As a veterinarian and owner of the Gardner Animal Care Center, I attempt to instill a sense of pride in our veterinary health care team.  We often discuss with our team the importance of knowing, believing and living our vision and mission on a daily basis.

Our vision states, “It is an honor to celebrate and cultivate the pet-family-veterinary bond,” while “Our mission is to maintain a dedicated, caring and knowledgeable team committed to providing exceptional client service and Veterinary Health Care.  We strive toward this excellence through continuing education, technical advances and compassionate care for all pets entrusted to us.

This never had more of a meaning than it did when I arrived at work one Tuesday morning, following my normal weekend off.  As usual, I got to our facility around 8:15 am ready to catch up with the messages and mail since my last working day.

I sat down with my great one coffee from Dunkin Donuts and began going through the mail stacked on my desk.  Two team members came to my desk to inform me of an upcoming appointment I would be seeing at 9:00 am.  I was surprised to hear the following account from the day before, but was more than prepared to do what needed to be done.

Monday afternoon was a typical day on the phones for the receptionists when an elderly gentleman called the office to request an appointment for Pookie.  He explained that he had a St. Bernard patient that his wife felt was not doing well, and would appreciate that a doctor take a look at his wife’s dog to make her feel better.  He went on to explain that the wife’s concerns were that the dog had developed some lumps on it’s head, the right eye did not look right, the pet had not eaten, had nothing to drink, did not move, or had not used the bathroom since they had gotten the pet in May of 1996.

Following the explanation of all the problems with their beloved pet, the husband quietly explained to the receptionist that the pet in question was not a real pet.  Unfortunately, his lovely wife, suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, had turned her attention to a stuffed animal that she treated like a living and breathing entity.  She truly believed this pet to be seriously ill but as she later described to me, “…thought it had a disposition like no other pet she had ever owned in the past.”  She just wanted her Pookie to get well.

Our receptionist, after discussing the phone conversation with others on the team, decided to book an appointment with me the following day.  The husband, feeling slightly embarrassed by his request, was grateful by the compassion showed by the team handling an unusual phone call.

At 9:00 am, the owners of the St. Bernard stuffed animal arrived at our clinic and were handled like every appointment to walk through our door.  Once in the examination room, the technician came to get me so I could start the appointment.  They were a little uncomfortable going into the room with the owners because they did not know what to do.  Therefore, I decided to do the entire appointment myself.

I entered the examination room, and introduced myself to the husband, wife and Pookie.  I took the history and recorded all the concerns the wife wished me to explore.  I proceeded to perform a thorough physical examination addressing each and every problem the wife had listed.  We discussed the findings and I explained to her that she should not worry because her Pookie was doing extremely well and had adapted to the circumstances of not being able to move, eat, drink or use the bathroom.  I also explained the lumps were part of the normal conformation of the skull (they were actually the sewn stitches on top of the head).

I went on to tell her I thought Pookie would be fine but to make her anxiety less, I told her I would give her pet a nutritional supplement shot that would last six (6) months.  She could not thank me enough for my care of Pookie.  I went to the back, drew up 12 cc of sterile saline in a syringe, and then went back to the room and administered the vaccination.

After asking them if there were any other questions, I escorted the husband to the receptionist’s desk while his wife comforted the patient.  He shook my hand and told my receptionist that I should receive an Academy Award for the care, compassion and tenderness I exhibited toward his wife and Pookie.  He asked if he could come back in six (6) months for a recheck or sooner should his wife need me.  I told him I would be honored to see them again in the future.

I spend everyday of my life healing the ill cat or dog, performing surgery after surgery, and administering preventative care to the healthy pet.  For the remainder of my life, I will NEVER forget the greatest moment of my career, the opportunity to comfort and heal the anxiety of one amazing lady who just wanted what was best for her stuffed animal, Pookie.  That day, I truly lived the vision and mission of our Animal Care Facility.

The next day, the elderly couple made another ’emergency’ appointment and brought Pookie in to see me.  The woman told the me that she just found out that pets were not allowed where they lived and she was so afraid that ‘they’ would come to take Pookie away from her.  She asked me if I would help her find a good home for Pookie?

I told her that I had told my daughter about Pookie and she would LOVE to give Pookie a good home.    The woman was very relieved and gave Pookie over to me.  I promised to send the woman some pictures of Pookie with my daughter so the woman would just have to look at the pictures to know that Pookie was being well taken care of.

Recently, the husband brought me a card and informed us that his wife had passed away.  He had to leave in a hurry because he did not want us to see him breakdown.  I am proud to be a husband, father, son and veterinarian, but this man, and the love for his wife, has taught me how to be a better human being.  I will be forever grateful and can only say, “THANK YOU!!  From the bottom of my heart.” –Dr. Brian C. Hurley, DVM.