Travels With Kathi #5

Travels With Kathi # 5 – End Of Life

End Of Life

We listened to the radio as we went on our farm calls .  The news on this January day was dominated by discussions of a bill being considered in the Colorado State Legislature called “The End of Life” bill.  The essence of the bill was to allow a person to choose euthanasia for himself or herself if they were suffering from a terminal disease.  The end of life matter hit too close to home for us.   Our oldest Labrador, Ruby, who was fourteen and one half years old, had been experiencing a worsening condition where she was unable to keep her food down.  Although Ruby was not extremely sick, she was becoming weaker each day, and her demeanor told us the struggle was getting the best of her.  Although Ruby was not a human, the subject of this bill and our struggle with Ruby’s condition was emotionally very similar.



Ruby was, for me, what I would call a once-in-a-lifetime VIP {very important pet}.  All of the dogs that have lived in our home have primarily been Kathi’s dogs, and have preferred her over all other humans.  But Ruby seemed to sense I was a VNH {very needy human}.  Ruby would often choose me over Kathi!  She would lie next to me on the sofa and allow me to pet her for long periods of time.  I called her “my snuggle pup”.  Ruby was a very obedient dog and was good on so many levels.  But when she was hunting birds, she would often choose her ideas over either of ours and more often than not her ideas would prove to be the superior ones.  We loved that independence in her.


I have heard Kathi tell many clients that they would know when it was time to let their pets go.  Well, the advice proved accurate for us; we knew the time had come.  We gathered the dogs together around Ruby on her bed.  The medication acted quickly as I snuggled one last time with my Ruby.


Profound Loss

The loss of Ruby was profound.  My eyes still glass over even months later as I recount her loss.  But even as my loss is great, the joy received from knowing Ruby for fourteen-plus years is much greater.  Ruby was a great blessing in my life.  Many people say they can’t bear another loss and therefore can’t get another animal friend.  It’s their loss.  Because if one doesn’t take the risk and get another animal, you can be sure you won’t experience the great joy.  The greater the love for an animal, the greater the sadness is at their loss; that’s the deal.   As for me, count me in.  I will always have animal friends as long as I can physically and financially fulfill their needs.


I’m sure our clients have many special animal friends that you feel the same love I felt for Ruby.  It is a great honor for all of us at Littleton Equine Medical Center to give care to your special friends.  Thanks you for your trust!

Travels With Kathi #4

Travels With Kathi #4 – Emergencies



We awoke to several inches of new snow.  As the snow accumulated on sheets of ice left by previous January snows, we were pretty certain our schedule for the day would change.  On such days routine appointments were usually cancelled, and any calls were usually emergencies.  I wasn’t surprised when the phone rang and it was a client calling for help with an old horse that could not get up.


The thirty-something gelding was at a ranch some forty-five minutes away on this snowy day.  A couple that had been both long-time clients and friends managed the ranch.  Their daughter and four-year-old granddaughter also lived on the ranch.  This old gelding was the granddaughter’s favorite horse, the one she had ridden all last summer and the one who had taught her to be confident on horseback.  Needless to say, this horse was very important to the entire family.

The gelding had been out with several other horses in a large hay meadow.  The footing was perfect as was the short meadow grass that had come up after the meadow had been cut for hay that summer.  The falling snow coated the surrounding trees and gave us a view as fine as a winter mountain scene on the front page of a travel magazine.  Only one thing ruined the mood.  About a quarter-mile away there was a horse on its side surrounded by people.

The Work Up

As we drove up we saw the horse was covered with blankets and surrounded with bales of hay.  Large snowflakes continued to fall as we stepped out of the truck.  It was a sudden shock to step out of the warm truck and I was acutely aware of the stress this animal must be enduring since he had been down for some time.  We immediately administered painkillers and proceeded to examine the patient for signs of severe injuries that would physically prevent him from getting up.  None were found.  We attempted to roust him up while assisting his effort by lifting his tail.  He would give us a good effort with both front legs, but we saw absolutely no movement from either hind leg.  We next used straps lifted by a tractor to get him up on his back legs.  He appeared unable to use the back legs.  We were out of options.

Our four-year-old cowgirl arrived to try to help her old friend.  I had the un-enviable duty of telling this little girl we could not do anything to get him up.  And if we just left him in this condition he would suffer greatly.  The only choice we had to keep him from hurting was to put him to sleep.  After a few minutes of wet hugs and kisses given to this poor snow- covered old gelding, we all agreed to the inevitable, to put him to sleep.

Rainbow Bridge

Many times owners wish to be with their animals as they go.  Well, this brave little four-year-old wanted to be there for this special friend.  I felt a great responsibility as I explained to her the process she would see.  So with great trepidation I proceeded with the injection with her only a few feet away.  We were blessed with a smooth procedure.  We all cried and hugged.  We got in the truck.  Kathi and I were silent as we drove off.

There is a circle of life that starts with birth and inevitably ends with death.  I always tell people when we treat these old horses, we know someday soon will be their last day, but we hope its not today.  For this old guy, today was the last day.  This old gelding had taught this little girl to ride, and now he had taught her to say goodbye to a friend.

Kathi recently heard a quote that goes something like this: “Sometimes it’s hard to hold on, but it’s harder to let go.”

If you have an old friend in your life, whether human or animal, give them a hug tonight.


Travels With Kathi #3 – Heros

Ronald Streeter, DVM




The radio was on as we headed home from our last call.  I was excited to hear ”My Heroes Have Been Cowboys”, one of my all-time favorites.  Willie Nelson had performed this song in the early 1980’s in the movie “The Electric Horseman”.  The song and the movie both lamented the end of the cowboy lifestyle in the West.  So the song really isn’t about heroes.  But we had recently watched the movie “American Sniper” and the whole idea of heroes was on my mind.  What made a person a hero and whom would I include in a list of my heroes.


I always find it good to start with a definition:  A hero is a person who is admired or idealized for courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities.  Who fit that definition for me?  Someone like Chris Kyle portrayed in “The American Sniper” who went to war and risked his life for me and my family is a no-brainer choice for red necks like me.  I have clients who have been very financially successful and have decided to share their skills and good fortunes by donating enormous sums of funds to improve the welfare of both humans and horses.  They are on my list.  I have a veterinary friend who is the type of person and veterinarian who I strive to be.  He’s on my list.  These are individuals you all may know or know of, and they may be on your list too.


But there is a larger group of people on my list who are probably not known by you but are just as important to me.  There is the modest- income family who spend all their extra income and much time caring for a menagerie of unwanted animals.  There’s the family that happily toil to care for special-needs children.  There’s the large family who spend much time home schooling their many children.  There is a farmer south of town who spent his whole life working his farm with a special reverence for the soil.  There was the woman with a terminal disease who spent her last years helping others.  All are my heroes.


Being someone’s hero may be easier than you think.  I remember my first day as a new employee at Littleton Large Animal Clinic.  While I was introducing myself to the staff one young woman came up to me with the biggest smile and recounted how I had been her hero when I saved her 4-H ewe when she was a little girl.  I remembered working on animals at her family’s farm but I could not remember her ewe.  She had not forgotten me or the very special thing I had done for her.  I was just doing my job..  That reminded me how lucky I am to be a veterinarian and have the opportunity to do something special for a small child, to be her hero.


Don’t miss an opportunity to be a hero, to be someone special to another human being on a special day.  Make the world a better place!


Travels With Kathi #2 – Stock Show



January is Stock Show month at LEQMC.  It has been a forty-plus year tradition for the clinic to provide veterinary care for all the horses competing and performing at the Stock Show.  I asked myself why is this a tradition for LEQMC.  Tradition is defined as a belief or behavior passed down within a group with symbolic meaning or special significance with origins in the past.  Well that answers it:  The Stock Show has been an important part of Colorado agriculture and the horse industry for many years.  I’m glad LEQMC has stepped up and supported our industry for many years with little concern for financial gain.  It is a source of pride for me to be part of this effort.


The entire clinic staff takes turns being available at the Stock Show for any veterinary care that might be required.  As Kathi’s and my duty days approached, we heard a radio news report a suspected case of Ebola had been identified in Denver.  Would this report change anything at the Stock Show?


Last summer a vesicular stomatitis outbreak had a great impact on horse shows.  The clinic staff had been very busy performing inspections on all participants prior to horses being allowed to enter the show facilities.  The horse community soon became familiar with the disease control protocols, and it was unusual for a horse owner not to cooperate.  I was so proud of the horse community.  But how would the general public react to disease control measures if similar rules were implemented at the Stock Show if Ebola Virus was in fact present in Denver?


Luckily the suspected case of Ebola Virus tested negative.  I still thought it might be interesting to look at the Stock Show with an eye for disease control among the human attendees.  I started my mock-inspection at a crowd favorite, the children’s petting zoo.  It is always such fun to visit the petting zoo without children.  The unbridled joy of these young kids as they hug and kiss the small farm animals is contagious [no pun intended].  For many of these kids this was the first time they had ever seen or touched such animals; but today looking at the zoo as a potential disease spread area forced me to look in a different way.


There were numerous parents holding small hands waiting in a long line for the chance to turn the child loose in a small fenced-in area with multiple small animals.  The farm animals were anxious to exchange a few hugs and kisses for treats.  The waiting line was marked with Cairns formed from soiled diapers and empty drink containers, instead of traditional stones.  Parents fearing if they accomplished proper disposal the action may have caused them to loose their place in line had formed the Cairns.


It didn’t take an especially sharp eye to see one similarity between horses and children.   Both are quite proficient at removing nasal discharge by wiping it on convenient objects.  For the horse the site is usually its front canon bone area.  For the child it is on any object, even the farm animals!  I’m sure if Ebola Virus were present in these children and if someone had a special light that caused the virus to fluoresce, the donkey and the goat would light up like the evening star on a clear night.


My conclusion?  Considering the social habits and the lack of education of many people on the most basic methods of disease control, I fear the control of a severe disease outbreak in humans would be very difficult.  Also I am very glad I work with horses!


Horse people are stable people for the most part, aren’t they?


Travels With Kathi #1- Come Ride With Us

277,891. That’s how many miles I have driven my veterinary truck in eight years. If I assume an average speed of 40 miles per hour, those miles would have taken slightly less than 7,000 hours or 875 hours per year. That’s about 22 forty-hour weeks of time spent driving a truck within 50 miles of the clinic. My assistant, Kathi has been with me for 99.99% of that time. She’s my helper, my advisor, caregiver, and as needed, my critic. She is my wife, my soul mate.

One would logically think this time in the truck is a waste. But actually it is a big part of how we practice veterinary medicine and even live life. As we drive down the road we discuss cases, schedules, clients, and horses; Kathi completes the medical records and communicates with clients and the clinic while I drive. And of course, I think; due to my many years on earth my thoughts are usually reflection on veterinary practice and life. It’s hard to believe with today’s traffic, but the truck is our safe place. It’s warm in the cold; it’s cool in the heat. It can be quiet or boom with music. It is our think tank; it has been the boardroom; or the war room as we prepare to combat difficult horses or cases. Sometimes we laugh and sometimes we cry as we drive through one of God’s great creations, the front range of Colorado.

So what’s the point? Is this just the monotonous droning of an old, grey haired veterinarian from Oklahoma who loves his truck? Well, I am old, grey, and a veterinarian from Oklahoma. And even though the driver’s seat is worn to fit only my derrier, I do not “love” my truck; “like” is as strong as I am willing to go.

What are we trying to do? Share with you what it’s like to spend time with us going down the road on ambulatory veterinary calls by sharing the personal side; the good, not so good, and great parts of this type of practice as seen through the eyes of one veterinarian and his assistant who is also his wife.  We would like to share the other side of the syringes and needles, the hoof testers, stethoscopes and stomach tubes, the time when the science is secondary and all that is left are the emotions of our clients and the two of us.

We will continue until all our stories are told or until our day is done. Please come with me on my “TRAVELS WITH KATHI.”


p.s. Maybe “Bubba T” would be a good name for my truck.