I recently experienced a reminder of why I love veterinary medicine so much. I returned from lunch one day and my receptionist approached me to ask if I would like to see Sam in his new cart.
“Oh, yes, I would love to!” I replied. I had spoken with Sam’s owner, Brad, a few days prior and had inquired if he had received Sam’s “wheelchair” yet. Brad stated he had, and that Sam had taken right to it, even wagging his tail when he realized he was going to get in it.
A feeling of pure joy welled up in me and I could feel a smile broaden on my face when I saw Sam sporting his new cart, rolling down the hallway. Sam is a Cocker Spaniel that has been diagnosed with spinal degeneration. The strength and coordination in his hind limbs has been gradually stolen by this disease, so much so that he has extreme difficulty rising and walking.
Spinal degeneration in pets is like an automobile with flat tires. The car still runs, but you can’t drive it. Sam still interacts with his family; it’s just difficult for him to get around. This dilemma led Brad to inquire about a cart during an office visit with my husband, who assured Brad that this was indeed a great idea for Sam.
Dr. Sara entered into the picture next as she assisted Brad with online selection and measurements for Sam’s customized cart. Brad is truly grateful for this help which seemed to be a stumbling block for his desire to give Sam what he really needed, the ability to ambulate comfortably again.
Most important in this story is the outcome. Not only does Sam show renewed happiness and interest in life with his cool set of “wheels,” but also Brad has what I experienced, the delight of seeing his handicapped pet rejuvenated. What I haven’t shared with you is Sam in his golden period, approaching 15 years old. However, the human-animal bond has never been stronger, as this pet owner did not question what he needed to do to care for his beloved four-legged family member.
The story of Lena Grace and Karen is another example of the human-animal bond that I adore. It has truly been my honor and privilege to care for this special needs Yorkie and “her person.” Yes, Lena Grace has her own “person.” I have been Lena Grace’s doctor since she was a puppy, and defying almost everyone’s odds, she recently celebrated her sixth birthday.
Sadly for Lena, she was diagnosed early in life with a malformation of her spine at the base of her skull that, like Sam, is slowly stealing her ability to walk. Lena also lacks control of her urinations and bowel movements. Not only is Lena compromised by these limitations, she also has the real possibility that with one wrong head movement, her life may be tragically and abruptly ended. At just over 3 pounds, I am not certain there are carts tiny enough to suit her. However, she does not need a “wheelchair” because she has Karen, and her own selection of purses (that’s right, purses!) that she lives, sleeps and travels in for the majority of her days.
Lena Grace’s favorite purse is her “Bye-Bye Purse” which gets her excited when she realizes she will be accompanying Karen on a car ride. Lena’s purses are always meticulously maintained and comfortable. Because she has other minor health issues requiring periodic blood testing, Lena is a frequent visitor in our hospital where she is adored and pampered in the fashion she has grown accustomed to in her home.
Probably what drove home the depth of Karen and Lena’s human-animal bond was when Karen shared an epiphany she had about Lena Grace. Karen was lamenting and pondering why she didn’t have a “normal” pet. Then it occurred to her that Lena Grace probably wished, too, that she could have a “normal” pet’s life, complete with the ability to get out of her purse to run, jump and play.
The compassion and concern that Karen displays for Lena are admirable and exemplary. When many people would have shuddered at Lena’s diagnosis and prognosis, Karen embraced it and always strives to give Lena the best of care and “a dog’s life,” complete with a selection of her own purses.
Veterinarians are blessed on a daily basis with the gift of witnessing or being a part of the incredible human-animal bond. If you don’t have a pet, you truly are missing out on this fantastic phenomenon. Why not give a gift to yourself — adopt a pet and experience this blessing for yourself. You will never regret it.
Dr. Bonnie Jones is co-owner of Delphos Animal Hospital which she operates with her husband, Dr. John H. Jones. She was valedictorian and Outstanding Senior Clinician of The Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine Class of 1985.