This section of the book is from "Fasting, Hydropathy and Exercise", by Bernarr MacFadden.
The strongest temperance argument I ever heard was the incidental remark of a lecturing naturalist, that "it would be easy to name a thousand different animals that subsist on a thousand different kinds of food, but that they all drink water."
The question as to the most effective and most natural remedy might be settled with similar conclusiveness. Crapulent dogs can now and then be seen eating grass, and after a surfeit of green fodder ruminants evince a hankering after salt, but serious sickness prompts all animals to fast. Wounded deer will retire to some secluded glen and starve for weeks together. In the southern Alleghanies, where mineral efflorescences, mingling with stagnant water cause a disorder known as "milk sickness," the animals thus affected get "off their feed," and by rest and total abstinence generally contrive to recover without medical assistance in the course of a week or two.
A fortnight's fast does not preclude the hope of survival. In the moulting season certain cage birds prefer to get along for a month with a minimum of food, to compensate the lack of facilities for active exercise, and I remember the case of a little dachshund (a species of bowlegged terrier) that survived a fall from the loft of a tall building by three weeks of almost total abstinence. During a visit to the riding-school of a cavalry regiment I had turned over the little waddler to a sergeant, who put him in a barn, and finding that he could crawl out under the gate and was apt to come to grief by being kicked by a horse, finally put him in a bag and ordered one of the men to lock him up in the hay-loft at the top of the building. That checked his restlessness for the time being, but on stepping out on the street, an hour after, I heard a whine as from the clouds, and looking up saw my dachshund crouching on the edge of an open louvre and yelping crescendo, to draw my attention to the discomfiture of his situation. In the next moment he had lost his balance, and after a series of aerial somersaults, landed on the hard pavement, with a crack that seemed to have broken every bone in his body. Blood was trickling from his mouth and nostrils when they picked him up, and the troopers advised me to "put him out of misery," but he was my little brother's pet, and, after some hesitation, I decided to take him home in a basket and give the problem of his cure the benefit of a fractional chance. Investigation proved that he had broken two legs and three ribs, and judging by the way he raised his head and gasped for air, every now and then, it seemed probable that his lungs had been injured.
The location of his grave had already been settled; but the next morning he was still alive and lapped up a pint of water. For twenty days and twenty nights the little terrier stuck to life and his cotton-lined basket, without touching a crumb of solid food, but ever ready to lick up a few drops of cold water, in preference even to milk or soup. At the end of the third week he made an effort to leave his couch, and a few days after contrived to stagger along the floor to get the benefit of a hearth-fire. He had broken his fast with a saucerful of sweet milk, but only on the evening of the twenty-sixth day began to betray a personal interest in the contents of a plateful of meat-scraps that had been placed near his basket every morning.
Before the end of the winter he accompanied his friends to that same riding-school and was introduced to the veterinary surgeon of the regiment. Misknit bones had made his crooked legs a trifle crookeder, but he could run again and attest the vigor of his lungs by a lusty bark. A clear case of recovery in spite ofwe did not venture to say because oftotal abstinence from drugs.
What did you feed him on?" inquired the surgeon, taking it for granted that Nature must have been assisted somehow or other.
Nothing, for the first three weeks."
Nothing, sir. Or, to be quite exact, nothing except some air and water."
The surgeon shook his head. "Stout chaps, these daxes," he muttered, caressing the paradox with the tip of his boot. "The vitality of those brutes!" he probably thought to himself; "the idea of that thing recovering in spite of such neglect."
Surgeon K. had a horseload of instruments and might have succeeded in dosing the patient with a prescription of beef, wine and iron, by means of a stomach-funnel. If the little dachshund could have survived the additional affliction, is another question.
The fasting-cure instinct is not limited to our dumb fellow-creatures. It is a common experience that pain, fevers, gastric congestions, and even mental afflictions take away the appetite," and only unwise nurses will try to thwart the purpose of Nature in that respect. The manager of a large Michigan sanitarium makes it a rule to let his attendants indulge his patients with all the cold water they want to drink, or even coax them to try another glass, but never urge them to eat against their inclination.