So far, we’ve been focusing our Little Bits of Good series on the shelter and rescue community, as those are fertile grounds for harvesting benevolence. There are also some remarkable professionals out there wearing white coats and stethoscopes, and we wanted to place the spotlight there this time around.
I actually first met Ken Scheider, DVM, when I began volunteering in rescue several years ago, not long after he had accepted the position of Director at Perinton Veterinary Hospital (“PVH”) in Victor, NY. I was so impressed with this guy and his entire staff, I moved my own dogs to that office in short order and have been referring others to him since then. Add to that the countless un-owned dogs I’ve brought to him – many of them badly injured, deathly ill, or simply afraid and confused – and I know firsthand how dedicated and talented a doctor he is. I cannot say enough good about the man, his family (he and his wife, Janine, are both veterinary doctors; and they have three beautiful children), and his staff; so we’ve decided to focus on just a few of the efforts and sacrifices that are a source of inspiration.
Over the years, I’ve watched Dr. Scheider perform lifesaving procedures at the drop of a dime – sometimes working long after closing time – and have been floored by the degree of compassion and consideration he shows to each and every animal he treats. In fact, the examples are so abundant that it was a struggle narrowing them down to a few. I thought it better to ask him to select a couple cases, instead. An interview format also affords opportunity to discuss his critical role in outreach for our community from his unique perspective, as well as the concerted efforts he’s made in providing a low-stress experience for all of the animals entering his hospital.
YPBY: So Doc S, thank you for taking this time away from your busy schedule to chat. I’d like to start by asking why you became the go-to guy for a pit bull rescue. Was it just happenstance, or do these dogs hold a special place for you?
Dr. Scheider: I can still remember my first patient that I worked on with Pitty Love Rescue over six years ago. Watching the transformation from a sick parvo puppy that could barely hold his head up, to an energetic puppy trying to chew his IV lines was astonishing. As a veterinarian, at the end of the night, after all the staff leaves, you sit back and think, “That was amazing.” The euphoria and motivation gained from witnessing transformations such as this is the driving force behind what we do.
In our area and many communities around the country, pit bulls are frequently victims of neglect and abuse. Some of these dogs are born in unthinkable conditions and never have the chance to receive appropriate socialization and medical care. These dogs are extremely loyal and have some of the biggest hearts. It doesn’t get much better than big pitty kisses.
I think we all have an opportunity to make a difference in the lives of others, and for me this is through my work with rescue organizations. Seeing these dogs on their worst day, and watching them grow into loving family pets is incredible. Thinking about not only what you were able to do for that dog, but also for the families whose lives will be forever changed by having these wonderful dogs as part of their family is very rewarding.
YPBY: And you’ve been part of some pretty remarkable transformations. I’ve seen you deliver puppies by emergency cesarean on New Years Eve on a dog that had only hours earlier been living on a chain awaiting a sleet storm. I’ve seen you remove a massive necrotic uterus from a dog other veterinarians had deemed beyond saving (a dog that incidentally made a full recovery under your care to return home to a grateful and relieved family in need). I’ve watched you handle dogs that have suffered unconscionable mistreatment in the most gentle and caring way and ensure they went on to live terrific lives in safe and loving homes, and that’s just off the top of my head. I have photo albums revealing so many more dogs in really tough spots for which you pulled out the win. I often wonder what it is like to be in your shoes, tasked to save dogs in such abysmal shape. Which of the many rescue and community dogs that you have treated stand out in your memory, and can you describe a little about the cases?
Dr. Scheider: Over the years there have been so many remarkable cases that we have had the opportunity to provide medical treatment. Two patients that resonate most for me are Abi and Mirabel.
Abi was a young puppy that was attacked by two adult dogs in her own backyard. She sustained significant wounds to her head, neck and legs. Abi required numerous surgeries to address her wounds. Throughout the entire process, she continued to walk through that door with her tail wagging. After months of treatments she made a full recovery and was eventually adopted by one of our kennel attendants at Perinton Veterinary Hospital.
Mirabel was a young dog that was found in a snowbank on the side of the road after she was hit by a snowplow. She was taken into to the local emergency room by a good Samaritan and I received a late night text message asking if Pitty Love would be able to take her under their wing. As always, despite the known financial commitment that they were making, Pitty Love agreed. Physical exam and x-rays revealed that Mirabel broke two of her legs. Custom fiberglass splints were made and weekly (sometimes 2-3 times weekly) bandage/splint changes were provided over six weeks. Mirabel has made a full recovery. Now I receive pictures from her foster family showing her running through their horse farm!
Although we have the honor of providing the medical care to these patients, all the credit really needs to go to local rescue organizations and their foster families that open their homes to these dogs in their time of need. If rescue organizations weren’t available and didn’t have committed foster families to provide homes for these dogs, none of this would be possible.
YPBY: Those are two special dogs for sure; and both are in terrific homes. Switching gears a bit, both you and your lead vet tech, Kathy Sercu, just completed the Fear Free Certification Program, an excellent curriculum that comes very highly recommended. Can you tell me a little about why you have chosen to do that and the impact you hope it will have on your practice?
Dr. Scheider: As you know, I have three small children. My recent experiences with pediatrician offices and pediatric dentists triggered my interest in what we could do to make veterinary visits less stressful for our pets. With pediatrics, the focus is to provide the necessary care in a low stress environment and this should also be our goal in veterinary medicine. It was perfect timing because as I was starting to think about this, I came upon the Fear Free certification program.
There are numerous techniques that we already implement at our hospital to keep visits as stress free as possible, such as using baby food to distract puppies during vaccines. But there is always room for improvement. As a team, we are committed to continued professional growth and will always strive to provide the best experience for our clients and their pets. A veterinarian is nothing without a solid medical team and we are blessed to have one of the best around.
YPBY: I agree wholeheartedly that your team is outstanding! You guys have been a critical component of the outreach efforts Pitty Love launched last year in the form of free vaccination clinics for underserved portions of our community. I believe there were three extremely successful events in 2016, where community members had lined up quite literally around the block with their dogs long before the scheduled start time. These are lengthy events where you stand for hours vaccinating hundreds of dogs. You already provide so much support to the local animal welfare community in your work at PVH, yet you still show up to donate your time in this way. Can you tell our readers a little about what drives your willingness to help out in this capacity and anything of note you would like to share about the experience?
Dr. Scheider: The Pitty Love outreach clinics are just another opportunity for us to make a difference in the lives of pets in our community and to help educate the public about the importance of preventative veterinary care. Every year, countless cases of parvovirus are evaluated and treated at local veterinary hospitals. Unfortunately, many more succumb to this disease prior to being diagnosed.
To be honest, my experience at the inaugural event was eye opening. As I was driving in, I could see people walking from miles away. Upon arrival, others were lined up around the entire parking lot. This turnout was a true testament to the fact that the majority of people in our community want to do what is best for their pets. Owners may not be able to do so due to financial constraints or simply not knowing what type of preventative veterinary care is recommended. Hopefully, through the outreach efforts of local rescue organizations, such as Pitty Love Rescue, and the recent availability of a lower cost veterinary care option at Rochester Community Animal Clinic, the tides will begin to change.
YPBY: And that’s what it’s all about – progress that helps companion animals and their owners to have a better quality of life. Thank you for all of your many contributions to the veterinary community, the rescue community, and the dog-owning public. I know I’m not alone in saying there is a tremendous amount of gratitude for you and your team. Thank you for being an excellent example of both a humanitarian and a medical professional, and thanks for doing this interview. You’re the best!