March 2018 Patient of the Month

In a delightful departure from our normal Patient of the Month format, this month's entry is brought to you by the patient himself!  Here, straight out of the horse''s mouth, is Beau's story! Enjoy!

Sir Beau's Story

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My name is (Sir) Beau I’m a 17+ year old Treeing Walker Coonhound

Do you have any food?

I grew up hunting in North Carolina, then when I was unable to that anymore,  I went to a place where there were a LOT of other dogs, then finally to Animal Care Sanctuary when my friend found me!

Do you have any food?

I’m not much for playing but have always loved walks wherever there are good smells, lying down with my friend and FOOD!

Do you have any?

I’ve slowed down a lot in the past few years (my human friend can keep up with me now, but my other pack member Casey leaves us in the dust! He’s crazy!). Considering I’ve been shot (birdshot which may be why I was unable to hunt anymore and am so afraid of thunder and gunshots), had Lyme disease, almost died from Leptospirosis (Thank you VMC for saving me!), have arthritis and an enlarged spleen, I think I’m doing pretty well!

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Do you have any food?

Now I come to the VMC to get treats and see Lis and Dr. Flaherty (I used to see Dr. Burnett before) and go sniff around the back.  That water tank is pretty sketchy, but I feel better and I get TREATS!!

Do you have any?

That’s my story, for now.  I think I’ll go sprawl out in my bed and dream about hunting but first, some food.

Do you have any?

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With a grateful (and Hungry) Heart-


February 2018 Patient of the Month

Brando's Story

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Over the years we have learned that the dog that we think we are taking home is never the dog that we adopt. We adopted Brando in 2010 a couple months after we lost our senior German Shepherd.  Our senior shepherd had a very easygoing personality.  He was confident without being aggressive which made him the ideal companion for our reactive, nervous, female German Shepherd, Stella. 

We were looking for a dog with a very specific personality to keep our household balanced.  We evaluated several dogs from German Shepherd rescue, the ASPCA and Helping Hounds before a Helping Hounds volunteer recommended Brando (then Rebel) to us.  When Brando and Stella first met it was an immediate match.  He laid in the grass calmly as she ran around playing frisbee.  Periodically she would walk up to Brando and “check-in” with him, giving him a nudge with her nose or letting him sniff her rear before returning to playing.    When Stella is nervous Brando comforts her.  He licks her face, sniffs her rear or just sits down next to her.  He can occasionally be lured into a game of chase or steal-the-toy but can generally be found sitting on the couch next to a heating source. 

Brando was about 2 years old when we adopted him.  Helping Hounds identified Brando as some sort of hound/pitbull mix.  Brando is definitely part hound dog.  He loves to dig in the yard and can sniff out any animal, whether it is a bird or a snake.  Brando’s hound adventures have led to snake bites and one very unfortunate mouse dinner.  We do our best to feed his strong prey drive with puzzle toys and hiding treats around the house. 

We decided to get a DNA test to find out what other breeds Brando was mixed with.  The results showed that Brando is a chow, foxhound, boxer mix.  His coat is more hair-like, like a boxer.  He has some areas where his skin has folds and thicker fur, like a chow.  Brando developed skin sensitivities in the areas with extra folds or fur.  He would scratch and bite these areas until they became raw and infected.  After his worst flare-ups, he would have to be treated with steroids to fully recover.  Steroids were very hard on Brando’s body and not worth the side effects for us.  We had worked with Dr. Polly when our senior Shepherd had skin issues so we knew that she would be able to help Brando. 

We initially tried acupuncture and Chinese herbal therapy.  While the acupuncture treatments did provide Brando with some relief, he was not good about sitting still to have the needles inserted or stay still for the 20 minutes that they need to stay in to be effective.  We decided that his stress over the treatment cancelled out any benefits that he was getting.  We noticed a difference with the Chinese herbs.  We gave it to him daily for a couple months and then on/off for cycles of a couple weeks at a time when he had flare ups.  We even mixed it with oatmeal and peanut butter to make allergy treats. 

Brando’s unique breed mix gives him a bit of an awkward stance.  His front legs are slightly shorter than his back legs.  This combined with the stress that he puts on his front legs digging and pouncing led to lower back pain.  He is very sensitive about having his lower back touched.  He flinches anytime you rub or scratch him along his spine, almost like he is ticklish but it seems to cause him pain.  We knew that he would benefit from chiropractic care from Dr. Polly but she couldn’t adjust his spine because of the touch sensitivity. 


Dr. Polly recommended that we look in to a K-9 topcoat.  This is a spandex, compression suit that is used on dogs with anxiety, allergies and other sensitivity issues.  The topcoat was a huge success.  When he has the suit on you can rub his back without him flinching and Dr. Polly can adjust his spine to relieve his back pain.  Brando wears his topcoat during allergy flare ups, whenever he receives an adjustment and after stressful situations. 

Brando used to be a nightmare after getting a bath.  During allergy flare ups he gets a bath every 7-10 days.  Before the top coat he would run around the house knocking over furniture and digging into the bed and carpet for several minutes before he calmed down.  Now after his bath we towel-dry Brando and put him in his topcoat.  He goes to his favorite chair and curls up without incident.

Brando had x-rays to confirm that he didn’t have any herniated disks or other structural problems that could be causing the pain.  His x-rays were clear but they did show that he had a bullet in his side.    The bullet does not cause him any pain and would cause more problems now if it was removed.  Brando was rescued from a high-kill shelter in South Carolina by Helping Hounds.  We can’t imagine what the first 2 years of his life were like but have been happy to spoil him for the past 7 years to make up for it. 

Brando now has 3 topcoats and an assortment of clothing options.  He seems to be calmest when he is swaddled in something.  On cold nights, he is happy in his topcoat and underneath a fleece blanket in front of the wood stove.  Even after all these years he still seems to be a South Carolina dog. 

Diagnosis: Lower back pain, muscle pain in neck and shoulders, skin allergies

Treatment: Acupuncture, Chinese Herbal Therapy, Chiropractic and home exercises with touch-sensitive  suit  

January 2018 Patient of the Month

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Scarlett Jane's Story

Like so many of the very best things, Miss Scarlett Jane (a 7-year-old Great Dane) burst into my life quite unexpectedly. In June of 2015, a little over a month after my dog of 9 years had passed away, my sister called me up saying that I needed to get on Facebook immediately to check out a dog that had just come up for adoption. I told her no thanks, I just wasn’t ready. I was still grieving and was in no shape to adopt another dog so soon after losing my boy. After a few more minutes of her insisting that I just needed “to look”, I hung up, convinced I wasn’t interested.

That lack of interest lasted only moments, before curiosity got the best of me. Within seconds of hanging up the phone I jumped on Facebook, saw Scarlett’s face, and fell in love. And within minutes, I’d sent a private message to the humane society where she was being held, expressing my extreme interest.

Scarlett had been surrendered from a family with other dogs and young children, and was listed as a “special case”. Her new owner would need to meet certain requirements before being considered as a feasible adoptive option. As luck would have it, I had previous experience with Great Danes and since I was living in a country home free of children and other pets, I knew Scarlett and I would be a perfect fit. The next day the shelter was open, I scheduled a meeting during my lunch hour to introduce myself to Miss Scarlett. I could tell this beautiful girl was nervous and disoriented by the chaos of the shelter surroundings, but after just a few minutes she was leaning into me with all her heart, and I was a goner. The volunteer on hand didn’t even need to ask, we went straight into the office and filled out the paperwork that afternoon. And for the next year and a half we lived happily ever after…

Flash forward to February of last year, when the happy little bubble Scarlett and I were living in, burst around us. One fateful morning as I was wiping her down from the messiness of our snowy/muddy morning walk, I came across a terrifyingly large mass that had all but appeared out of nowhere on her belly. I put a call out to her vet and within an hour she was being examined and my worst fears were coming to life. Surgery was scheduled for several days later, where it was discovered that my girl had the canine equivalent of breast cancer. She was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive form of inflammatory carcinoma. The prognosis was grim at best and our post-surgical options were limited. I was told that the surgery would only do so much and that without additional treatment, Scarlett had maybe weeks to live. Refusing to give up on my girl without exhausting every available option, I was referred to Dr. Kenneth Rassnick and the Oncology department at the Veterinary Medical Center (VMC) of CNY. And two days after the biggest snow storm of early 2017, I loaded my girl into the car and made the hour long commute to Syracuse to see what our future held.

Walking into the VMC, I was cautiously optimistic, because we really had nothing to lose. But instantly I knew that no matter what happened, we were in the best possible hands. The atmosphere was unlike anything I’d ever experienced, in any medical office, human or otherwise. Everyone from the receptionists to the techs to the docs were kind, understanding and so very sympathetic to our situation. Even the other pet-parents, were super supportive and wishing us well. This extensive group of complete strangers took us in and were going to help us in any way they could.

After our consultation, it was decided that a combination of chemotherapy and a daily medication would be the best option for Scarlett. For the next 3 months, Scarlett and I traveled out to Syracuse on a weekly basis for her treatments, making friends with several Thruway toll collectors along the way. And for a dog that was quite apprehensive about visiting the doctor and very reluctant to leave my side, Scarlett handled the treatments amazingly well, carrying herself with a graceful dignity that any pet-parent would be proud of.

In June, it appeared that Scarlett could possibly be on her way to remission. Her bloodwork was looking good and her scans were all clear. My heart was overcome with joy and relief. In my mind, Scarlett had beaten the odds and we had been granted the miracle I had been praying for. My brave sweet girl, who deserved so much more from her golden years, enjoyed a perfectly amazing summer of long rides in the car with the windows down, lazy days napping in the sunshine and all the snacks and snuggles she could handle.

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In September, to my great disappointment and to the disappointment of all our wonderful friends at VMC, I found a new mass on Scarlett’s belly. So we’re back to our regularly scheduled chemotherapy and trying our luck with a new medication. But most importantly, Scarlett’s spirits are high and she’s feeling good. So for now we take it day by day, the plan being to keep Scarlett happy and comfortable for as long as possible.

I don’t know what the future holds, but what I do know is that finding Dr. Rassnick and all the incredible people at the VMC has been a true blessing. They helped to keep my sweet girl feeling like herself and have given me precious time with her, and those two things have been the greatest gifts I could have ever asked for. So from the bottom of my heart I thank you… and Scarlett thanks you too!

- Erinn Riley (Scarlett’s Mom)

December 2017 Patient of the Month

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OREO, is our sweet, cuddly, cat that thought he was a dog.  He is our “Super”cat who would launch off the back of the sectional couch front arms straight ahead hanging out.  The cat that thudded through the house at top speed, all of his 19 pounds, at the call of his name.  The cat that would snuggle and purr, who tolerated just about anything. But...

At 3:00am the morning of July 6, 2017… I am sound asleep until I hear a cat cry.  Just once. Thinking it was one of our 2 cats getting sick, the odd cry before a hairball comes out, I didn’t think much of it and fell back to sleep.  Shortly after I awoke again to hear one of our dogs tails thumping like mad.  Our female Labrador, Alex, loved to drag things such as socks or shoes to her bed. Thinking she had dragged a flip flop of my husband's I wasn’t going to investigate. Her tail would not stop.  She was extremely excited about something.  Waking up enough to realize I should rescue that shoe, I was surprised to find it was Oreo laying beside her bed that had Alex all excited.  This was unusual behavior.  Alex loved Oreo sometimes more than he could tolerate.  It was then I realized just how still Oreo was beside her.

I quickly picked him up to find him limp in my arms.  Thinking he was just trying to be still so Alex would leave him alone, I put Oreo down in a different spot on the floor thinking he would take off.  Instead his legs, mostly the right front, collapsed beneath him.  I picked him up again and took him to my walk in closet where I could turn on a light and tried it again.  Same thing. In disbelief I tried again, same thing.  Oreo could not support himself and was now also panting.  I quickly woke up my husband and told him we had to leave.  Something was very wrong with Oreo.  

We quickly took off for Veterinary Medical Center upon which Oreo was immediately taken back and put on oxygen. How could this be happening????  Oreo was completely fine earlier in the day/evening.  Nothing was unusual about how he was acting or his activities.  My first thought was that Oreo had passed a clot.  A radiograph was done to check Oreo’s heart. Although it was found to be slightly enlarged everything else appeared normal.  It was recommended that Oreo remain at VMC (this is now 4:30am) until the morning when - as luck would have it - a Cardiologist would be there later in the day.  Our hope was to have an echocardiogram performed to rule out Oreo’s heart. So tough to leave at that point and to go on about our day.  Knowing Oreo was in the best of care we had no choice but to wait it out.

By 11:30am, it was found Oreo’s heart was normal.  This led to the next step, concerns of neurologic disease.  And with this the recommendation for Oreo to be transferred to Cornell University Hospital in HOPES of getting into a neurologist ASAP.  Again being told that the waiting list for an appointment could be a month or more, our best bet was to pick Oreo up ASAP from VMC and go immediately to the Emergency entrance of Cornell University. Fortunately for us and Oreo he was quickly seen. I could go on about all the findings and transpiring that occurred in the days to follow but here is the outcome.  The following day after a MRI was performed Oreo was diagnosed with having Ischemic myelopathy (C2-C4).  He had a lesion on his spine that was quite large - a stroke to his spine, not his brain.  All other bloodwork and testing proved normal.  


Oreo fell into the small subset of cases that did not have an underlying disease to cause this occurrence.  Research showed that the majority of cats could return to a normal or near normal lifestyle with supportive care and time.  In Oreo’s case this lesion to his spine was quite large leading to a potential recovery of weeks or months. Oreo spent his 8th birthday at Cornell.  We were able to visit him that day.  We found our sweet boy quiet, but aware, unable to walk, shaved and bandaged, and so very sad.  

On July 10th Oreo was brought home to receive nursing care and at home physical rehabilitation. Unable to walk, Oreo needed to be placed in his liter box on his side to go to the bathroom, supported upright to eat and drink, turned over from side to side every several hours to prevent pressure sores and respiratory complications, and have various range of motion, weight bearing exercises performed several times a day as well as massage of all limbs to all keep the neuropathways open and responding. Recommendations were made for laser therapy to help stimulate cell regeneration and increase blood circulation and Electo-acupuncture for treatment of pain. I must say it was a bit overwhelming.  Oreo was quite tolerant of these at home exercises, most of them, in the beginning.  Knowing it was never said that he wouldn’t walk again is what got me through and pushed me on to keep working with Oreo even as he began to fight back, get mad, hiss, push.  To me he was mad and the fighting back was him getting stronger!

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July 17, 2017…Our first visit to Care Pet Therapy.  Oreo received a consultation with Dr. Flaherty. It was recommended Oreo have twice weekly visits of physical rehabilitation with Lis or Jenn and weekly visits of acupuncture with Dr. Flaherty.   We started with physical rehabilitation visits which included laser therapy on Oreo’s neck.  Water treadmill therapy was attempted on two separate occasions with Lis, but being a cat Oreo's tolerance was minimal and not ideal.  Oreo did work on the dog treadmill on a couple of visits.  Much better than the water but a little to fast on its lowest speed. We were given more exercises to work on at home involving various exercise balls to hang over and do stretches with as well as the continual exercises of bending all his limbs, elbows, feet, massaging them to keep those neuropathways open. 

July 27, 2017….Oreo has been to see Lis earlier in the day for a walk on the treadmill, stretches, and laser therapy.  That evening I could not believe what I was seeing as Oreo rocks himself back and forth and attempts to stand. 3 weeks after Oreo’s incident it is the beginning of him finding his way back to walking on his own.  Over the next week plus he continued to get himself up more and more and walk with a drunken stagger gaining more and more strength.

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Oreo continued with biweekly visits with Lis and several visits with Dr. Flaherty for acupuncture.  Each visit showed improvement as Oreo continued to get stronger and fight his way back to a life of normalcy.

Today, November 6, 2016, 4 months from Oreo’s incident….Oreo is now walking on his own.  What started as a drunken stagger and falling over every few feet has now become almost normal.  Oreo is able to go up and down stairs slowly and supervised, and he can now do a full flight.  He still is a little slow with his right front leg, and I can hear him coming with a slight thud in his walk.  Oreo is my purring love of  a cat again.  He is such a people person and would spend all day snuggling with you if he could.  


Lis, Jenn, Dr. Flaherty, Alesha…without you all we would not have Oreo were he is today!!!  We can not thank you enough for your dedication, support and love that you have shown to us! Oreo had another visit with Lis today.  A month had passed since our last visit and Lis continues to see improvement.  

--Oreo's Family


November 2017 Patient of the Month

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Arlie's Story

In February of 2015, we lost our doxie, Bosley.  He had been our son for 13 years and his passing left an emptiness in our life.  My husband and I were determined not to rush into adopting another dog, but in November we happened to see a picture of two dachshund brothers, Jamis and Arlie, on Facebook that were up for adoption at Chapman’s Dachshund Rescue and our hearts opened up to these two sweethearts. We contacted Chapman’s and made arrangements to travel to York, SC to adopt our new sons.  Unfortunately, a couple of days later, my husband’s mother passed away and we weren’t sure when we would be able to get the boys. Chapman’s was willing to hold them for us, so on Thanksgiving Day we finally headed to Chapman’s to meet our boys.

On November 29, we drove to the rescue which was abound with lots of noisy, but happy, dachshunds of all shapes, colors and types.  Gina Chapman met us and introduced us to a handsome red dapple doxie named Jamis and his sweet brother, also a red shorthair, named Arlie.  Gina gave us a large crate, and soon we were off to my cousin’s home, about an hour away, for the night and on to Syracuse and home the following day. Jamis and Arlie were five years old when we adopted them and had come from a home in Utah.  Their owner was elderly and had to be put in a residential facility that did not take dogs.  Her family took the dogs to their home in Fayetteville, NC, but did not want to keep them.  Gina Chapman came to the rescue and took them to her facility about two weeks before we adopted them.

Arlie and Jamis

Arlie and Jamis

Upon arrival at our home, the boys were very happy to see we had a large fenced-in yard, and proceeded to check out the critters who stood no chance against the doxie hunters.  In the months that followed, they became an integral part of our family and friends.  Jamis’ high-pitched scream and Arlie’s “talking” became a daily occurrence whenever we returned from a few hours away from the house.

In late October of the next year, Arlie began walking unsteadily with his back end seemingly weak.  We took him to our vet who stated that we should either take him to Cornell or the Veterinary Medical Center of Central New York.  When she said that, it brought back memories of a problem our Bosley had, so we felt time was critical so we took him to VMC.  He was admitted that evening and after a few hours he was unable to walk at all.  Dr. Robinson, who had operated on Bosley in 2004, diagnosed that Arlie had a herniated disc and proceeded to operate.  After a couple of days, we were able to take our little man home and begin home therapy.  My husband and I learned how to express his bladder and perform leg exercises.  In the next few weeks and months, we also took him for acupuncture and physical therapy with Dr. Fleckenstein and Lis at Care Pet Therapy.  After a few months of therapy he was almost back to normal, running and chasing any animal that dared to enter our yard.

In June of 2017, we noticed that Arlie had again started to walk oddly.   We thought maybe he had just hurt his leg when running, but in a couple of days we knew that something more serious was happening.  Dachshunds are notorious for racing down steps and jumping off couches and beds, thinking themselves invincible.  This time we weren’t waiting, and went to the VMC right away.   After examination, Arlie was diagnosed with a slipped disc, and once again needed surgery.  Dr. Robinson was quite surprised that he had a disc injury again, as it was extremely rare but not unheard of.  So once again, Arlie began a regimen of acupuncture and therapy, which continues to this day.  However, he is a strong fighter and although his gait is still a bit wobbly, he handles it like a champ.  My husband carries him up and down stairs, we watch him relentlessly so that he doesn’t jump off the couch.  When he needs his alone time, we also have a playpen set up with lots of soft blankets in our family room.  

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Arlie never ceases to amaze us with his attitude.  Although he has endured much pain and hardship in his short life of seven years, he takes his handicap in stride and achieves a quality of life on his own terms.  When he is tired, he rests; when he is happy, his tail wags like a propeller; and when he needs something, he “talks” until we figure out what he wants.  And when he cuddles with us and he looks at us with his big brown eyes, no words are sufficient or necessary.   We love him with all of our heart, and look forward to many happy years with him and Jamis.

With a grateful heart-   Arlie’s Mom and Dad


July 2017 Patient of the Month


Mojo is a rescue dog from Hilton Head, South Carolina. His mom adopted him in 2009… it was love at first sight with this handsome boy. From the moment she saw “the spot,” she knew, he was “her dog.” Despite his crazy behavior during her visit to his foster home where he chased the family cat, pooped in the house and demonstrated terrible leash manners, she packed him up and drove him to Charleston to meet his new family. He sat in her lap the whole way home and never looked back.

In 2011, his mom and dad were married and moved in to a new home. Being his first “real house” with a big yard to run in was very exciting. So exciting, that he implemented a very specific routine of running circles through the house and yard. During one of his routines, he slipped on a rug. It was like a scene from a movie for his mom, who watched it happen in what seemed like slow motion. He seemed fine at first but within a few days, his mom and dad noticed he was no longer following them upstairs. He would sit at the bottom of the staircase and cry instead. Within 24 hours he could barely walk and yelped in pain when his parents tried to pick him up. His mom took him to the vet who did some radiographs but found nothing and prescribed him pain management pills with strict crate rest. Within a few days, he was all better!

In 2012, Mojo experienced more exciting life changes when he got a new baby French Bulldog brother and another new home in Syracuse, NY. His first day here he was so excited to find that NY squirrels are about twice the size of SC squirrels! excited that he exited the moving truck and chased the giant squirrels through the woods and fell into a pond. He is not the most graceful of dogs.

Outside of the giant squirrels, the move to Syracuse turned out to be a blessing because of the staff and doctors at Veterinary Medical Center. In 2013, Mojo was diagnosed with Intervertebral Disc Disease or “IVDD.”

IVDD is a condition where the cushioning discs between the vertebrae of the spinal column either bulge or burst (herniate) into the spinal cord space. These discs then press on the nerves running through the spinal cord causing pain, nerve damage, and even paralysis.”

In Mojo’s case, his symptoms of IVDD can be very scary. It always begins the same with his hesitance to use stairs and he becomes a little withdrawn. He starts dragging his legs and feet behind him, he won’t be able to walk and he will be in a lot of pain. He won’t feel his feet even the doctors pinch really hard. Mojo had an emergencyat VMC in 2013 and luckily, within a few months he made a full recovery! He lived a normal happy (spoiled) dog life until his symptoms returned worse than ever in 2014. This time he was not able to relieve himself and refused to eat or drink. It was a very grim and heartbreaking visit to VMC but Mojo also met Doctor Burnett and Lis Conarton for the first time which turned out to be life-changing. Together, Mojo’s team of his parents, Doctor Burnett and Lis all worked together to implement a treatment plan that literally saved his life. A second surgery was not an option, so he began medicine and physical therapy. Mojo made tremendous progress with this plan. Within 24 hours he was eating, drinking and able to relieve himself and continued to improve from there. Within a month we added acupuncture and he was able to feel his feet and legs and stand a little on his own and wag his tail again! Within 6 months he could walk again without assistance.

It’s almost like clockwork; once a year Mojo will have an episode, but thankfully he has Doctor Burnett and Lis to help with his treatment and ongoing therapy so these episodes and his symptoms are MUCH more manageable. As of February 2017, Mojo has made it 6 months without an episode! He is still the happiest dog in the world and he LOVES his preventative therapy visits to VMC. He still needs a little help from his parents and a harness to help with stairs, jumping and for when he gets SUPERexcited and can’t control his tail wags, but that’s no problem for his family. Today, he can walk, run and do all of his normal crazy dog things including chasing these huge NY squirrels. 

                             ~The Arcia Family


April 2017 Patient of the Month

I know everyone feels their family pet is the best pet in whole wide world and well, they should!  For me to say my Riley is the bravest, strongest, hardest-working Labrador out there would be an understatement….For the past year and a few months, Riley has gone from being knocked down, literally, not being able to walk or get around (lameness both hind legs at one point), to being able to take hikes, run through a field in a new-kind-of-way, go on canoe rides, swim in lakes, and so much more.  Riley is a fighter and is where he is today because of the dedication, experience and compassion of Dr. Robinson, Lis Conarton and Dr. Burnett.

I knew from the moment I held Riley in my arms at six weeks old he was going to change my life.  Riley is a purebred lab and he came into our lives with the understanding that both his parents were healthy and had no history of medical or physical issues.  Riley was active as most lab puppies are right from the start and at six months old we noticed he was walking a “bit” funny and sure enough, he had elbow dysplasia in one of his front elbows.   However after two medical exams it was determined he had the type of dysplasia that was caused by the way his two bones grew together and there really wasn’t anything to be fixed.  We were like “whoa” and figured, well, if that’s the worst thing that happens to Riley, we can handle it because Riley was happy and was still able to do his “Riley-thing.”

Memorial Day, 2015 is a day, a moment in time, I will never forget.  I had come home from a bike ride and was in the back yard with my husband, and the kitchen door must have blown open.  Riley heard my voice and wanted to be at my side as quickly as possible.  Riley leapt out the door, over two steps, and must have landed wrong, because the next thing we knew from the back yard is we heard a cry that a dog owner NEVER wants to hear in their lifetime, and we soon saw our Riley dragging himself into the backyard. Despite his agonizing pain he wanted to be at my side.  He is my boy and I will never forget his face, his cry and instantaneously Riley’s short life, he was just four, flashed before me.  He needed help and he needed it right away.

The VMC came into my life, into Riley’s life that day.  Dr. Robinson examined Riley and confirmed he had torn his rear left CCL and that he would need surgery to repair the damage.  Three days later, not knowing Dr. Robinson or his staff, I put my boy in their care, and I am glad I did.  Riley had TPLO surgery and he did great!  At that moment I had no idea how challenging, how difficult it would be to rehabilitate a 100 pound lab who used to run fields, jump logs, and swim rivers.  Riley, after surgery, with the support of a tech, came into a room with no hair on his hind quarter, very tired, but so happy to see me.  I remember sitting on the floor with Riley with a blanket for quite some time.  The VMC did not rush me out. They let me just lay with Riley because he needed me.  Riley was there for two nights and then he came home to begin his healing.

When Riley was six weeks into healing, we came for a re-check, and Dr. Robinson confirmed the bone was healing, but had not fully healed. He said that he could start physical therapy.  Riley met Lis a day or two after that.  When he walked in to see Lis she asked if the right had the surgery and I said, “No, the left.”  A day later, Riley was on a very slow, short walk with me down a path into a field at my parent’s farm and he collapsed.  He cried out, just as awful as the last time.  I knew what had happened.  Time stopped for me as I went to the ground holding Riley.  His rear right CCL had torn along with the meniscus this time.  The left leg was weeks from being healed, and Riley lay in the field with two rear legs in bad shape, total lameness.  To say the VMC was supportive when we rushed Riley there would be an understatement.  I cried, they gave me the time I needed to cry, and to accept the reality.  After two long weeks of waiting and good pain management, Dr. Robinson, performed a second TPLO surgery on Riley’s rear right leg.

Riley’s second surgery was early August of 2015 and by October Riley was back to see Lis, this time with two newly repaired hind legs.  It was overwhelming at first with all the exercise suggestions, and massage techniques, but Lis was patient, always a listener, and above all, compassionate.  Lis suggested we meet with Dr. Burnett because Riley had been through a lot and was dealing with a good amount of pain and it was affecting his rehabilitation progress.  Dr. Burnett was phenomenal and got Riley in a comfortable place so his body was able to begin healing with limited amounts of pain and discomfort.  

It has been about a year and half since Riley’s first TPLO surgery and he has experienced some hiccups along the way.  Through it all, Lis and Dr. Burnett have been there for Riley and he is in such a great place now.  Riley is a new version of Riley, now, after all, he has two rods, one in each rear leg with six screws each.  But, what hasn’t changed through it all is Riley’s spirit, determination and fight.  Riley has fought his way to be where he is today and couldn’t have done it without the support of the VMC of CNY.  

Riley continues to do laser and hydrotherapy with Lis on a monthly basis and does re-checks with Dr. Burnett every 3 months.  He takes Duralactin, Tramadol, Gabapentin and Omega-3 Oil Supplements daily to help with discomfort and arthritis/inflammation management. Thank you Lis!  Thank you Dr. Burnett!  And thank you to all of the staff who have reached out and touched my heart and Riley’s heart throughout this journey.  Riley is back to “living the life of Riley, again!”

                                                     ~The Schultz Family


March 2017 Patient of the Month

Hemi's Story

One day in July of 2009, we were at our veterinary clinic for a visit with one of our cats. A family had recently left a handsome yellow lab with Doctor Kibiuk, Doctor Jank and staff at the Watertown Animal Hospital. His name was Hemi, he needed surgeryon his left knee, and the doctors were hoping to find a new family for him but knew it would be difficult. They mentioned him to us since they knew we were looking for a dog to adopt. We met him once and that was all it took. He came home with us that dayand we learned quickly that he was a happy, friendly and very energetic guy.

In October of 2009, Doctor Jank successfully performed surgery on Hemi’s ACL in his left knee. Around the same time, pre-existing skin allergies became increasingly worse and unbearable, and he ended up having 2 hematomas, one in each ear, and 2 surgeries as a result. After several years, and several medications that didn’t work, we went to Cornell for allergy testing. Hemi now receives allergy shots and Apoquel and can get through the day and night without scratching continuously. Hemi loves walking in the fields and woods, and one day turned to look backwards and his right knee buckled! Another torn ACL and another surgery performed by Doctor Jank. Unfortunately, this surgery was not as successful and he had to go to Cornell to have a TPLO performed on his right knee. Throughout his recovery, it was a struggle to keep Hemi walking slowly, but he was learning and doing great, until he had a setback. Cornell diagnosed him with Peripheral Neuropathy and Laryngeal Paralysis. He continued to have trouble with his back legs, which weakened and caused pain and stress on his front legs as well. Throughout all of this, he has remained the same happy, friendly and energetic guy we first met.

Desperate for help, we asked Doctor Jank if there was anything we could do for him. Doctor Jank talked to us about looking into acupuncture and physical rehabilitation and he recommended Veterinary Medical Center of Central New York. We called VMC the very next day and set up an appointment with Doctor Michelle Burnett on July 28, 2015 for acupuncture and pain management. We also made an appointment with Doctor Molly Flaherty to begin physical rehabilitation after she arrived from Chicago in early August of 2015. So began our visits at VMC weekly for physical rehabilitation and acupuncture treatments, along with pain management assessments, every other week. 

Our visits with Doctor Flaherty include laser therapy on Hemi’s joints, spinal manipulation and underwater treadmill treatments. Hemi does not like water and barked the entire time he was in the tank until Doctor Flaherty “out foxed” him. A kong filled with peanut butter, that he can lick, makes him forget all about the water he’s in. Doctor Flaherty & Jen have helped Hemi to maintain muscle mass, which enables him to have a better mobility. He can now enjoy his daily walks and move around the house so much easier.

Doctor Burnett has helped Hemi be able to enjoy his daily activities more comfortably by introducing him to new medications and acupuncture treatments. She gets a workout during each acupuncture visit because Hemi is much more interested in visiting than standing still for the needles to be placed in position. Although, by the time the electroacupuncture machine is hooked up, he is worn out and usually dozes until the treatment is finished.

Then, as the weeks went by we noticed that Hemi’s breathing was increasingly labored. This was due to the Laryngeal Paralysis and needed attention. At the beginning of the summer, Doctor Timothy Robinson performed Tieback surgery on Hemi to relieve the breathing stress. Hemi was then able to get through the summer without any further problems.

We are so happy and fortunate to have Hemi as part of our family. Hemi just celebrated his 13th birthday at the end of October and we cannot thank VMC enough for everything they are doing for him. Our experiences with everyone at VMC has been outstanding!

-- The Coons Family


  • ALC Left Knee
  • TPLO Right Knee
  • Arthritis in Most Joints
  • Laryngeal Paralysis


  • Laser Therapy
  • Underwater Treadmill
  • Chiropractic Care
  • Acupuncture
  • Pain Management




February 2017 Patient of the Month

Pilot's Story

January 13 2016 is a day that I will never forget, that was the day my boy was diagnosed with Immune Mediated Hemolytic Anemia-IMHA. When your dog has IMHA, it means his immune system destroys its own red blood cells. Your dog’s body still produces red blood cells in the bone marrow to replace the destroyed cells, but, once they are released the immune system mistakenly recognizes them as something foreign. Pilot is a 3 year old Schipperke male who came into my life on October 19th 2013. I show dogs and I waited a very long time, years in fact, to get a dog as special as he is. He was the most confident dog I have ever seen and I knew he was going to be a top show dog, he loves everyone he meets and everyone who meets him loves him, a dream come true but that was not to be. He rose to the top in a very short time, finished his championship in record speed before his first birthday, on his way to becoming a grand champion. I had HUGE goals for him and he certainly was the dog to do it all. But I noticed that he was starting to fade just after his second birthday, he would what I call pass out with exertion lost interest in eating and developed bloody stool. I rushed him to Stack Vet Hospital to see what was wrong they took a blood sample and said they would get back to me with results the next day.

Well I got the call from Dr. Stack and he asked me if I could come up that day to review the results, I knew right then and there it was not good. I called my husband Spencer and we met at home to take our boy for results. I was told that Pilot had IMHA and it was a life threatening illness, a normal RBC is 45 and above, he was at 15.5. We were in total shock, I had never heard of this disease. They started him on Prednisone which is the first line of treatment. A follow up appointment was made for the following week for a RBC count. I went home to do my research on this illness. I contacted some of my show friends and no one really knew or had seen this before.

When we went for his follow up appointment it was snowing and blowing out. Pilots RBC count was now 7.5! Dr. Stack said to me Pilot needs a blood transfusion or he will die. I chose to take him to the Emergency Room at the Veterinary Medical Center (VMC) and the arrangements were made.

Well, the staff at VMC were just incredible! I was an emotional wreck thinking the worst and in shock myself. I was treated with such compassion and a better knowledge of what was wrong with my dog. I left knowing he was in good hands. They kept in contact with me throughout the night and his RBC count went up to 19. He was hospitalized for two days and transferred to the Critical Care Service. I was told how serious this was that some dogs do well but it is a long battle, our goal is to get Pilot into remission.

Pilot still has a long way to go and is going to need frequent visits with the Internal Medicine Service at the VMC. The Internal Medicine Service is the greatest “team” ever to care for him. My husband, Pilot and I would like to personally thank Dr. Heather White, Dr. Cortright, Kim (vet tech) and Toby (vet tech), and Tracie receptionist who just love my boy, hard not to since he is very special. I can honestly say my dog would not be here if it weren’t for the love and devotion they have for him and for the emotional support they have given my husband and I. As long as Pilot is willing to fight so are we!!!

Thanks so much to everyone who has been there for Pilot!!!

Spencer, Sandi and Pilot Lovelace…

January 2017 Patient of the Month!

Stella's Story

When we adopted Stella in 2010, we weren’t looking for a young dog. We had our hearts set on a 9-year old female from German Shepherd Rescue who could be a companion to our 9.5-year-old male, Ezra. The 9-year-old female did not want to live in a house with other dogs, so the rescue steered us to Stella, a 2.5-year-old that had been surrendered by her family.  We feel in love with Stella’s sweet personality and playfulness immediately.  Stella and Ezra were running around and playing like old friends shortly after meeting so we knew she was the dog for us. 

Stella had a femoral head and neck osteotomy performed on her left hip when she was 6-months old after x-rays showed hip dysplasia. Despite this early setback, Stella is an extremely active dog who loves to play fetch and Frisbee. Occasionally we noticed that Stella was stiff after her playtimes. We brought her in for Physical Rehabilitation and Pain Management at the Veterinary Medical Center of CNY. Dr. Fleckenstein and Lis Conarton had worked wonders on our old shepherd, Ezra’s issues through the end of his life so we knew they would come up with a plan to keep Stella active. We immediately saw a decrease in Stella’s stiffness and recovery once we added physical rehabilitation. We have kept Stella on a 4 to 6-week rotation of chiropractic care and hydrotherapy and followed a regiment of home exercise and stretches. 

When we adopted Stella we knew she had anxiety issues. Having a strong male role model around helps with Stella’s anxiety but it is still a problem. Stella’s greatest problems occur during thunderstorms. We have frequently come home or woken up to find Stella wedged into a space that is too small for her. Stella has cut herself during these episodes but never caused an injury that required medical care. In early July, Stella panicked during a thunderstorm and wedged herself under our bed. The bedframe is very close to the ground. The only way Stella was able to get herself under the bed was to unnaturally contort her body. Stella was wedged in so tight that we could not pull her out. I was able to pull Stella out after my husband lifted the bed. It looked like she had rotated her hips at a strange angle so we weren’t surprised that she was a little stiff when she started walking around. 

Aside from the stiffness, she acted like her normal, playful self.  The next morning when we took her out to play fetch it was obvious that something was wrong. She was not putting weight on her left hind leg. We brought Stella to the Veterinary Medical Center of CNY for evaluation and found out that she had ruptured her cruciate ligament. Dr. Robinson and the surgical team assured us that this was a common injury in active dogs and that Stella would be back to her playful self about 12 weeks after surgery if we followed a strict rest and recovery program. 

Stella 1.png

One week after Stella’s surgery we started Acupuncture. Stella had a lot of bruising and swelling around her knee and ankle and her leg was extremely hot to the touch. A few hours after her first Acupuncture treatment, the bruising and swelling had decreased significantly. We continued with treatments every two weeks through Stella’s 6-week post op x-rays. Once we got the all-clear that she was healing well, we were able to add Physical Rehabilitation with Lis. Visits with Lis for laser therapy were already part of Stella’s recovery but we were happy that now she was going to be able to do something active to burn off some of that nervous energy. 

At this point, we are almost 11 weeks post-surgery and Stella is doing great. Stella now comes in twice a month for her treatments with Dr. Polly and Lis and we follow our home exercise and mobility regiment.  Stella is doing better than we expected at this point and is basically back to her old self. Even though some parts of the recovery process have been difficult, things would have been much worse without the great care and support that we receive from the VMC. You never want anything bad to happen to your pet but when it does, it is great to have such a great resource close by that embraces both traditional and non-traditional approaches to veterinary care. 

                               ~The Sliwiak Family


  • History of Left Femoral Head & Neck Osteotomy
  • Left Cranial Cruciate Ligament Rupture corrected with TPLO repair
  • Noise Phobia
  • Separation Anxiety
  • Secondary Compensatory Muscle Pain


  • Electroacupuncture
  • Laser Therapy
  • Hydrotherapy
  • Massage
  • Soft Tissue Mobilization
  • VSMT
  • Alprazolam (for anxiety)
  • Shen Calmer (Chinese Herbs for Anxiety)
  • Pain Management Perioperatively (and as needed)
  • Tendon Ligament Formula Chinese Herbs