Not so long ago, and not so far away, there was a dog named Kodiak. If you are fortunate, someone will enter your life and change the way you see everything. Such was the case with Kodiak, from the moment we met in 1995 when she adopted me.
She was 16 weeks old and looked like a little bear cub. It was unbelievable that she had been at the rescue shelter for 2 months without being adopted. Thankfully she waited for me.
I wasn’t a vet at the time, in fact I knew very little about caring for a dog. I asked my vet questions like, “If I brush her too much could she go bald?”!!! To learn as much as possible, I asked friends, people at the grocery store, anyone else who had a dog and seemed like an expert (didn’t have the kind of internet we do now). I was fortunate to have a very good friend and coworker who knew much more about dogs than I, thus began my education.
Kodiak and I were the best of friends, life was planned around her. I thought I was taking care of her, but it ended up that she was taking care of me. Kodiak awoke my passion for animals. So I did what any “sane” person would do…I quit a well paying job to go to vet school because I wanted to make sure I knew how to take care of her as she aged. Through the first years of vet school Kodiak never left my side when I wasn’t in class, staying up into the wee hours of the morning with me. Always there, always keeping an eye on me.
Unfortunately she held me to my promise too soon. I learned she was in kidney failure on the Friday before 3rd year vet school would start. After almost every diagnostic test under the sun, multiple times, we still didn’t know why. She wasn’t very old and there were no obvious causes. I was ready to quit school, to take care of her 24/7 if that is what it took. However, I still really hadn’t learned what I needed to know to take care of her.
She was not expected to survive the hospital stay. Why she did was partly her being kind to me because I was nowhere near ready to let go, partly because my education from her wasn’t done, and partly because I needed to find the path to integrative medicine. Once again I was lucky to find a friend, at that time known to me only as my vet, who would teach me the ropes of this new way of thinking.
The remainder of my vet schooling was learned from this perspective. Using a blend of Western and Alternative medicine along with careful balancing of her nutritional intake and hydration, Kodiak survived another three and a half years, not needing to be hospitalized again. The most important lesson I learned was to listen to Kodiak. By understanding her nuances, adjustments could be made to her care plan to keep her feeling good.
Kodiak acted as my teacher then, and continues to act as my guide now. Kodiak Veterinary Hospital is named for her, and for all those people who have their own “Kodiak” and need a guiding hand.