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East meets West for Lake Oswego animal acupuncturist

Dr. Kelly Jenkins Nielsen's unique practice fills a special niche for animal owners seeking a non-traditional way of helping their critters
by: Linda Hundhammer, Dr. Kelly Jenkins Nielsen — with her companion Rudy — is the only board-certified animal acupuncturist in Oregon. She relies on 20 years of experience as a Western medicine vet to help diagnose and treat her patients with Eastern practices.

Mind blowing.

That is how practice manager Patty Pickern describes the results of her boss, veterinary acupuncturist, Dr. Kelly Jenkins Nielsen.

'I have worked with animals my whole life,' said Pickern. 'I have never seen healing like this.'

Nielsen's unique practice, The Kindred Spirits Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine Clinic, in Lake Grove has had its share of what some pet owners feel are miracles.

Lilly, a 12-year-old standard poodle, has suffered from Addison's disease, an insuffiency of the adrenal glands, since she was nine months old. She recently was in a car accident, which has furthered her physical complications. Her owner, Sandra Adams, of Southeast Portland, brings Lilly to the Kindred Spirits Clinic for acupuncture treatments and herbal remedies.

'We call Lilly the miracle dog,' said Adams. The Addison's wreaks havoc with almost every organ and tissue in Lilly's body, and often she stops eating. The acupuncture needles in her back directly correlate to the organs, stomach, kidneys and spleen. The needles in her legs and belly help with digestion.

'Lilly gets so relaxed, she goes to what we call 'acculand,'' said Adams.

What makes Neilsen's Eastern practice so unique is her background of 20 years in Western veterinarian medicine. With a doctorate in veterinary medicine from Oregon State Veterinary School, she started her own business Housecalls for Pets in Lake Oswego in 1993. Twenty years later with a thriving practice, Nielsen felt the calling to further her ability to help her patients.

'I had a lot of home euthanasia patients,' said Nielsen. 'I just knew there was something more I could do for these animals.'

She began her studies of Eastern practices in 2001, completing a 100-hour course that is common amongst animal acupuncturists. She followed that with classes in herbs and veterinary chiropractic training.

Finally, in 2003, she decided to put her career on hold to go back to school full time at one of the country's top schools in Eastern practices, the Oregon College of Oriental Medicine.

'The more I learned, the more I wanted to know. There is so much available in alternative medicine that really makes a difference. Some of which, if I had not seen it myself, I would not have believed it.'

Right before graduation in 2006, Nielsen was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer in her fallopian tubes that had spread into her abdomen. Her surgery and treatments began immediately, and she was unable to complete her classes.

'I had to throw everything at that cancer to beat it. It was nasty, but it sure taught me a lot about what to do and what not to do for pain. I practiced on myself.'

With the support of her instructors and classmates, Nielsen was able to complete her degree in 2007. She is now Oregon's only board-certified acupuncturist specializing in animals. Her degree allows her to treat both humans and pets, which is part of the plan for her future at Kindred Spirits.

Since opening the doors of her clinic in October 2007, she has found that even with roots in Western medicine she has come to embrace the Eastern practices.

'The philosophy is simple: You ask yourself, 'Why is this animal's body so out of balance that it is allowing diseases to manifest themselves?' Usually, if we can re-balance the body, then we can cure so many other things.'

That doesn't mean there aren't skeptics. The owner of a large doberman brought his dog to Nielsen because it could no longer go up the stairs of their house. Because the dog was too big to carry, the owner was at a loss for what to do. Reluctantly, he chose acupuncture as his last resort. After three sessions, the doberman was upstairs and moving better than he had in years.

Patients come to Nielsen from all over the greater Portland area, and as far away as Washington and the Oregon coast. She treats cancer, skin conditions, neuropathies, digestive disorders, pain, arthritis and many other ailments. Most patients are dogs and cats, but Nielsen is trained to treat everything from horses to reptiles and birds.

'The great part about bringing your pet to Dr. Nielsen is that she knows both sides of medicine,' said Adams. 'She doesn't seem prejudice to one side or the other. And she presents the information in a way that makes sense.'

Nielsen is a 20-year resident of Lake Oswego, and a parent of two boys, one a graduate of, and the other currently attending, Lakeridge High School. She still owns and operates Housecalls for Pets, which is run by Dr. Benjamin Edwards. With the Kindred Spirit clinic, Nielsen feels she has found a niche that makes sense for both her and her business.

'With 500 veterinarians in the area, I receive lots of referrals because I can offer something different. Something I think can really help.'

The Kindred Spirits Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine clinic is located at 17777 Pilkington Road, Suite 150, Lake Oswego, 503-697-0550. The Web site is www.kindredspiritacupunture.com .