In Memory of a West Highland Terrier Named Buffy

Surviving the Toxic World We Live In

By Valerie Zachary

I have lived my entire life believing that our environment has been safe and that we are protected by governing laws and standards for the agencies that abide by them.   Who could know that the untimely death of a little white dog would set into motion my search for a different truth.

Buffy, at the age of 12, was a spunky and seemingly healthy dog with a healthy appetite for food and fun.  Every outing was an opportunity to run up to total strangers and roll onto her back for a belly rub, and once accomplished, race to every tree announcing her presence to any unsuspecting squirrel.

She was intuitive about both human and animal suffering and would sit protectively with a sick person or animal, periodically licking their ears until they felt better.  Always vigilant for danger, she once ran to find me, insistent and persistent that I follow her to where I found one of my other dogs choking on a paper towel.  As I cleared his throat, she gave me her famous look, “ See, what would you do without me?”  Every overnight guest in my home has awakened to find Buffy snuggled up against their backs.

This all changed on Oct 15th 2012 after what appeared to be case of GI upset for Buffy, turned out to be a diagnosis of an aggressive form of Lymphoma.  Cancer.   My local longtime Vet asked me what I thought was going on in our area as this was the 7th dog over a short period of time that presented with the same diagnosis.  I told him I had no clue, none whatsoever. That was Then.

image002Cancer is predominantly a man-made disease affecting the most vulnerable;  those with weakened immune systems, chronic  inflammatory disease where the deposits of inflammatory toxic sludge reduces adequate oxygenation of cells, poor nutrient absorption and biological stress.  Abnormal cells grow in an anaerobic environment and steals the nutrients intended for healthy cells, resulting in generalized weakness, loss of strength, muscle  wasting, and loss of appetite.  The cancer cells thrive and the body systems deteriorate. Preventing and resolving this environment is the objective for both the prevention and treatment of cancer. The degree of Immune Health is the degree of Wellness.  Fully 80% of immune system activity occurs in the intestinal tract.

More than 50% of dogs over the age of 10 are diagnosed with cancer every year, and the incidence of cancer in cats and younger animals is growing. Cancer in animals develops due to a variety of factors, many of which we cannot control; such as age, genetics, environmental pollution, and *electromagnetic radiation. Other factors include poor nutrition, unhealthy lifestyle, conventional medical treatments (such as vaccination) that can disrupt the immune system, toxic chemicals used in the home, and stress. The stress factor is compounded in many purebred pets by inbreeding, which increases or creates genetic predispositions to poor immune function and disease.

West Highland Terriers have an expected  lifespan of about  17 years. My oldest lived for 21 years.  In a perfect world there would be a substantial increase in life expectancy and quality of life for all living creatures.  Sadly, as time marches on, we are all exposed to increasing levels of toxicity in the air we breathe, the water we drink, the food we eat, and the invisible by-products of technological advances.  This was not true as little as 100 years ago when our ancestors who lived in a less complex environment did not suffer from the myriad of diseases that are present today.

I offer the results of my research which changed the way I look at the world we live in and the discovery of often simple steps to remedy or mitigate the cause and effect of much of the toxicity we as humans and our beloved four legged companions are exposed to.

Water:  I contacted Cal Am Water to ask for a current water report for my area and specifically from the junction to my home.  They merely supplied me with a report on water that leaves the treatment facility dated 2009 and 2011 that lists the (1) EPA allowable levels of heavy metals, inorganic contaminants, bacteria, and known toxins. I believe that these allowable levels are cumulative over time and are not safe.   Of note is the known link to Cancer and Alzheimer’s – Arsenic, Lead, Zinc and Iron to name a few,present in our drinking water.

After review of several home water purification systems, I opted for distilled water which is free from all impurities.  Adequate daily water intake is essential to the body’s ability to resolve inflammation and clear waste products.  (2)  I purchased a counter top water distiller at a modest cost.  I add (3) Liquid Chlorophyll, it’s structure is identical to hemoglobin, the molecule that carries oxygen in the blood, so it is thought to assist with natural blood-cleansing and to support healthy circulation, acts as a particularly potent natural antioxidant that may help keep cells healthy by protecting them from oxidative damage,  promoting circulatory, intestinal, digestive and immune health.  I add this to both mine and my dog’s drinking water, which is changed daily


Dietary Considerations:

  Dogs:  In an eye opening report (4), I discovered that there are 68 potentially toxic chemicals, additives and preservatives in commercially available dog food, primarily dry food which is made from the unwanted parts from slaughtered livestock .  There are a few that are better, however, I have opted to switch my dogs to a  (5) nutrient dense, zero preservative dry formula which actually costs less than many of those commercially available and is conveniently auto shipped to my home.  It is important to make the changeover to a new diet slowly to minimize GI upset.   I have added quality (6)Probiotics, Digestive Enzymes and Vitamin supplementation to my dog’s diet.  The older the dog, the more important these supplements become. (7) In general, people foods which can be highly toxic to animals should never be fed to dogs.

Humans: In general, an alkaline diet versus acidic is preferred to minimize the inflammation that left unchecked  leads to disease.  (8) There are comprehensive lists of alkaline foods available.

In the same way an automobile engine requires the proper fuel and other fluids to function efficiently and produce energy, our body’s tiny cellular engines require a proper fuel source as well.

The fuel source is a supply of certain specific nutrients. Over 60 of these nutrients are essential for the body’s basic functioning, health and longevity. At least 30-60 mineral elements , 16 vitamins, 12 essential amino acids, and 3 essential fatty acids must be consumed in order for the body to maintain itself in a healthful state. Of these essential nutrients, it is often the minerals that are the most difficult for many people to obtain due to the (9) topsoil which grows our food crops is severely nutrient deficient.

The fruits, vegetables, and grains we consume today provide only a shadow of their nutritional content in comparison to even 100 years ago. With soil conditions deteriorating, supplementation with bioavailable forms of minerals is recommended.  One mineral in particular of especially high importance is (10) magnesium.

Dietary changes and supplementation can be confusing and overwhelming in attempting to know what, how much, how often and for how long.   I was fortunate enough to be referred to a local (11) Board Certified Holistic Nutritionist who is quite simply brilliant in evaluating current deficiencies and recommendation of appropriate dietary, lifestyle changes and supplementation using only the highest quality of bio-available products.

I have compiled a (12) list of select, reputable and excellent resource links to websites dedicated to information on disease, conditions  and natural healing options for both dogs and humans.

The good news is that we as a nation are becoming more aware of the impact of bad vs good foods and supplements. This is reflected in availability of organic foods in increasing numbers of supermarket chains.  We, as consumers are now demanding the truth in accurate labeling, healthier choices, and quality.

Oral Health:  In general, dogs by the age of 3 have dental caries, plaque build-up and gingivitis.  These conditions lead to the leaching of bacteria into the blood stream that can cause systemic infection.  The heart is the most susceptible to this effect.   This is true for humans as well.


Vaccinations:  This is a highly controversial topic.  I believe that vaccination produces antibodies that cause inflammation and is perpetuated by the booster shots.  I see the value in spreading out the initial puppy vaccinations over a longer period of time. (13)There is no getting around rabies vaccinations, but today they can be given every 3 years instead of annually.  My Vet uses only the highest quality of vaccines and respects my option to limit vaccinations and requirement for doses to be weight adjusted.

Pollutants:  Animals in particular are susceptible to the neurotoxicity from chemicals in many cleaning solutions used on carpets, furniture and floors.  They not only breathe the residue, they move around their environment with their “noses to the ground” and will lick flooring.  Grass fertilizer is extremely toxic to animals, as are yard and pest sprays and spilled anti-freeze.  Protect your dog from vermin bait such as D-Con.  If ingested, it can cause the same massive dehydration that kills rats and mice.

Mold can trigger lung conditions, as well as breathing second hand smoke. (14) Radon , which is radioactive, is the decay of Uranium that seeps into well water and air in the home  is the second leading cause of lung cancer after smoking. (13) The only way to know the radon concentration in your home is to conduct a test. There are available home products at modest costs that can reduce Radon levels.

EMF (Electromagnetic Frequency/Radiation):

(14) Cell Towers, Power Lines, Cell Phones, Personal Computers, TV sets ( with tubes), Wireless Internet, Microwave Ovens, Smart Meters, Vacuum cleaners, Electric Ovens, Washing Machines and Dryers have all been studied and measured for risk of EMF exposure.  The risk and effects depends on the intensity at the source and one’s distance from it. One must take into consideration that close neighbors with EMF exposures adds to the total of your personal exposure.

For some people and animals, the short term effects from EMF exposure may include headaches, sleep disorders, poor memory, mental excitation, confusion, anxiety, depression, appetite disturbance and listlessness.

The long term damage from radiation exposure accumulates over many years and the breakdown in health happens only after all body defenses and repair mechanisms have been exhausted. Studies have concluded that greater than daily 20 milligauss/hours for healthy adults have been linked to newly diagnosed cancer rates three times higher than people who had lower exposures.  Breast cancer topped the list, but cancers of prostate, pancreas, bowel, skin melanoma, lung and blood cancer were all increased. One giant step away from appliances as the source, reduces exposure by half.

(15) There are a variety of EMF protective products available.  EMF Protectors (Electromagnetic Field Protectors) are static-field diodes that convert the harmful radiation to biologically harmless fields, without interfering with the electronic production of the device in any way.

VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds):  Chemicals that become gas at certain temperatures,  which includes chemicals in paint thinners, dry cleaning chemicals, cosmetics, glue and craft materials. Storage should be at appropriate temperatures and in areas unreachable by children or pets.  Extended exposure  can lead to kidney, liver and nerve damage as well as respiratory problems.  BPA (Bisphenol A)  is used to create plastic water bottles and plastic food containers and has been declared as a toxic substance particularly when exposed to heat.  There are a variety of BPA-free plastic containers available for storage of cooler liquids, and unlined metal bottles and thermoses for warmer liquids.


Silver: (16) Antibiotics are failing due to overuse and the development of resistant superbugs, MERSA.  Liquid Silver is scientifically supported and can destroy 99.9% of all bacteria, viruses, mold, fungus and other pathogens within the first 15 seconds.  Silver has been used for thousands of years but is now available in a patented solution that is safe for everyone, including children and the elderly as well as animals.  I have purchased and used  (17) Silver Solution for a variety of indications, including my dogs as an alternative to antibiotics with excellent results.  I keep a supply on hand given its wide range of safe usage.

Love, Laugh, Hug, Dance and Pray:  Amidst all the dangers and requirements to take action to dodge them, it turns out that these  activities have a huge impact on our health and well-being.  Start every day in Gratitude.  Smile at every person that crosses your path.  Say the words, I love you, to those you love.  Walk with your head high knowing that you are valuable and matter to many. Tell yourself a joke and enjoy a good belly laugh…share the joke, and laugh again.  Dance a jig while walking into the grocery store. Forgive yourself and others for mistakes.  Look for the good in our world, and you will find it. Breathe deeply and Sleep soundly.  If you can, Rescue an animal that needs to be loved and taken care of.

Buffy and I, along with her wonderful Vet and Oncologist, put up a valiant fight using conventional and natural medicine to cure her from this dreadful disease.  Although I have long accepted the circle of life, in which death is a natural part of, I do not accept a death that is premature and based on misinformation.

I am grateful that in Buffy’s honor, I now have access to a wealth of information and knowledge that has already benefited myself, my loved ones and the Westies I have now, and the ones I may have in the future.

Buffy died exactly 60 days from her diagnosis and I cannot imagine a time of not missing her.

Bogie and Baxter still carry her favorite toys from room to room looking for her in her favorite hiding spots.

 BUFFY 2000 – 2012
BUFFY 2000 – 2012

                  *Upon request via email: ( Valerie will provide documentation and links to the numbered references.



Valerie is an RN having worked in Medical and Clinical Research for 37 years.  She moved to Carmel Valley in 2001 with her Westies;  Boomer, Bogie, Buffy and Baxter.   She clearly loves dogs and her nickname around town is the Canine Queen, dubbed  by the Carmel Valley Kiwanis for her volunteer work for their annual Fiesta Dog Show.