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What do you mean, rehab?

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It was late summer on a Friday night. We were gathered in a backyard down the street. The orange glow from the fire pit, and the clink of beer caps tossed onto the table top, softened the edges of a long week.
“What are you up to this weekend?” my neighbour asked.
“I’ve got this rehab course I’m going to tomorrow.” I said.
“Oh …. I see.” Her eyes wide, she looked down at the drink in my hand, and took a half step away from me.
“No, no – not like drug and alcohol rehab. It’s a veterinary rehabilitation course. It’s like physiotherapy.” I said.
She took the half step back towards me, her face relaxed, “Ohhh! OK, what’s that all about?”.
The conversation continued about our own injuries, and how the same principles of physiotherapy apply to injured pets.

The term, physiotherapy, is a protected one; legally veterinarians cannot use it to describe treatment of patients. And so, in the veterinary world, we use the term rehabilitation. When we understand what happens to injured tissues, and take advantage of the body’s natural healing process, the results can be amazing.
Benefits include:
1. increased speed of recovery
2. improved quality of motion
3. increased strength and endurance
4. improved flexibility
5. reduced pain
6. non-invasive
7. minimal complications
8. prevention of future injury

Every patient we see is unique – this requires us to individualize our rehabilitation plans. One of the things that I really love, is that client involvement is crucial. It’s very rewarding for owners to play such a big part in their pet’s recovery and well-being. For more information, check out our, What’s right with Rehabilitation page.

The Ginger Cat

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The Ginger Cat didn’t have a name, so I referred to him by the colour description on his cage card. There was one other adult cat at the Humane Society that summer. His name was Sam. He was a brown tabby with emerald eyes. I cleaned and fed the shelter cats every day. Whenever someone came in looking to adopt one, I would show them around. Most people wanted a kitten.
I would tell prospective owners,
“He is quiet and gentle and very careful about covering up his business. You never know how a kitten will turn out, but I can tell you these adult cats are great.”

Then one day – success! Someone adopted Sam. But in the weeks that followed, many kittens went to loving homes while The Ginger Cat remained. He was never really interested in food, although he ate well enough. He would walk the length of his kennel, turn and walk back, his motor running, his eyes locked on mine. His routine was always the same and all he wanted was my attention. It was more than half way through the summer, when the shelter manager Pat, took me aside during my lunch break.
“We cannot keep him much longer. It’s our policy – it isn’t humane to keep a cat locked up in a cage for months. I’m sorry, but he’ll have to be put down if we don’t find a home in the next 2 weeks.” she said.

That night at our kitchen table, I told my mom about my day.
“Do you think we could bring him home?” I said.
“Yes. But Dad’s got to say yes too.” she said.

The next day, my dad arrived at the shelter just before closing. I showed him around and then we headed down to the cat room. My dad stood there in his dress shirt and tie, The Ginger Cat like a baby in his arms. He couldn’t look away.
“OK.” he said.

My mom named him Beethoven. He loved to lay on his back and roll from side to side, begging for someone to rub his belly. At the end of the summer, I went off to university and Beethoven stayed behind. He spent the next fifteen years with my parents. Whenever I came home for a visit, he loved to just sit and look me. I swear he was the most grateful creature I’ve ever met. And for all the times I heard a ‘no’ from my parents, I am forever grateful that they said yes to The Ginger Cat.

To Be A Dog

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So far, I have shared my life with 6 dogs and met thousands over my career. Still, it isn’t enough. I was born loving dogs. From candles on a birthday cake, to pennies thrown into the fountain at the local mall, every wish I made was for a dog. I just wanted a dog. I just needed a dog.

A dog will sit by your bed when you cry and nestle behind your knees when you are cold or lonely. A dog will demand that you play. A dog does not care about your clothes, your hairstyle or your accomplishments. A dog only cares about being – with you. They teach us how easy love can be.

A few years ago I wrote this poem because sometimes … I just wish I were a dog.

To Be A Dog

Wouldn’t it be nice
if someone gently stroked my hair,
a kind and loving touch
to soothe away despair.

Wouldn’t it be nice
if someone looked me in the eye,
spoke the words, I love you
no hesitation in their sigh.

Wouldn’t it be nice
if words had no meaning;
stupid, bad, wrong, should’ve,
it would take away their sting.

Wouldn’t it be nice
if I were my friend instead of foe,
no longer in the ring
calling the action blow by blow.

Wouldn’t it be nice
if I could plop myself in bed,
fall asleep inside warm blankets
without a worry in my head.

Wouldn’t it be nice
if I could freely give a kiss,
to a heart that would accept it
awash in honest bliss.

Wouldn’t it be nice
to be free of mind’s thick bog.
It all boils down to this;
I just wish I were a dog

Taking a Break with Stanley

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I wait for my coffee with Stanley.  His pictures are up on the window of our treatment room, right in front of the Keurig machine.  He lived his life with spectacular exuberance.  Stanley had allergies, he tore a cruciate and he fractured a molar that was a real bugger to get out.  It was his legs that failed him in the end.  In his last few months, the only way we could get Stanley inside the clinic, was if his mom and dad brought runners from home.  Our non-slip rubber mats? Well those were no good.  Stanley needed the ones he was used to.  We liked to joke that he was neurotic or maybe just plain stubborn.  Either way, it was always fun with Stanley around.

As the Keurig machine hums and sputters, my mind wanders. Roll out the carpets!  Stanley is here!  He barrels through the front door while his adoring fans call out their hellos.  He makes a beeline for the dog room and flops himself down in his favourite spot, panting like a freight train all the way.  He looks up at me.  He knows I will stroke his soft brown fur and tell him just how lovely he is.

Before long, I smile.  Then, I laugh … out loud.  It just feels so good to have known him – to have known all of them. My shoulders relax as I take a deep breath, grab my coffee, and get back to work.