He has the stance and aura of those dogs you see in the books and magazines as the ideal representative of their breed. He looks to be the near perfect physical specimen. As we all know looks can be deceiving.

I was first contacted by his owner, a friend of mine, roughly 6 months ago when I was first starting my practice.  He came to a pet event I was participating in with his two dogs, as support and to show them off.  I don’t blame him. They are great looking dogs, so why not show them off.  He mentioned the younger of the two males had been urinating excessively and sometimes having “accidents” in the house for some time.  I encouraged him to make an appointment with me to have the dog evaluated sooner than later. He said he would and we continued to enjoy the event.  Being a vet at a pet event, one gives lots of free advice and most times it is seen as just what it is: free advice.  Most of us place little to no value on things that are free and medical advice definitely falls into that category. I ran into my friend a few more times over the following months and inquired about his dog.  There was no change in his condition and I reiterated my advice. Free advice being what it is and life getting in the way, things get put on the back burner. We all do it and the matter stays on the back burner, until “something” makes it urgent.

Through a bit of internet searching, my friend discovered that “something,” which seems to be found more often than not with the help of Google.  He had come across an article about a relatively rare genetic disease which occurs in the breed of dog he owns. One of the major symptoms of the conditions is excessive urination. He contacted me and shared this information and his concern. He was upset and beating himself up over not addressing his pet’s health concern sooner.  By this time it had been almost a year since the pet started showing symptoms.  I shared an often quoted mantra of the church I attend: “We can’t have a better past but we can have a better future.” We made an appointment and did the testing. His pet was positive for the genetic disease, which is ultimately fatal. What now?

This was a condition I had read about but have never seen an actual case.  I did my due diligence in researching the condition and its treatment but didn’t find much to work with.  I spoke to several colleagues and classmates with the same results. Treatment options were limited, other than referral to a veterinary hospital at a university, which was not a good option for my client and patient for several reasons. With nothing to lose, I also turned to Google as a last resort. I came across several papers written by a renowned physiologist on the condition in question and treatment protocols which had been developed over a period of years. A bit more internet sleuthing turned up an email address for the physiologist. Again with nothing to lose, I sent him an email. Within an hour, I was surprised to receive an enthusiastic and detailed response to my request for advice and guidance from the international expert.  Since then we have exchanged several emails about my patient and treatment of the case. With the help of my new found colleague, we have started treatment for my friend’s pet and things are looking good.  There is no cure for his condition, but our hope is to significantly extend and improve the quality of his life.   I am very encouraged.

If you read this column with the take away that being a veterinarian was about helping animals, it would be a reasonable conclusion. For me, it goes deeper than that.

Often times being a veterinarian is about helping …and receiving help… with the goal of helping people. The simple act of asking for help from a person I didn’t know and didn’t know if I could reach was a leap of faith on my part.  The receipt of a response and help is nothing less than a blessing. My new colleague shared he responded so personably because in reading my initial message,  he received the “vibe” that I was a person trying to do something good and the right thing for another.  A leap of faith met and answered by a corresponding leap of faith.  Yes, sometimes we struggle and the struggle is real, but we are only as alone as we allow ourselves to be. 

Dr. Pierre Bland is a small animal practitioner who offers office and house call appointments to his clients.  His offices are located at 3225 N. Andrews Avenue, Ft. Lauderdale, FL and can be reached at 954 673-8579.