Going the Extra Mile

Announcing the winners of the 2007 Thank Your Vet for a Healthy Pet Contest.

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You love your dog, so it’s good to know you have a partner in safeguarding his health — your veterinarian. In the March 2007 issue of DOG FANCY, we asked great pet owners like you to thank your veterinarians by writing a short essay about their exceptional work, compassion, and dedication to your pets’ healthcare.

More than 1,000 pet owners nominated outstanding veterinarians across the country, and it is our pleasure to announce the national grand-prize winner, plus the four regional finalists in the 2007 Thank Your Vet for a Healthy Pet Contest.

Congratulations to the winners, and thanks to all exceptional veterinarians for their commitment to giving our dogs healthier, happier, longer lives.

National Winner
James L. Cook, DVM, director of the Comparative Orthopaedic Laboratory at the University of Missouri-Columbia College of Veterinary Medicine, went above and beyond the call of duty to perform surgery on a special service dog in Florida last year. Dr. Cook is the national grand-prize winner of the Thank Your Vet contest, in addition to being the Midwest regional finalist.

Michael Ray of Florida nominated Dr. Cook. Ray writes in his nomination essay, “Not only did Jimi save my best friend and companion from a life of pain and misery, he also gave me back my service dog.”

Sherri Rusch of Missouri also nominated Dr. Cook for performing eight surgeries over nine years to help her Labrador-Golden Retriever mix Sara, who suffered from severe hip dysplasia.

Ray, who was paralyzed almost 30 years ago by a gunshot wound, depends on Eagle, a 4-year-old Golden Retriever, to perform daily tasks, such as picking up dropped objects and pressing the elevator call button. But in 2005, Eagle started having mobility problems of his own. The dedicated Golden had shown signs of lameness in his front left leg as a puppy, but his condition, medial shoulder instability, worsened. Eagle would probably need surgery.

Man and dog visited the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine, where Ray learned about Dr. Cook’s research and a procedure the veterinary orthopedic surgeon performed on large dogs with front leg lameness at MU.

Ray sent an e-mail “out of the blue” asking Dr. Cook if he’d be willing to perform the procedure on Eagle.

“He replied that his good friend [Daniel Lewis, DVM] was the head of orthopedics at UF and an excellent surgeon, but I was welcome to take Eagle to the University of Missouri and he would take care of him. I boldly asked Dr. Cook if he could come to UF to do the surgery. He said yes, and ‘please call me Jimi.’”

Cook called the decision to take on the surgery a no-brainer. “I had been fortunate enough to develop an arthroscopic procedure that had a high success rate for treating Eagle’s specific problem, so I was just thrilled that I could help,” Cook explains. “Michael is just an amazing person. His spirit, attitude, and personality are inspiring, and they all came through from his very first e-mail.”

Thanks to the collaborative efforts of Dr. Cook and Dr. Lewis, the successful surgery was completed in June 2006 at UF, and today the service dog is back on the job. Eagle can even pull Ray’s wheelchair. “We found a friend for life in Jimi,” Ray says of the big-hearted veterinarian. “Jimi is a complete, spiritual man who helps those in need, whether it is animals of all types, volunteer work in Africa, or as a Big Brother.”

Dr. Cook is an associate professor of orthopedic surgery, a professor of small animal surgery, and a William C. Allen Endowed Scholar for Orthopedic Research. He holds a doctorate in pathobiology from MU, is an American College of Veterinary Surgeons diplomate, and has received multiple awards for his work in veterinary medicine.

Regional Finalists
The regional finalists in the Thank Your Vet contest and James L. Cook, DVM, will be officially recognized at the Western Veterinary Conference in Las Vegas on February 19, 2008. (To read full profiles of each regional finalist, click here >>)

James Thomas, VMD, Eagle Veterinary Clinic, Havertown, Pa.
“Nothing is too much for [Dr. Thomas] to handle. Dr. Thomas, along with his wife Kay, have provided veterinary care for the Pet Adoption and Lifecare Society (PALS), a Philadelphia-area cat rescue group.”
— Doris B. Woodside

Bob Encinosa, DVM, Boyette Animal Hospital, Riverview, Fla.
“When it came time to put [our dog Max] to sleep, Dr. Bob showed great compassion. One bright spot came in the form of a sympathy card from Dr. Bob with an enclosed acknowledgement indicating he made a donation in memory of Max to a local nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the lives of homeless animals. That one simple act really touched our hearts.                   
— Mary Beth Cammilleri

Tim R. Stone, DVM, Rittiman Road Animal Hospital, San Antonio
“Dr. Stone has cured many Pugs [from San Antonio Pug Rescue], including some of the worst case scenarios with the most wonderful outcomes. One of the most important things I learned from Dr. Stone is that along with good veterinary care, love surely goes a long way.”
— Kathleen Hoffman

Thomas R. Nickerson, DVM, Trinity Animal Hospital, Weaverville, Calif.
“As the only full-time veterinarian in a large county, Dr. Nickerson treats all animals. He has been known to discount services to those he knows are [in need]. During local forest fires, he opens his office to all that need care or boarding without charge. Dr. Nickerson is willing to give not only his time, but also his heart.”
— Cherie Bradley

– Read about the 2008 Thank Your Vet for a Healthy Pet winner

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