

The McCarty sisters visit Ralston's clinic as much for themselves as for their pets. In the waiting room, they socialize and chirp about how they try to keep Shelley on a diet, but the dog just seems to be hungry all the time.

Stevie McCarty has known Ralston for 30 years. He calls her "sweetie." She calls him "miracle worker."

"He doesn't get credit for all the good he does," Stevie says. She is sitting in the examination room, dressed in shell-pink pants and knit top, her hair tucked neatly under a matching turban. Shelley, the plump Collie mix, is hiding beneath the chair. "Other vets need to hear him," Stevie says. "They need to learn from him."

Ralston tells the sisters that Shelley "has a little too much weight on her. I'd like to see some of that come off. But when the thyroid gland begins to function, some of this weight will burn right off."

Down the hall, Richard Adams and Richard Gooding have brought one of their seven dogs in for a routine exam. Adams proudly introduces Gretel, a 16-year-old German shepherd, stone deaf with only two front teeth left. Gretel has a skin condition. She takes vitamins and other nutrients. She is living a fine old life on Gooding's 40-acre ranch in Hutchins, along with a rag-tag pack of dogs the two men have rescued over the years from animal shelters and the sides of highways.

They have Pyro, a Dalmatian they brought to Ralston last year for a violent seizure disorder. Adams swears that through homeopathic clearing of his system, Pyro has not suffered a seizure since January. "And when he did have a seizure, Dr. Ralston taught me just to press on his belly button. I don't know why, but that made it stop."

They have Gypsy Rose Leaper, a German shepherd who frequently jumps the fence. There are two Siberian huskies and a beagle mix. All have been under Ralston's care. They take vitamins and other natural remedies every day.

Gooding, a retired gunsmith, describes how he makes each dog a meatball every morning, hiding the pill inside. He blends their liquid medicines into bowls of chicken broth. And just to keep the huskies healthy, Gooding pressure-cooks and cuts up two chickens each night for the dogs.

"Do we seem crazy?" asks Adams rhetorically as he leans forward on his chair to comfort a whining Gretel. "We must be." Pointing to Gooding, Adams says "he's the only person I know who takes a bag of food and fresh water in the car in case he finds a dog." Both men laugh wildly.

They say Ralston is the only vet they know who truly understands their animals. "He listens to them," says Adams, a lanky middle-aged man in a Mr. Goodwrench cap and tattered flannel shirt. "You can call them dumb animals, but they know what they need. And they tell Dr. Ralston.

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