What Is Homeopathy?"
"MOMMY! Oh Mommy! Come outside — quick!"
"What is it, Henry?" his mother inquired even as, responding to the urgency in his voice, she was pulling on her coat.
"It's Sherlock. He's been hit by a car. Just round the corner. And the car didn't even stop. It just drove on!"
His mother asked no more questions but, followed by Henry, ran as fast as she could to the indicated spot. There she found her daughter, kneeling by the curb beside the motionless body of a dog.
"Is he alive?"
"I think so, but barely. Want me to call the Police - or an ambulance - or a veterinarian?"
The mother hesitated a few seconds before replying. "No, we'll first carry him into the house. It's too cold for him to be here longer. We'll use my coat as a stretcher and your jacket to cover him. Here, help me slide him... gently... Yes, that's the way. Now cover him — and you, Georgiana and Henry each take one corner and I'll take the other two. Be careful to keep the stretcher taut."
Once inside the house, Sherlock was laid on his dog bed and covered with a blanket. "Thank you, children. Let's position his bed beside the far side of the living room couch, where he can lie quietly but still feel among us."
"Shall I go call for help now?" Georgiana offered.
"Not yet. Give me a few minutes to try something first. You, Henry, run upstairs quickly to my room, and in the second drawer of my bedside bureau, you'll find a small wooden box. You know the one I mean?"
Henry drew himself up to the full height of his twelve years. "Trust me, Mother."
"And you, Georgiana, while we're waiting, tell me how it happened."
"We were playing kick ball out on the street with a tennis ball. I missed a kick of Henry's and Sherlock made a dash for it. You know how he likes to join in our games. A car rounded the corner too fast — and hit Sherlock as he was picking up the ball that had rolled towards the cross street. I think the car kind of grazed him with the front fender; it wasn't a head-on hit. Anyway, Sherlock rolled to the curb. The driver kept on going at full speed and disappeared in seconds. We were the only witnesses."
Henry had returned with the box and his mother drew from it one of a series of small glass vials containing white granules. The children knew the box well. One or another of the vials was resorted to whenever one of them had stomach pains or an earache, a sore throat or a fever - or had been subjected to a minor injury. The granules had always helped, but Sherlock's condition was on an entirely different scale. Could the tiny white grains assist in severe injuries?
"Draw down his lower lip gently, Georgiana, and hold it while I slip a few granules onto the inside surface."
To observe him closely, the three remained kneeling round the dog, who showed no signs of life.
"He's still breathing," Henry remarked in a defensive tone of voice - as if arguing with some higher powers that might be considering ending Sherlock's life.
"And there's no sign of bleeding or broken bones," Georgiana added encouragingly.
The mother thought it wisest to advocate caution. "The injuries from the blow must be all internal. Let's hope and pray that they are not all to the head."
"How soon will we know if the medicine can help him?"
"Give it a little time, Henry. Just wait, and watch closely."
Five minutes passed. Nothing changed. The same procedure of administering the granules was repeated, but again there was no sign of life save for the faint breathing; after the third dose an eyelid quivered - that, however, was all. The fourth dose strengthened the breathing, but still Sherlock did not open his eyes or stir. After another dose - this time given at a ten-minute interval - a fine tremor ran through the hitherto immobile frame, and the eyes opened for a brief second before closing again.
The family ate their dinner in the living room so as to remain on constant guard. The improved breathing held as long as periodic doses of the remedy (now at fifteen-minute intervals) were administered.
"Slight as it is, that's probably all the improvement we'll see this evening, children."
It was, however, enough. Enough not to despair. Hope, now that it had entered the anxious watchers' hearts, would not be extinguished.
In lowered voices, so as not to disturb the peace and quiet necessary for recovery, Georgiana and Henry were wondering whether Sherlock would ever again be able to run after and retrieve a ball; whether he would be the same friend and guardian he had been during the two years they had owned him. Would he still bark joyously upon tracking down a lost cat? For, this was why he was called Sherlock.
The family had acquired him, a five-month old puppy of uncertain breed, from a local animal shelter, where he was called by the unimaginative name of Fido. Very soon afterwards, however, he was discovered to possess an uncanny ability for finding missing cats. Georgiana, who had just recently been introduced to the adventures of the famous detective, Sherlock Holmes, jokingly referred to him as the Sherlock Holmes of the neighborhood, and the name stuck. The dog was all the more cherished by his new owners for having been adopted to ease the pain of the tragic loss of a cheerful, affectionate father and a kind, loving husband in a car accident.
Before retiring for the night, mother and children were rendered happy by the dog's apparently having stirred. His blanket had slipped off, and when they pulled it over him, they thought he made a feeble attempt to wag his tail. Or was it merely a nervous twitch?
"I'll sleep downstairs on the couch tonight to administer periodic doses of the remedy, and be on the alert for any symptoms of relapse. I think he'll sleep peacefully," the children were assured. "The vital signs remain stable and, if he does not develop seizures within the next twenty-four hours, there is a reasonable chance that he will pull through."
"What remedy have you been giving him?" Henry wanted to know.
"Arnica of course," Georgiana replied. "You know, the remedy for injuries. Remember that time a baseball hit your head - or when you fell out of the tree?"
Her brother remembered. But hitherto he and Georgiana had always taken for granted that whatever ailment or accident they experienced, the grains in the vials would relieve their pain or discomfort; therefore, they had not given the matter much thought. But today, with Sherlock's life hanging in the balance, when so much depended on the effectiveness of the miniscule granules, Henry sought for further understanding.
"Sure I know the name Arnica. But, Mother, what is Arnica?What is it made of? What does it do? How does it work? How can it help Sherlock?"
His mother smiled at his eagerness "One question at a time, Henry. What is Arnica? Arnica is a remedy made from a flowering plant, commonly known as leopard's bane. For centuries it has been used by country folk to counteract the ill-effects of blows and bruises - also for physical stress and fatigue. When homeopathically prepared, however, -
"But, Mommy," Georgiana interrupted, "what exactly does 'homeopathically prepared' mean?"
Their mother sat thoughtfully for a long moment. "It is not an easy question to answer briefly." She shook her head as if to clear her thoughts. "I see I'll have to start from the beginning. Come, sit by my side on the couch and I'll try to explain. You, Georgiana, having turned fourteen, are old enough to follow me. And Henry - Well, Henry, who is always trying to keep up with you, might find some parts a bit of a stretch. But he'll make a manly effort not to be left behind, I'm sure. - Now, just let me collect my thoughts for a minute...." She then resumed. "Homeopathy is a system of medicine based on the belief that a person's life force — No," she said, "That's not the right way to go about it either. I'll have to approach the subject differently." Again a moment of thoughtful silence. Then, "Perhaps the best way to explain homeopathy is for me to give you the history of - Yes," with sudden decision. "That's the way to do it! Every night before bed, we'll put aside a period of time, and I'll tell you, in installments, about the remarkable life of its founder, Dr. Samuel Hahnemann."