Spring/Summer 2018 issue

Why I became a homeopath

Homeopathic vet Peter Gregory shares his story of how seeking an alternative path led him to a more compassionate approach to treating animals.
Peter Gregory with his dog, Big Ears
Peter Gregory with his dog, Big Ears

As soon as I finished my degree course in Bristol I returned home to Sheffield, finding work in a mixed practice in Hillsborough, close to the famous football ground and on the border of the Pennine Hills. I loved the work but after four years I started to feel I needed a change, so I emigrated to Mackay, in the tropical north east of Australia.

Five years on I felt like I could deal with anything that came through the door–be it snake bite, heartworm or tick paralysis, or something more mundane. I’d also become confident with semi-wild Brahman beef cattle, as well as horses, and with the nearest specialist 700 miles away, my partner and I would “have a go” at virtually anything–we were particularly adept at orthopaedics.

But as time passed I became less satisfied with our results in medicine: we became more precise with our diagnosis but our array of medicines didn’t expand. Every summer we had a spate of itchy dogs. This was caused by the hot and humid weather, perfect conditions for fleas and ticks to thrive, but even with parasite control the animals continued to itch. One of them was my own dog, Big Ears, who had accompanied me to the other side of the world. After only a year there he developed eczema, which each year recurred and was longer lasting and more severe, until he was regularly receiving depot injections (a slow-release, slow-acting medication) of corticosteroids and suffering badly from the side effects. This induced me to look around for “something else”.

I was also becoming dissatisfied with my life generally–“success” didn’t seem to bring the contentment I had been promised. One day I realised I’d lost much of my compassion for my patients; they’d become “cases”–only one step away from “dollars on legs”. Something had to be done.

Around that time I was introduced to Buddhism and meditation, and I discovered acupuncture and chiropractic therapy. I gave up eating meat and I started reading about alternative therapies, organic food and Permaculture, a system of agricultural and social design principles centered around simulating or directly utilising the patterns and features observed in natural ecosystems. Along with opening up to new possibilities came a need to travel. Big Ears completed the return leg of the journey and was sentenced to six months in quarantine (where his skin healed completely), while I meandered through South East Asia and back to the UK.

Not for the first time in my life, serendipity took control–in the form of a day course in veterinary homeopathy run by Chris Day and Jeremy Swayne in Glastonbury. Armed with Chris’s book, The Homeopathic Treatment of Small Animals, I took a job in Cardiff where the principal vet allowed me to use homeopathy. One day I was presented with a dog in great pain from spinal arthritis following an accident with a train. Conventional painkillers only worked for a few days, but his recovery on Rhus tox 6c was spectacular. Further successes, failures and learning ensued. Big Ears’ allergy returned and was completely cured with homeopathy. Over the next six years I oscillated between the UK and Australia, before getting my VetMFHom qualification in 1991.

Since 1995 I have specialised in homeopathy. As time went on I realised that this was what I had been searching for all along–a form of medicine that has compassion at its heart; where an animal is a sentient being with feelings and emotions no less significant than my own; a medicine which is truly holistic, and gentle and kind in its action.

It isn’t always easy; sometimes I can only palliate my patients’ symptoms, but nearly always their quality of life is enhanced and the challenge brings more learning. And homeopathy brings me connection both with my patient and with their owner, which is a continuing source of joy and inspiration.

Perhaps most important of all, homeopathy helps me to understand the way animals and people behave, while providing me with insights into the way we interact with our animals–and with each other. And this in turn has led to an understanding of myself–who I am and what I need to work on to find fulfilment and inner peace. What more could I ask for?