Virginia Walters (Courtesy photo)

Virginia Walters (Courtesy photo)

Life in the Pedestrian Lane: Cure-All

We are more intertwined with our animal companions than we ever think of.

  • Friday, April 23, 2021 10:21pm
  • Life

By Virginia Walters

For the Peninsula Clarion

Through the years, products produced for use on animals have, either by accident or by intention, begun to be used by and for humans. A few years ago DMSO, better known as horse liniment, was being touted as the best external pain reliever for man or beast and is, in fact, used in small amounts in many external medicines. It also is touted by some as a “cure-all” but, unfortunately, can have unexpected side effects on humans if used indiscriminately. People still use it for muscle aches and pains.

I was watching one of those panel talk shows the other day and their humor segment was where some man had mistakenly used his dog’s shampoo. (Why it was in the shower is another question). Everyone on the panel laughed, then sheepishly admitted to using Mane and Tail shampoo and/or conditioner. I have used it for years. My siblings were all “horse” people. I never really got the bug to do the saddle club thing, or rodeo, but my brother and sisters did, to the point they groomed their animals carefully before every outing. Mane and Tale was (is) the only thing they’d use to produce picture-perfect horses, and my sisters turned me on to it early as also great for human hair.

I used to buy it at the feed store where I got bag balm. It came in a quart bottle but I noticed recently that it is available in the hair care products at the grocery store in a small, regular shampoo-sized contained (for the same amount of money as the quart!!). So much for secret ingredients!! Another horsey product is Hoof Maker, by the same company, designed for horses hooves and great for nails.

And speaking of BAG BALM: To those of you under 50 and anyone not farm oriented, Bag Balm is the salve originally intended to sooth cows’ udders, which has become the go-to cure-all for scratches, abrasions, chapped hands, any cut that doesn’t require 10 stitches and occasionally in place of WD-40. It is basically a petroleum jelly base with an antiseptic added. Invented originally to be used to sooth cows’ udders after milking, it was soon discovered that farmers’ hands also benefited just from the incidental exposure and the rest is history.

Recently, I have seen a product called Udderly Soft advertised, too, and guess what! Add a pleasant scent to Bag Balm and you have a body lotion. Advertised online for use on cows, it is packaged in a plastic tube, a pump bottle and a squat round jar, all decorated with black and white spots like a Holstein cow. Definitely not the square green bag balm container we all can spot from a across a crowded room.

As I was looking around for a “hook” for this column I heard Laine Welsh on Fish Radio talking about fish farming in Norway and how the workers at the farms had soft, smooth hands when, in fact, they should have been chapped and rough from the cold water. A little investigation found that the egg-hatching fluid produced by the unborn salmon helped to protect their hands from the negative effects of the cold water. (A lot like the story of the discovery of Bag Balm for humans.) Laboratories in Sweden studied the substance and later patented it for personal use under the name Aquabeautine XL. It is available under several different brand names as a wrinkle cream.

These pet products put to use by their owners and others are usually of the skin care and shampoo type but there are urban myths of someone’s great uncle’s brother-in-law taking antibiotics prescribed for his cat, or heartworm medicine prescribed for the dog, or even inoculating himself with painkillers meant for the goat, because veterinary prescription drugs are considerably cheaper than those for humans. I don’t think that happens or at least I hope not. But, fentanyl is a horse tranquilizer so I suppose anything is possible.

The reverse trade, human to animal, is mostly food based: apples and carrots for the horses, unshelled peanuts to the Steller’s Jays, and we have all shared a cabbage or two with the moose. While that is natural stuff, dogs often get chicken gravy on their dog food, and occasional ice cream to the cats. It doesn’t often go the other way, but I do know of a few people who have eaten dog biscuits (because they’re good, they said) and many people regularly eat millet (birdseed) as a cereal.

We are more intertwined with our animal companions than we ever think of. When that errant wolf came into the cave 20,000 years ago and snuggled up to that weird looking bi-ped, I bet neither of them thought that in a short 20 millennia they would be sharing their shampoo.

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