By Karin Krisher
Vetri-Science takes pride in our clinics. We like to feature a clinic of the month on a regular basis, and this month, we had one very special animal hospital in mind: Bay Area Animal Hospital, a long-running practice in Ashland, Wisconsin that happens to be the clinic of choice for a very special dog.
You might have heard of (or rather, seen) a rare photographic gem published recently in the Huffington Post. In the photograph, a loving owner relaxes in Lake Superior with his 19 year old German shepherd, Schoep. The man, John Unger, takes Schoep to the lake to ease his joint discomfort and allow him to relax in the cool water. He also takes him to Bay Area Animal Hospital.
We caught up with the owner of the hospital, Eric Haukaas, DVM, to learn more about this beat-the-odds dog, his relationship with his owner and of course, how Bay Area Animal Hospital, John, Vetri-Science and the dog-loving community have come together to make Schoep’s quality of life what it has the opportunity to be: quality.
Facebook Fans and Friends
Let’s start with the phenomenon of the viral photograph before diving into the heart of the practice and what makes it beat. After publication in early August, the photograph of John and Schoep has certainly made its rounds.
Dr. Haukaas first learned of the picture’s viral nature from a friend’s phone call.
“They said, ‘you’ve got to check out this photograph of this dog online’ and I looked at it and said, ‘oh, my God, that’s the dog I just saw two days ago!’” says Haukaas. “And then we started getting phone calls a couple of days later from people around the world seeing it, just seeing this dog and wanting to know what they can do to help.”
Haukaas, who joined the practice in 1993 and purchased it in 1998, has since set up a donation system for Schoep, whom he began working with about a year ago.
“This last saga started about six to eight weeks ago. Schoep came in very painful, very old,” says Haukaas. “And of course we had the discussion…what type of quality of life can we get for this guy? And with limited funds, like everybody has, what can you do? We talked about options and then the wonderful picture came out and donations started coming in, so we have been able to go all out with (care) for him, and the Glyco Flex III supplement is part of (that care). He really enjoys eating those.”
The donations were pouring in, so Haukaas and his crew at the 9,000 square foot facility (which includes grooming, kenneling and daycare areas for dogs and cats) set up a fund to help people donate without having to choose which type of support to give Schoep. (Dr. Haukaas has mentioned a great call for glucosamine supplements in this case.)
Quality of Life is the Most Important Thing
Since Schoep’s instant celebrity began, things have changed somewhat around the office. At least two television stations have interviewed Haukaas and John in practice, and at least eight different newspapers have also been pursuing the story. Bay Area’s Facebook page, which previously boasted “a couple of likes,” has since seen over 1,500 thumbs-up. John Unger and Schoep’s page has seen over 17,000.
“We’ve been trying to, number one, make sure Schoep gets taken care of properly, and we’re having media work around that,” says Haukaas.
To that end, Haukaas and his team have been caring for Schoep by going “slowly and carefully,” as they must with all geriatric dogs and cats. (Schoep isn’t the oldest patient, either; Bay Area also treats a 21-year old pup!)
“There are hundreds of products and treatments that could be done for this dog. But the dog and the person treating the dog can only handle so much,” says Haukaas. “John and I talked about this when it started exploding: The most important thing here is Schoep’s quality of life. And we also are saying we’re not trying to extend his life, we’re trying to give good quality to the life he has left, and in turn that could extend his life a little bit,” Haukaas says.
“But what can Schoep do, what can John do, what can we do without overloading the dog? Therapy laser treatments are great…and we decided that we were going to try this package of pain medication, Glyco Flex and therapy laser and if it works, that’s great. And if doesn’t work, we either reevaluate or maybe it is time to say goodbye,” he says. “And we got lucky! We picked the right things. Schoep’s doing great.”
Bay Area Animal Hospital and Vetri-Science—Friends Indeed
Dr. Haukaas has been in the veterinary profession for over 20 years. That’s enough time to create a thriving practice with 12 employees who truly care about providing animals with the best quality of life possible—at least in this case. Bay Area Animal Hospital has been working with Vetri-Science for about 10 years to support animal health in a new, natural way.
“The style of practice we’ve developed here over the years is that we offer not only the basics, but also non-drug alternatives, and that’s what a number of our clients are looking for,” says Dr. Haukaas.
“As I realized that people are open and looking for this and willing to try this out, I researched recurrent (concerns) we were having and what was available for these. The Vetri-Science line fit into my practice’s needs.” Among those recurrent concerns? Joint support, skin and coat support and liver health.
Because joint support is such a huge category, Bay Area has had tremendous success with Glyco-Flex products, including with their use for Schoep. Dr. Haukaas’s own animals, a 15-year-old Newfoundland mix named Rudy and a 17 year old cat named Minnie, both take the Glyco-Flex to support their mobility. They’ve lived long, healthy lives due to “good care, good diet and lots of exercise,” says Haukaas.
Dr. Haukaas’s staff knows plenty about those health factors. About 70 percent of Bay Area’s patients are dogs and 30 percent cats, so the whole crew is practiced in caring for these types of animals and can focus all attention on their health.
For his own part, Dr. Haukaas says the best part of his job is “seeing the bond between pet and owner.” As for impact, he notes the ability to educate new owners about the capabilities of veterinary medicine of which they might otherwise remain unaware.
However, those capabilities can’t always be realized in the lower income area of Ashland, and Haukaas calls that “the biggest heartbreak” of the profession. Maintaining quality of life in the face of financial hardship continues to be a struggle for some of the pets Haukaas treats, and an emotionally difficult point for the doctor himself.
For some, though, a lucky break is only a photograph away. As a result of a huge outpouring of support from dog lovers around the world, Schoep’s got enough Glyco-Flex and therapy to make his quality of life as pretty as a picture—one that Haukaas, the staff at Bay Area and Vetri-Science are proud to have a hand in creating.