Cornell University Hospital for Animals


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Hope and Cure

It’s why we do what we do. As a part of the University’s educational mission, the veterinary college’s ongoing research offers owners hope for eradicating genetically-based diseases such as cancer and hip displaysia at the same time providing cures for treatable diseases. Here we're delighted to share with you some tales of hope and cure.

Hope and Cure 1Educating tomorrow’s veterinarians; from companion to career. It’s a commitment and follow-through not often seen: a 12-year-old boy says he will care for a puppy and then actually does. For 13 years, Ben March ’13 has shared his life with Trigger, often choosing Trigger over friends and extra-curricular activities.

March cared for Trigger’s daily needs since he purchased the Golden Retriever as a birthday present to himself in 1999. As a child, he found the best possible veterinary medical providers he could to provide wellness care and removed fatty tumors and a mass on Trigger’s spleen. Today, a veterinary student-in-training, March works hand-in-hand with the clinicians in the Hospital, describing Trigger as the best textbook he could have.

“I have learned a lot from Trigger,” said March, explaining that he has improved his veterinary knowledge while helping Trigger endure and recover from bilateral cruciate injuries, hypercalcemia, thyroid carcinoma, and nodules in his lungs that are a result of the thyroid cancer. “But he’s so much more than a textbook. He means the world to me. You might say I am pathologically attached to my dog. It’s probably true, but this relationship has helped me develop my empathy skills to the standard that I think would benefit every veterinarian.”

March is likely to experience many more instances of this type of gratitude, as he hopes to work with people who are as involved in the care of their animals as he has been with Trigger’s.

Hope and Cure 2Born Ready: Finding Cures for Animals and People. Lefty, a 12-year-old Golden Retriever, did what comes naturally to this breed. He was a certified Therapy Dog and spent over a decade bringing comfort to others. While some people spend years in classrooms to earn the appropriate credentials to do therapy work or counseling, Lefty was born ready and held top AKC titles in Agility, Obedience, Rally, and is pointed in Conformation. For his owner, his most important achievements were his Canine Good Citizen certification, his Therapy Dog certification, his awards for being a Disaster Relief Dog, and the more than 200 hours of therapy work at various facilities. His calming ways have helped countless people, including members of the military, Red Cross Workers, firemen, policemen, and families of victims at Ground Zero at the Family Assistance Center at Pier 54 in New York City. He has helped children undergoing chemotherapy, chronically and critically ill children at the Schneider’s Children’s Hospital in New Hyde Park New York and the Silver Lining Ranch in Aspen, Colorado. Lefty also chalked up a lot of hours at North Shore/Long Island Jewish Hospital in the Recreational Rehabilitation Center and worked his canine magic with autistic children by letting them pet, walk and on special occasions, they even talk to him.

Lefty was once a hospital patient, surviving stomach cancer thanks to the expert diagnostic and surgical skills of the veterinarians at the Cornell University Companion Animal Hospital.

“People in pain, physical or mental, often just need something to hug,” said Judy Wilpon, Lefty’s owner. “As a stranger, I can’t walk up to someone and offer that consolation. Lefty can walk into a room, lay his head on a patient’s knee or just go up to them with his tail wagging and a big goofy, doggie smile on his face and they open their hearts to him. There is something magical about the unconditional love and understanding Lefty brought to each patient.”

Hope and Cure 3Providing Hope for All Animals. James Gillette has two passions: hunting and his dog. In an effort to spend time with both, he has dedicated years to training Jake, his chocolate lab, how to retrieve game. Often described as inseparable, Gillette and Jake were just as likely to be wandering through wetlands as they were to be at home until travesty hit both.

In the summer of 2010, Gillette fell so ill that when Jake ran in front of a truck and fractured his knee, it was several weeks before Gillette was well enough to get Jake to a veterinarian. When Jake later arrived at the Cornell University Hospital for Animals (CUHA), he was unable to put any weight on the leg and it looked like it might have to be amputated.

In a first-ever surgery at Cornell, Assistant Professor of Surgery Dr. Ursula Krotscheck and an orthopedic surgeon from Ohio State University led a team of CUHA residents in a total knee replacement surgery, a relatively novel procedure never before performed at Cornell. The surgery team removed pieces of bone around Jake’s knee and constructed components to recreate the joint, giving Jake a second chance at an active life.

Soon after the surgery in Spring 2011, Jake walked home by Gillette’s side using all four legs.

“Jake has recovered extremely well from what in most cases would have been a crippling injury,” said Krotscheck. “We are one of only five teaching hospitals that have performed this procedure. Our team and Jake’s resilience all contributed to making our first canine knee replacement a success.”

Now a year post-surgery, Jake recently passed his first anniversary check-up with flying colors.

“Look at him run!” said Gillette as he tossed Jake’s favorite toy, spurring the eager retriever into a full sprint. “He’s happy as ever and his leg is like new. Before the surgery he wasn’t using it at all. Now we’re playing and hunting together again.”

Veterinarians and staff at the College's hospitals are committed to sustaining the relationship between people and animals and fought for Jake to resume his playful relationship with his owner.