Celebrating Our Veterinary Heroes on World Veterinary Day
“At LSU SVM, you get scientific knowledge, excellent medical care, and compassion. That’s not available everywhere.” —Becky Kirk
World Veterinary Day, on April 24, 2021, is an annual celebration of the veterinary profession recognizing veterinary professionals’ contributions to the health of animals, people, and the environment. On this occasion, LSU School of Veterinary Medicine client Becky Kirk, expresses her gratitude for the expert and compassionate care her animals have received from the LSU SVM over the years. She shares the story of her dogs, Jackson and Loosey, and the veterinary teams that cared for them. Becky’s cat, Sunshine, is currently being treated for glaucoma by clinicians in the LSU SVM Ophthalmology service.
When Becky’s dogs, Jackson and Loosey, became seriously ill, her Acadiana-area veterinarians referred her to the LSU SVM. She made the 155-mile roundtrip trek from Abbeville to Baton Rouge multiple times, first with Jackson and several years later with Loosey, for diagnosis and treatment.
The healing journeys started in late 2011 when Jackson, a large brindle boxer/shepherd/pit bull, began limping. Jackson eventually was diagnosed with bone cancer. At the LSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital, his back leg was amputated up to his hip. Becky remembers Jackson’s surgeon consoling her, saying, “Dogs only need three legs; God gives them a spare.”
While Jackson was in the hospital, medical team members sent Becky pictures of him and called her every day with updates. “You wait for those calls,” she said. A student once told her, “Jackson seemed scared, so I laid down and slept next to his crate.” It’s that level of compassion and round-the-clock expert care that led Becky to become a repeat client and refer friends.
The Cancer Treatment Unit at the LSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital was formed in 1998 to aid in the diagnosis, care, and treatment of veterinary patients with cancer. With its mission of turning cancer patients into cancer survivors, it has two major service units—medical oncology (chemotherapy) and radiation oncology. Each is designed to diagnose and treat veterinary cancer patients with the most advanced technology and modalities available.
After Jackson’s second round of chemo, Dr. Melanie Mutz, with tears in her eyes, knelt next to Jackson, gave him a big hug, and told him he was a good dog. She advised Becky that there was no further medical treatment that could help him have a good quality of life.
Now, eight years later, Jackson is remembered fondly by Oncology service faculty and staff.
Becky said life circumstances at the time Jackson fell ill presented a challenge in covering his medical expenses.
“Jackson made me realize how people must feel when they can’t afford care. I was so grateful that they worked with us,” Becky said.
In October 2018, Becky would return to the LSU SVM, this time with her dog, Loosey, who was diagnosed with oral melanoma. They discussed a treatment plan and associated costs. She opted to go forward with the treatment plan.
The Oncology service works from a team approach, so a patient requiring chemotherapy or radiation therapy has the benefit of being evaluated by specialists who design a treatment protocol tailored to the patient’s individual needs.
“Everyone was so kind. They answered all of my questions. You don’t want someone talking to you like they’re reading from a menu. You want someone who really understands that this is my family member we’re talking about,” she said.
Loosey’s golf ball-sized tumor responded immediately to radiation and she was able to resume her usual life at home.
Then, in Spring 2019, the half bloodhound-half Labrador retriever collapsed while on a walk near Becky’s home. Loosey struggled to breathe, and she returned to the LSU SVM. Loosey remained in the ICU for 11 days to get her stabilized and assess her condition. That’s when they found liver and adrenal cancer.
“The radiation treatment was amazingly effective. If the oral melanoma had been her only problem, she would have been with us a lot longer,” she said.
Becky first saw Loosey as a homeless puppy at a veterinarian’s office. “I just wanted her. She was the kindest, sweetest dog ever. She would comfort us by putting her head on our shoulders and come check on us when we were yelling about football on TV,” said Becky, a devoted LSU football fan.
According to Shay Bordelon, radiation oncology nurse, Loosey was a good sport and cooperated with all treatments, which usually lasted one hour and required general anesthesia to keep her still. Loosey was always happy to see the medical team. If Loosey needed additional specialty services, for example, a CT scan, she could get it the same day at the veterinary school.
“My experience was very positive. I felt really confident in the care we were getting. They give you information, and you decide on the best course of action. I never questioned their competency. They know how important your pet is to you,” she said.
“Becky and Loosey fought hard,” Bordelon said.
After Loosey died, Bordelon called to ask how Becky was doing and sent her a memorial candle with the image of Saint Roch, patron saint of dogs.
“People often think oncology is sad. Some ask, 'Why work there?’ This is my calling. I love animals. We’re all here to help patients and clients,” Bordelon said.
Becky said, “I really felt like they loved my dogs.”
If you would like to join Becky in expressing gratitude to your own LSU SVM veterinary team, please click here to send your message, and we will make sure they receive it. If you would like to make a gift to the LSU SVM in honor your of your SVM veterinary team and to support the LSU School of Veterinary Medicine fulfill its mission to heal, teach, discover, and protect, please click here.
Sandra Sarr, MFA