How do you adjust the spine of a porcupine?
written by Mary Nunz, originally published (c. 1999) in the New Mexico Wildlife Center Newsletter
That was the first question I asked Dr. Sherry Gaber. And, of course, the answer was, "Very carefully." Thus I was introduced into Sherry's intriguing practice of animal chiropractic.
Sherry Gaber, D.C., began her career as a pre-veterinary student at the University of Illinois but after two years switched to Palmer College of Chiropractic. Since she came from a family of chiropractors, she found that she was more attuned to that type of health care than traditional medicine. In chiropractic college she specialized in an upper cervical technique and became one of fourteen certified NUCCA specialists in the U.S. who focus on clearing the brain stem of neurological interference.
The day before Sherry graduated from chiropractic college, she had an experience that was a premonition of her future career. While sitting by a pond on campus she discovered a squirrel that had fallen out of a tree and seem to be paralyzed from the neck down, only able to move his head. With the help of a friend, she felt along its spine and discovered that the first cervical vertebra, the Atlas vertebra, was misaligned. She was able to adjust it to its proper position and to her happy surprise the squirrel ran off and scampered up a tree.
Despite her attention to animal health care, for the next eighteen years she worked with human clientele. As time went by her patients began to bring their animals along for treatment. Then some fortuitous events occurred that convinced her that she should return to her first love -- the animals.
First, she found an ideal person to take over her human chiropractic work and took a one-year sabbatical to volunteer at a prestigious animal hospital in Chicago. While at the clinic, she had the opportunity to treat two dogs in critical condition. The first dog was suffering from an inflammatory bowel condition. Having treated human with similar symptoms, she was able through chiropractic to relieve the condition and save the dog. She was able to help another dog suffering from epileptic seizures by adjusting the upper cervical vertebra.
Then she heard the The American Veterinary Chiropractic Association in Hillsdale, Illinois offered a course in animal chiropractic to veterinarians and chiropractors. She signed up to take the 150-hour certification course and the three-year port certification follow-up.
When Sherry and her husband relocated from Chicago to Santa Fe, she was surprised that animal chiropractic was virtually unknown in the area. It took her a while to get established, but now she works in conjunction with area veterinarians.
Sherry also wanted to become more involved with wild animals. Having heard of The Wildlife Center, she called and was welcomed as a volunteer. She first volunteered in ICU. Presently, she cleans with the Friday crew. Then Dr. Ramsay asked her to use her chiropractic techniques with some animals being rehabilitated.
Sherry has had many successes working with animals. She first worked on a golden eagle whose right leg and talons were abnormally contracted. After she cleared its upper cervical area, the eagle's muscles relaxed and it was able to perch normally. Subsequently, this eagle was released. She also worked on Leo, the long eared owl, to improve a similar leg condition and a partial blindness condition. Presently both conditions have remarkably improved. Leo can now see and land on his perches with perfection and without banging into the walls and falling to the ground. And by adjusting the spine (very carefully) of Snuggles the porcupine she was also able to relieve his contracted hind leg and improve balance. She recently worked on a coyote suffering from a badly crushed leg to improve circulation after surgery.
One of her biggest successes was with her smallest patient -- a hummingbird who had suffered head trauma and was unable to sit upright and keep its balance. The bird had probably crashed into a window, misaligning its upper cervical, head and skull. When Sherry adjusted the vertebra, the bird regained its balance.
Sherry believes that many animal problems can be relieved through the use of chiropractic. Not only do misaligned vertebrae obstruct nerve signals, but they can also affect balance, muscle control, and leg circulation. When an animal is injured, especially with head trauma, the head and spinal column adjustment is frequently affected. Chiropractic can sometimes correct the problem by itself, or at other times, aid in the healing process. It has been found as effective in the animal kingdom as it is in the human. Certainly Sherry's chiropractic skill is an appreciated asset in The Wildlife Center's rehabilitation program.