More than a week has passed since my beloved Sam left this mortal world. We’re still in grief mode but are coming to grips with the harsh reality of life without our boy. The click, click, click of his dancing feet on the hardwood floors have been replaced by heavy footed Stormin’ Norman followed closely by the not-so delicate thumping of the Ninja’s paws. Who knew a Ninja would move about so loudly?
Sam was the subtle glue that sealed our pack together. I was never sure he fully comprehended that he was actually a dog and not some special hybrid kind of human with four feet. He taught Elsa how to be a dog and how to learn to trust peeps. Naturally she’s taken his loss particularly hard. Knowing Norman for only a month, the two brothers hadn’t bonded to quite the same level. Yet they all followed Sam’s lead. A doorbell ring demanded the canine security alarm system be activated. Passersby on walks required we stop for ear rubs, body leans, tail wags and a friendly hello. And the sound of crinkle packaging of any food meant cheese! It was the clarion call for sitting at my feet in front of the fridge in anticipation of a tasty treat being dispensed. Sam was my go-to muse for most of my posts. He was the obvious but quiet leader and the glue that kept us all functioning and now our daily happenings have us all walking out of step and out of rhythm. Our compass has disappeared and we are searching for a new evolutionary shift signaling a new ‘normal’ will be the benchmark. We will l get there with some time as new rituals are established.
That said, I would be remiss if I didn’t express my most heartfelt gratitude for all the calls, texts, emails, cards and comments from so many of you while we work through this evolutionary period. You have buoyed our spirits to such an extent and I want you all to know how much this has meant to me. Words however seem so inadequate but please know your loving support has meant so very much. From family members, neighbors, friends and you dear readers, you have all touched our hearts and I am ever so grateful for your kindness and support. You guys stepped in to fill in the gaps as the glue we need.
To my surprise this figurine appeared a couple of days ago without any card or note or attribution. I would love to acknowledge and thank the mystery benefactor so if it was you, please let me know; so that I may thank you more personally. It’s a lovely piece from Joy of Giving and it truly touched my heart. THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart!
As you might expect, yesterday was a very emotional and overwhelming day. So emotional in fact, I was unable respond to all of the touching comments and well wishes you left about Sam’s last day as a pet therapy dog. To say I was a basketcase as I read each of your sweet notes is more than an understatement. Please know I am ever so grateful for your support and kindness as we begin to write a new chapter in life as we learn how to cope with a new reality in the days ahead.
To say that Sam left it all on the field yesterday is an understatement. Not only did he see more patients at West Pines than we have ever visited with before, he was sweetly patient and attentive as loads of people showered him with loving praise. As usual, he had to sniff out all the go-cups of coffee (don’t know what it is about coffee-he wouldn’t drink it but loves sniffing at their cups), and performed his ‘licking his chops on command’ trick for everyone. It’s the only trick he has ever performed (it’s his belief that performance art is beneath him) and managed to visit with each and every person we encountered. Naturally he spent a extra moments with several people, all who clearly needed the love of a sweet dog sent to put a smile on their face and in their heart. And yes, there were some tears shed by more than one patient at this wonderful dog’s ability to read what people need.
As I tear up just writing this post, I can honestly say I’ve never been more proud of this silly Knucklehead. The staff was touched by him and more than a few tears fell at the thought it was Sam’s last visit. Because we’ve met so many wonderful, caring folks in the nearly seven years of visiting the hospital, I decided we’d also swing by the main hospital to bid our favorites a fond farewell. Once people realized it was our last visit, we were surrounded by folks (many who were new to us) to praise Sam’s efforts. This silly, sweet ‘Dogtor’ has chalked up 219 visits over the years, reaching out to hundreds if not thousands of people extolling the virtues of pet therapists everywhere. I didn’t check to see how many hours he’s logged, but I can guarantee it’s been loads.
As a final act of doing what this boy does best, we went to say goodbye to our friends in the hospital lab. When we arrived, there was quite the commotion going on in the waiting room. A baby was wailing his head off much to his mother’s chagrin. She was unsuccessful at comforting the little tyke but once he saw Sam he blinked through tears, babbled something I couldn’t decipher as Sam stopped dead in his tracks. There was one more person to comfort before saying goodbye. He walked up to the little guy who patted his back with chubby little hands. Then the little boy kissed Sam on his fluffy back and head. Repeatedly. Sam stood here relishing the attention and stuck his nose in the little boy’s face, as if to say, “there, there, little man…it’ll all be good. With tears dried up, the little boy began to smile and continued to simultaneously pat and kiss him as he tottered around Sam on wobbly legs. I nearly lost it at this point especially when people commented on how sweet the whole scene was.
Certainly that small chance encounter was emblematic of what we’ve experienced over the years but this one was an extra sweet experience and one that will remain in my heart for a long, long time.
We finished our goodbyes to those who had been ever so gracious and kind over the years with vows of staying in touch. As I sat in the car ready to head home, I had to spend several minutes composing myself. Once again, the hospital gave us more than we left. I am truly blessed to have experienced such camaraderie over the years to both me and to Dogtor Sam. What a community of people, those we visit and those who visit us, here as well in person. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for all of you following us, leaving such special comments over the years and supporting our efforts to make this world a bit better than we found it. Mere words of thanks don’t seem sufficient for all you’ve given us but please know I feel profoundly blessed and grateful for each and every one of you.
Hard to believe this is the last day of April and I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge some watershed moments that happen in April. Seventeen years ago I moved into my current home on April 26th. I purposely picked this neighborhood for its close proximity to downtown where I worked plus the fact it was a long-established neighborhood in the city. I loved the community feel that has been woven into my very soul. Safe to say, I am deeply connected here with the location and its inhabitants.
April is also the month when I first began publishing this blog some five years ago, although WordPress counts March as the birth month which is technically correct, yet the first post didn’t publish until the end of April when I finally took a deep breath and pushed the ‘publish’ button. What a terrifying moment that was and life hasn’t been quite the same since ever since.
Twelve years ago this month I began the process of adopting a certain (sub)Standard Poodle who was being rehomed, though he became a member of the Ranch household the first week in May. Who’d have known at that time what a fortuitous adoption that would be and resulted in us embarking upon a pet therapy odyssey a few years later after it was very clear he was a very special dog. Six years ago this month, Sam and I began volunteering at the hospital. I wanted a way to share our pet therapy moments since it was clear my first blogging idea of sharing home design/DIY had no chance to launch due to lack of abilities on that front. Luckily Sam does all the work and I just drive him to the hospital, I knew I could document this Knucklehead’s ability to connect with people. It’s been a ‘pawsome’ collaboration ever since. We’ve had many highs and known a few lows but it has been one of the most rewarding journeys ever. Sam is now two visits shy of making 200 visits brightening the lives of patients, staff and visitors. We expect to continue as long as possible but at 13 1/2 years old, I hold no illusions. My baby is slowing down and while he still loves the adventure, visiting sick people wears him out too much. We may look into a reader program or a senior living situation but for now, things are full speed ahead with hospital pet therapy.
I would be remiss not to mention how much we value your part in this journey. I swear you guys are some of the smartest, funniest, kindest people I’ve ever known. Your clever posts and comments have made me laugh and in some cases cry. Your ability to convey deeply personal experiences inspires and moves me to do better, write better and I thank you from the bottom of my heart.
Over the weekend, my family celebrated my parents’ 70th wedding anniversary. Yes, 70. freaking. years! All the siblings and their spouses enjoyed a lovely celebratory get-together. Just thinking about the smiles across my parents’ faces as they looked around and saw their children, a couple of grandchildren and a great-grand and a half (one niece is expecting any day now) was beyond heartwarming. Congrats Mom and Dad!
Last week was a difficult week for both me and Sam with a number of personal loses. Two of our pet therapy dogs passed away, which is always sad, but particularly one…Truffles, a big chocolate Newfie who was especially beloved by Sam, will be felt for a long time. A dear friend who was a mere 42 years of age was laid to rest. A kinder, gentler, more generous human you’d be hard-pressed to find. Tony brought joy to all who knew him and while his physical body is not with us, his spirit will live on within each of us. Sam adored Tony and my one regret was not being able to bring Sam to his bedside at the end. I know his tail would have wagged furiously and no doubt he’d have hogged Tony’s bed while Tony happily provided plenty of ear rubs.
We visited an even younger woman at hospice last week. Probably in her 30’s, Shauna was conscious enough and very insistent on visiting with Sam. The pain on her face as she readjusted herself to be able to pet him told me how important his visit was for her. Her best friend (and visibly pregnant) since the 7th grade was with her in her final moments, a true friend right to the end. While visiting with them, I noticed a large tattoo on Shauna’s forearm. It read, “The girl who lived life” and it told me about the core of this brave woman. As her body was failing her, I knew she had made a special mark with her passion and spirit much like my friend Tony did. Recalling both of them her, more tears stream down my face. I know both are free of earthly bonds, no longer held hostage by unbearable pain but they will remain in the hearts of those who cared about them. They may no longer be with us physically, but will always guide us toward our own final path. I only hope I have as much grace and dignity as they both did.
So yeah, April is a big deal around the Ranch. I look upon it and celebrate the accomplishments, the anniversaries and share the losses because they all add up to a community I cherish and which allows me to share it with you. I plan to explore more reflections on the death and dying aspect of life in the future but for now thank you for coming along with me.
Last week we visited hospice and hospital over Valentine’s Day and experienced some of our best visits. Ever. Sam was especially extra patient and loving on both days.
We typically make a swing through the surgical waiting area before heading up to our assigned floor to visit with family and friends waiting for their loved ones and this week was no exception. Sam seemed to sense the first group needed extra attention. They included a husband, wife and another friend of the family’s. The husband’s face lit up as we came around the corner and Sam made a beeline for him. His wife squealed when she turned around, but Sam was determined to say hello first to him. His tail was wagging like a wound up metronome as he gazed into the guy’s eyes, so deeply in fact his wife commented on it. Sam turned toward her and she melted under his hypnotic spell, then he turned his gaze back to toward the man again. We spent several minutes chatting, learned he retired from being a police officer for over 40 years. Retirement wasn’t exactly his jam so he started working part-time at Home Depot for a while and shared several photos of pups who came in with their owners and said how much he appreciated it when people brought their 4-legged ‘handyman’ in to provide TLC with employees. He was totally in Sam’s paws, so much so, that he began leaning against the guy’s leg. Sam laid down next to him knowing he needed to chat and share stories of how much he enjoyed that job with those pooch encounters.
It became clear we could have spent loads of time visiting with this couple and learning more about them and their own dog at home but saw several other groups in the waiting area so we began to wrap it up. As we prepared to leave for the next family, the man asked me to say a prayer for his 91-year-old mother-in-law. Bless her heart, she was having a serious procedure done and worried about her long-term prognosis. Now I completely understood why Sam spent so much time with him. Sam knew his visit was what the doctor ordered for this family.
We moved on to the next family whose elderly mom was the patient, Sam gave and received loads of kisses and hugs from the two sisters and aunts and uncles waiting to hear how their loved one fared in surgery. It’s always touching seeing this knucklehead spreading pure joy among people whose hearts are heavy as their family faces uncertain times. He seems to know who to visit first and for how long. Ironic considering when I try to get him to do something along our daily walks, he looks at me like I’m speaking in tongues.
Following the hospital visits, we went over to hospice where the nurses in particular needed Sam’s loving presence. Overnight, 5 patients had passed away, something that’s extremely rare for one day, and the staff needed some puppy love from a sweet loving therapy dog. While we were there, the last body was removed and as noted before they perform a Tibetan bowl ceremony while the body is removed. It’s a beautiful ceremony and Sam sat solemnly next to the line of nurses lined up watching as the body is removed from the building. Once the body was removed and everyone went back to work, he spent extra time with each one of the nurses on the floor. They needed his special attention and tail wags and they all expressed gratitude for his visit. While we’d just been visiting a couple of weeks earlier, I was particularly glad we answered the call to help them deal with the loss on what was a probably an extra difficult day at work.
This silly, goofy dog had the perfect touch for our Valentine’s Day visits and I couldn’t be prouder of this boy for doing what he does best. Making people smile and feel better, even if just for a few moments. While I know his days may be numbered as part of the pet therapy program, I know he will always give it his all.
We’re back to pawticipate in Rosy and the Boy’s Nature Friday and while my vacay was fabulous…it’s always good to come home. Even if there was a 60 degree difference in temperatures. While I love this time of year, I will confess to rather enjoying the balmy warm days on the beach. For those who didn’t know where I spent the week, I was in sunny Puerto Vallarta ‘staying calm on the fun side of the Wall’ as some of the locals like to refer to it. Not only were the temperatures warm, the locals were too and graciously kind helping our family navigate a different culture and language of which we are not at all fluent. I was touched by their generosity of spirit and kindness.
But back to Nature Friday. Imagine waking up to a view like this every morning on your way to breakfast. What’s not to appreciate, especially given that I left in a snowstorm with temps hovering in the low 20’s? The clear blue skies and water and remarkably clean beaches with people enjoying fun activities in the sun…it was a soul cleansing week. And sunsets that made you ooh and aww with their incredible color.
We hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving; for our part, we were reflective in our gratitude…for health, happiness, love and fellowship with our family and fur-iends, both the 2 and 4-legged versions and naturally for you, dear reader. It’s days like yesterday where I am reminded just how blessed and fortunate I am. Have a great weekend, savor those left-overs and stay safe if you’re brave enough to actually go out shopping.
Last evening Sam was scheduled for his semi-annual re-evaluation to continue participation in the pet therapy program at Lutheran Hospital. Pets in the program receive a general health check as well as an evaluation as to suitability to participate. As I prepared the paperwork questionnaire, the Knucklehead could sense sometime beyond the usual evening routine was afoot. It’s always impressive to watch dogs intuition play out and he dashed from the back door to the garage in happy bounces. He sailed into the back seat and readied himself for the adventure.
We arrived at the volunteer office located on the south end of the main hospital building. This entrance is generally locked after hours which is no problem as my badge will provide access. We were greeted by a hospital volunteer who was stationed there for those who neglected to bring their badge with them. We’ve encountered Dave many times in various locations throughout the hospital. He always has a warm grin but especially when he sees the dogs coming. Sam adores him and immediately leaned in against his leg for a good ear scratch.
While we waited, a couple of volunteers came by to sign out. One was a high schooler who was super delighted to visit with Sam after his evening shift. Sam’s tail went into overdrive. Once they left, I reflected how well Sam connects with everyone he encounters and my heart swelled with pride with this sweet pup. When our number came up, we went in to visit with Dr. Diana Roberts, one of the volunteer vets who donates her time supporting our program. We hadn’t seen Dr. Roberts at our last two evals and were thrilled to see her again.
Sam adores Dr. R and not just because she provides scrumptious treats. She’s beyond kind, smiles a lot and has a soothing touch, all ‘wagnificent’ qualities for a vet. Sam passed this latest eval with flying colors and then we spent several minutes joking about his knuckleheaded-ness. Ok, maybe that was just me. They just laughed at my stories. The volunteer who coordinates all of the evaluations ribs me when I say Sam is a knucklehead and then, naturally he does something that proves it and we all laugh; but a sweeter dog would be difficult to find. This photo, taken just before we left for the evaluation, seems to underscore that sweetness.
We’re looking forward to our visits later this month and during this month of thankfulness, I find how truly grateful I am for this amazing dog and for the pet therapy program where he can bring smiles to others.
Yesterday was a gorgeous day in the 303 with mild temps and even a shower later in the day-something we haven’t seen in a couple of months. Mother Nature has been quite schizoid this summer so it was wonderful being able to take advantage of this pause in blistering temperatures. It was the perfect day to visit the Denver Botanical Gardens with a dear friend. My dear friend, Cheryl and I were awed by nature’s kaleidoscope of color and texture. Here are a few highlights from our meanderings. It was a great day shared with a great friend that reminded me how truly blessed I am by this friendship and the gorgeous venue in the heart of the city.
Wishing you a fabulous day of wandering. Happy mid-week.
Sam and I visited the hospital a couple of weeks ago for the first time since December and while we’re visiting again this week, I wanted to share our last experiences. My mom was again hospitalized in December (you can read about the first time she became illhere), so pet therapy visits were put on hold while I drove back and forth to visit her a 100+ miles south of Denver. When she was released four weeks later, my brain apparently excised all previously felt fears, memories and hospital experiences as life returned to being more “routine.” The whole family was jubilant she was still with us despite various setbacks experienced while in the hospital. Walking into the hospital now with Sam, I was soon to be again teleported back in time where I saw more than my fair share of hospital waiting rooms, heard overhead notifications, watched medical treatments and overworked staff dashing from room to room. The hospital lighting and odors of hospital corridors suddenly triggered deep memories swirling deep within my brain as I recalled many once forgotten memories a couple of months ago as I watched her in ICU and prayed like a monk she would survive again. Funny how that kind of experience transports you back in a heartbeat.
Sam eagerly entered the hospital during the week where our temperatures had been in the single digits, with a dusting of snow. As a safety measure, the hospital tends to over salt all walkways so I decided to make sure Sam’s feet were covered to keep his paws from being burnt by nasty de-icing chemicals. We went to work right away even though I learned when it comes to wearing snow boots on freshly groomed paws, they can act like a new pair of shoes does on uprights, cause a blister and they rubbed one toe raw (so sorry buddy). Luckily treats seemed to keep me in his good graces even if that one toe in particular looked very angry. Being the pro he is, Sam was pretty nonplussed. We started out in the lobby area, picked up a hot beverage at the coffee shop and began to re-acquaint ourselves with all the lobby traffic. Next to the coffee shop is the out-patient surgical waiting area where we drop in to visit folks waiting for word on how their loved ones endured their procedures. Soon we were surrounded by several nurses and medical staff wanting to say hello to the Knucklehead.
Because it’d been so cold that week, I had left Sam’s hair long, just cleaning up his face, feet, and tail. He was brushed into a giant fluff ball and always manages to attract a crowd who want to run their fingers through his soft hair. It wasn’t long before we were approached by a couple of women. The first one said Sam looked just like her three-month old standard poodle puppy and she showed me a video of her pup who was enrolled in a class in preparation for being trained as her own therapy service dog. She explained she was an Air Force veteran and looking forward to her ‘baby’ helping her. We talked for a long time about training methods, etc. and Sam sat contentedly near her as she recalled time spent in the service and of her beloved puppy. Her friend chimed in and shared stories of her own pets and experiences as a military contractor in Okinawa and how much she loved living there. These women were friends and the military contractor was vacationing with her friend. There was a deep bond between the woman and we chatted a long time. Realizing we needed to get on with our appointed rounds, we bid each other adieu then made our way through the lobby when I heard two young girls squeal a frequently heard comment, “Oh my gawd, there’s a dog here!!”
These two girls fussed and fawned over Sam, took selfies of him and I was beginning to think I might have to arm wrestle Sam away from Danais. They were just finishing up their shadowing experience and shared details of their training and all the steps they were taking toward future plans with becoming RN’s. Not sure I was ever that well-organized in high school…heck, I’m not sure even now as an adult, come to think of it. Yet these two young women gave me hope for the future as young people begin to take their place in society. Today’s youth seems to have their lives well mapped out.
A quick swing through the gift shop and along other public areas and we were ready to hit our first assignment. We’d already been there well over an hour.
As we made our way to the assigned floor, a tall elderly man rushed up to us and asked if we would visit his wife who’d love a visit. “We’d love to brighten her day,” I replied. He smiled broadly at Sam, and the two of them looked deeply into each other’s faces. It was one of those lingering moments and then he abruptly turned, thanked us for going to see her and proceeded on his way toward the elevator. As I walked toward Alice’s room, memories suddenly flooded my psyche…the lighting, the odors, the hectic pace of the nurses dashing from room to room and the look of concern on people’s faces. And in a snap, I was reminded of my mom’s stay. Sam must have picked up on my energy and he stayed close though he did visit with Alice briefly.
By now, my brain was in a fog triggering recollections from those four weeks while I visited my mom in her hospital room. My soul had been deeply touched with the memories flooding back and yet we still had more visits at hospice. Sam seemed to sense that I and everyone else we encountered that day needed his attention. His energy level was beginning to wane, yet we soldiered on to hospice.
We walked in and were warmly greeted by the staff. The palliative staff at hospice are angels on earth in my mind. Theirs is a difficult job transitioning people through whatever comes after life and yet they always manage to stay warm, calm and comforting. One of the nurses asked us to stop in and see a staff doctor before visiting patients and we happily took the detour. Dr. R was thrilled for a break and gave Sam loads of attention. Leaving her to return to visits, we moved to see the patient in Room 213. The desk nurse said she’d be non-responsive but her husband could use a bit of diversion and a friendly face.
It’s always touching seeing someone visiting a hospice patient-we often see too many who are alone. We knocked, introduced ourselves and were greeting by a kind face. ‘Calvin’ unconsciously began to pet Sam who sat between his legs while sharing a number of long stories about his wife, ‘Jeanette’ who was a handful of years younger than her youthful looking husband. She had suffered repeated health issues during her life and he seemed the need to share details of her life to assuage a soon-to-be uncertain future following a grim prognosis. After a long visit, Calvin thanked us, we exchanged well wishes and then left. It had been a bitter cold day and though I experienced many warm thoughts toward everyone we visited, I couldn’t shake the reality of what it’s like on the other side of the leash…exactly where I had been just two months earlier with my mom. It weighed on my heart and made sleep pretty elusive that night.
Tomorrow we’ll visit West Pines again and should have more stories to share later. Last month’s West Pines visit touched me and it will no doubt likely be the same again this time. We continue to be moved by the residents at West Pines. They often impact us for days and even weeks later.
The action movie, Justice League was released last week and the reviews are a bit of a mixed bag, but what’s not a mixed bag is this story about real life heroes, selflessness and the importance of organ donations. No doubt many of you have the organ donor box checked on your driver’s license in the event some unforeseen accident claims your life. But how many of you just decided one day to become a living donor? This is a story about a Wonder Woman of a different kind.
You may recall some past posts about my mail carrier, Korrie. Mostly I’ve shared how first Sam, and now Elsa, lose their minds whenever the mail is delivered. Despite being the most laid back, mellow pair, for some unknown reason Sam in particular is convinced that Korrie was some sort of serial killer. He’d go full on Cujo. And so did Elsa. Well…’because my brother does it.’ Every. single. time. The rules regarding mail delivery are pretty simple: (a) see Korrie walking past the house and up the front walk. (b) Raise holy &#@% a ruckus barking at the top of their lungs. (c) Door opens to retrieve mail. (d) Dogs go from 60 to zero when they realize, “Oh yeah, it’s Korrie. Woo-hoo!! Our favorite mail carrier who always says nice things and pays attention to us.” (e) Immediately upon realization of who it is, these two knuckleheads regain their composure and begin leaning against her leg, tails furiously wagging, lovingly looking up into her eyes and enjoying every ear rub and butt scratch she gives them. It’s the same scenario very time and many days they try to head out with her on to the next house. Across the street. Awk!
You may recall, Korrie has delivered my mail for years and like most of her customers along the route, I’ve gotten to know her well and know she’s a Facebook friend to most people from the route (truth be told, she probably knows more of the neighbors than I do!). A former fire fighter in the Air Force whose heart is a big as the Rocky Mountains she loves, Korrie was a mail carrier in Hawaii where she dreamed of moving to Colorado to enjoy skiing in particular, and the great outdoors in general. Korrie is a fitness freak, often competing in Iron (Wo)Man contests and high-rise stair climbs for various causes (she ran a marathon the Monday before donating her kidney!). Everyone in the neighborhood knows her and she knows us, smiling at each person with an upbeat greeting whenever she sees us. She befriended an elderly widower and fellow veteran who lived a couple blocks away and she continued to look out for him until his passing this spring. That’s just the kind of person she is.
So when she happened to mention in passing to one of her customersthat she’d like info on how to donate a kidney, he mentioned that he knew someone in need…a young woman who was suffering from end stage renal disease with only 4% kidney function. After Korrie was determined to be a perfect match over the summer, she donated one of her kidneys to Rachel a couple of months ago and recently returned to work. When I saw her back on the route, she was in terrific spirits and in even better shape. Rachel is also doing great and is finally able to enjoy life after suffering from diabetes for some 20 years. The dogs sense the extraordinary specialness of Korrie too because so far they don’t seem to completely lose their minds when she makes a delivery. Sure they bark a couple of times, but now seem to understand just how lucky we are to know someone so selfless and so incredibly special.
And so during this week of Thanksgiving when I reflect about all the blessings in my life, I am all the more grateful to know Korrie, a real life hero and Wonder Woman. In this day and age of acrimony and meanness, a generous and selfless woman who loves life touches my heart and those around her. We are all richer for it and so are my fur kids.
We all think our vets are ‘stars,’ right? Well, we should. When you are entrusting your beloved fur-kid, you definitely want them to be a star. I mean, who wants to drop a house payment on a vet you have no confidence in when your pet needs critical care? But in my case (house payment aside), my vet really is a star. A TV star that is, as in Dr. Jeff, Rocky Mountain Vet currently airing on the Animal Planet network. These days our vet stars are Dr. Amy (who treats Elsa for her seizures) and Dr. Baier (who tends to Sam’s health) who work at his clinic, Planned Pethood Plus. And I’m very happy with all of them. By the way, if you haven’t seen the show, I strongly recommend it so you can see how this pillar of the community has made a difference in the lives of so many people and their pets. Here’s a link to a recent episode. Dr. Jeff also shares my passion regarding puppy mills and is a firm believer that you shouldn’t have to declare bankruptcy in order to take care of your pet. We all know treatment for pets can be limited by an ability to pay for it so he does everything he can to make treatment affordable.
My association with Planned Pethood did not begin when discovered the show which now has around a million and a half viewers each week. Established back in 1990, the clinic was located not far from where I currently live although I had been going to his mobile low-cost vaccination clinics for over 20 years. With a seasoned staff of some 30 professionals, some who have been with him since they were hired out of high school where he has also been a cross-country track coach for the school, he is one of the busiest vets in the country with 100,000 clients. Dr. Jeff is driven by two simple underlying missions “significantly reducing companion animal overpopulation throughout the world” and “thinking globally: acting locally.” His passion for curbing pet overpopulation is paramount to his practice, with all rescues treated being spayed or neutered. In fact he has probably performed over 160,000 spay and neuter procedures in the Denver area, as well as providing all manner of veterinary care with his mobile unit throughout the Rocky Mountain region and internationally through Planned Pethood International clinics located in Bratislava, Slovakia and Merida, Mexico.
Having a vet who just happens to be a TV as well as our personal vet star isn’t always rainbows and unicorns though. Because of the sheer number of clients, there are times when it can be frustrating waiting for a return call and it can be challenging keeping one’s expectations for instantaneous care in check. Like most people, I’m impatient when it comes to the care of my fur-babies. Yet I know the work performed is always in the best interests of their clients when they need treatment (did I mention he has 100,000 clients?) and know they always provide quality, affordable care. In 2016 just prior to the season finale, Dr. Jeff made the shocking announcement revealing a diagnosis of B-cell Lymphoma and that the landmark clinic would be moving from the Highlands neighborhood to a new location a few miles west in the suburb of Wheat Ridge. He cut his signature shoulder-length hair in an episode that was hard on the staff and all who know and love Dr. Jeff. While you can never be certain of a long-term prognosis with cancer, he seems to be doing well and continues his work with the same passion as always. We certainly wish him all the best.
When I began drafting this post, I realized Dr. Jeff isn’t the only vet star I’d been fortunate to have taken care of my fur-kids. Back in the 90’s when I lived out east in the suburb of Aurora, my first dog had epilepsy, too. Our neighborhood vet did not have 24 hour care when Crosby’s Grand Mal seizures began and recommended he be transported over to Alameda East, a couple of miles away where he was successfully treated and where all my other pets were treated as well. Back then, the TV series ER was hugely popular and Animal Planet contacted Dr. Robert Taylor, the founder of Alameda East Veterinary Hospital about producing a reality show showing the treatment of animals and thus the show Emergency Vets began airing in 1998. The show ended in 2002 just before I moved to the west side of town once I realized Dr. Jeff’s mobile clinic had a permanent location close to the house.
While we were clients at Alameda East, our vet ‘star’ was Dr. Kevin Fitzgerald, who was a reptile specialist and who coincidently happened to be a well-known local stand-up comedian in his spare time as well as a TV star.
Doesn’t it seems kind of ironic that both of my vets have been TV stars? Not that I’m complaining, mind you. But you have to admit it is interesting they both have silver hair and mustaches and are ‘stars’ in multiple ways.
Maybe there is something special about the thin air of the Mile High City that produces such terrific stars both on TV as well as for providing great care to my fur-kids.