It finally happened. My daughter Jenny, who lives in Houston, somewhat reluctantly agreed with the rest of the family that a family dog was needed. I say reluctantly because she well understood that the care of “the kids’ dog” always ends up in the lap of mom and dad. With three active kids, managing the household, and running their home construction company, there seemed to be little wiggle room in the schedule for the demands of a new puppy. But if they were going to get a puppy, Jenny would do it in a thoughtful, step by step process. After a little research, it did not take long to settle on getting a labradoodle because of their reputation as being both hypoallergenic and an exceptional family dog. I always encourage adopting a rescue of course, but Jenny wanted a dog with predictable qualities. Decision made, check!
I told Jenny I was not going to interfere in the new puppy process. I figured I was 160 miles away and she needed to find nearby professionals that could guide her through the challenging days ahead. Of course by not interfering, I meant I would let her find people that I had checked out and approved of.
Jenny was well acquainted with the hazards of buying a puppy by the side of the road or in a parking lot, so finding a reputable breeder was the next step. It turned out to be easy enough. Some of her friends had bought puppies from the same local breeder, and they had turned out to be both healthy and well mannered. Once a litter was available, the whole family visited the kennel. You can tell a lot about the quality of a puppy by checking out the kennel they are coming from. Satisfied with the look of the place, they met both the mother and her puppies that would be ready for new homes in a few weeks. Breeder, check!
I have always believed meeting the mother (and the father if around) is important since dogs are no different than people – the apple usually doesn’t fall far from the tree. One little guy seemed particularly friendly and confident. After getting home and thinking it over, Jenny and husband Matt decided that he would become the newest member of the family. Unbeknownst to me, along with his first vaccines and deworming, he was also neutered before being sold. I was horrified when I found out. While not all agree, I think the practice of neutering a little puppy is completely indefensible from a medical standpoint. But, alas, the deed was done so after a little ranting and raving I let it go. Puppy, check!
The day before picking the little guy up, I went with Jenny to meet with the trainer she had signed up with, Debbie Oliver of Miss Daisy’s Dog Camp. I did not mention I was a veterinarian, I only introduced myself as Jenny’s dad. I am sure she was thinking I must be an incredibly overbearing father to still be micromanaging his 30 something year old daughter. Actually, I just wanted to hear what she had to say about training puppies with “Dad”, not “Dr. Campbell”, in the room. In short, she was amazing, obviously highly experienced and very knowledgeable. I liked her and I liked what she had to say. She gave us an excellent primer on how best to set up things up for the new puppy’s arrival. Trainer, check!
After a fair amount of maneuvering and subterfuge, the puppy arrived the next day as a surprise for the kids and it was a scene worthy of a Hallmark movie. They were so excited and happy, it almost brought tears to my eyes. Almost. The name that Megan, my oldest granddaughter, had picked out was Silas. Not the most common name for a dog. In fact, in forty years of practice, I don’t recall ever knowing a Silas. But Megan was right, it turns out that he does look like a Silas. After things settled down a bit, all the “doggie items” that had been hidden were brought out to rearrange the house for a puppy. A puppy pen and training crate with his bed were set up getting prepared for the first night. With what I knew would be a long night of puppy crying coming up, it was time for me to head back to Austin. Leaving when the hard part starts, check!
Silas’ first visit to the vet was scheduled for the following week. Jenny told me she had selected Dr. Jack Whitmore at Stuebner Airline Veterinary Hospital. By a strange coincidence, I remembered I had met Dr. Whitmore a few months earlier at a veterinary seminar in San Antonio. I had not realized his hospital was close to Jenny, but I remembered he told me he was one of the many in Houston who had been hit hard in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.
His story began a couple of years ago when he and his associates built their “dream hospital” across the street from the strip center where they had been practicing for close to 20 years. Within a year or so, Harvey hit and their new hospital was four feet under water, ruining everything and forcing them to close for months to redo everything. To stay afloat (pardon the expression), they were able to use a couple of exam rooms a nearby colleague let them use. They also set up a mobile vet trailer in the parking lot a veterinarian friend in Ft. Worth loaned them. As he described the friend, I realized he was describing my sister’s vet in Ft. Worth! I guess it’s true, it really is a small world after all. Anyway, for months they struggled along and somehow kept their entire staff employed the whole time. With such a huge staff and such limited space, I said it seemed impossible that there was enough work for everyone. He agreed but said there was no way they were going to lay anyone off. The feeling was that their employees and families were counting on them and they were not going let them down. Obviously the slogan “Houston Strong” adopted after Harvey was taken seriously at Stuebner Airline Veterinary Hospital.
With all that in mind, I was enthusiastic that out of all the veterinarians she could have chosen, Jenny was going to see someone I knew and respected. I decided to make the drive back to Houston to go with her for the first visit. Again, not interfering, but just as an observer. I not only wanted to see how they did things compared to our hospital, I wanted to check out Dr. Whitmore’s new hospital which I had heard was amazing. I was not disappointed.
As we pulled in to the parking lot, it was not only a beautiful hospital, it was big. There had to be seating for more than 50 people in the waiting room and I am sure I saw at least 10 exam rooms but there could have been more. We were quickly shown in to one of the rooms and a nice tech came in to get us started. Vitals were taken, vaccine and deworming history was noted, and a big fuss was made over how cute Silas was. As I was watching all this from the client perspective rather than as a doctor, I appreciated more than ever how good it feels to be congratulated on your extraordinary puppy. It was nice to know we were not the only ones who could see that Silas was special.
After a short wait, Dr. Whitmore came in and we took a few minutes to get reacquainted. Then he carefully checked Silas over, pronounced him healthy, and gave him his next series of vaccines. He had his second Distemper/Parvovirus booster and after a short discussion, a Canine Flu vaccine was added, Silas never seemed to notice the shots. You never know about that. Sometimes there is nothing, sometimes a jump and a yelp, and sometimes non stop crying as if they have been stabbed. It has more to do with the puppy than the way the shot is given, but I have always felt bad any time a patient jumps after I give an injection. But Silas just laid in the tech’s arms as if nothing had happened. What a trooper! Then Dr. Whitmore took us on a tour of the place and as I expected, it was an impressive, state of the art veterinary hospital.
It was also the largest general practice hospital I have ever been in. It was hard to believe that a little over a year ago it had all been under water.
After picking up heartworm and flea preventatives, we left feeling good about the hospital and Dr. Whitmore. I knew I could drive back to Austin and not worry about the medical care my new granddog Silas would be getting. In other words, veterinarian, check!
I am sure Silas has been a bit overwhelmed by it all. It can’t be easy to be playing with your litter mates one day and the next day find yourself in a completely new home with strangers. But he has done great, cried for only the first few nights, and seems to already be settled in. He clearly enjoys all the attention as the first and only dog in the house. In other words, from his point of view, new family, check!