Like any author making her pitch, Dr. Barbara Royal was thrilled when Amy Gonka offered to buy six copied of her new book “The Royal Treatment: A Natural Approach to Wildly Healthy Pets.”
But it wasn’t the financial aspect of inching ahead in a tough book market that made veterinarian Royal beam as she signed the books for Gonka. The book buyer had traveled all the way from Hanover Park to meet Royal in her signing Saturday at Kriser’s pet store, 168 N. Northwest Hwy.
“I don’t expect to make money,” Royal said of her debut book, published by Simon and Schuster. “But what I want to do is make a difference, to teach this kind of medicine at veterinary schools. For me, it’s like a detective (to solve a pet’s ills). It’s keeping the mind open to all different options, to know what’s normal for the pet.
“I love what I do. It’s great to meet people.”
Royal is not only noted for authoring her book, but also serving as Oprah Winfrey’s personal veterinarian. Practicing on Chicago’s North Side at The Royal Treatment Veterinary Center, 4130 N. Rockwell, she has treated Winfrey’s three spaniels. But she doesn’t have the privilege of handling the broadcast superstar’s two golden retrievers, who stay in Los Angeles.
“She’s an incredible pet owner,” Royal said.
Royal and Winfrey met when the latter went to the PAWS pet-advocacy organization to adopt a puppy. She ended up shopping for pet supplies at a local store with Winfrey and Stedman Graham, her longtime companion.
“Don’t be put out by being Oprah’s vet,” Royal said. “I’m a normal person (with normal pets).”
Royal did more verbal give-and-take about their pets and her veterinary philosophies than actual signing during her late-afternoon session at Kriser’s. She is passionate about keeping an open mind about nutrition and treatment paths that vary from Western medicine. Royal details examples of Chinese and natural treatments in the book while busting myths about pet behavior.
One example for frustrated owners is the stereotype that dogs and cats eat grass primarily to settle an upset stomach. Royal’s published response: “Dogs and cats may eat grass because the thick blades of grass in springtime smell like protein. However, this protein is not easily digestible for a dog or cat.”
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The first customer she greeted was Park Ridge’s Jackie Limosani, who runs a dog massage service that she is scheduled to demonstrate this weekend at Kriser’s. Limosani is proud of her two standard poodles, one of which is an unconventional black-and-white color. That pooch will be with Limosani at Kriser’s. She discussed with Royal a past case of pancreatitis endured by the dogs.
Meanwhile, Gonka snared Royal’s attention with mention of her own pet menagerie: eight sugar gliders, which are marsupials, along with four cats.
Royal looks into acupuncture and other non-standard Western treatment methods for diagnosing pets’ maladies.
“All I think is what is stopping the animal from being healthy?” she said. “I’m keeping my mind open to all different options. I want to know what’s normal for the pet.”
Royal said our pets don’t necessarily sense an “aura” given off by their owners. Instead, they are tuned into the “natural energy of the earth…they’re so much more attuned (than humans) to their environment. What they’re looking for (from humans) are cues.”
While out on a field trip to research spotted owls, Royal had a wild owl land on her arm. “For a millisecond, he looked directly into my eye,” she said. “He was completely connected to his environment.”
If Royal could run a large university veterinary school, she would change the ways and means of instruction.
“I’d change how we teach nutrition,” she said. “Right now it’s a toss-off subject. It’s not a hallmark of veterinary medicine. We need to become better-educated on it.
“We also need to spend a lot more time training to recognize behavorial trends and teach alternative methods like acupuncture and Chinese (medicine).”