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2012-05-16 / Columnists

Pets Pets Pets

On May 9, “Ruby,” a black cat and “Blueberry,” a Chihuahua were honored guests at the fourth annual “Living Legends Luncheon” hosted by the Animal Medical Center (better known as “The AMC”). This event celebrates pets who have survived overwhelming odds, thanks to the cutting-edge technology and expert staff at the AMC, a world renowned veterinary hospital in Manhattan.

A foal named “11 Capricorn” was also an unofficial honoree, only present in pictures, for the young horse, now over one thousand pounds, has grown too large to fit in the elevator at the historic Harmonie Club. Besides, he would have had a “field day” noshing on everyone’s delicious salad.

The AMC doesn’t treat horses but last year when the sixweek old foal from a NJ racing farm had extreme difficulty breathing, his vets at an equine medical center were unable to pinpoint the cause of his airway obstruction and turned to the AMC for state-of-theart Interventional Radiology. Doctors there found a chest mass occluding a vein and two stents were successfully inserted to ease the blood flow in his heart. Then he was jammed into the AMC elevator to go to the third floor for a CAT scan to better identify the rare congenital mass. By the end of the day, the colt was back home with his distraught mom. He continues to recover well.


Blueberry with Dr. Gehrke Blueberry with Dr. Gehrke For over a century, the AMC on East 62nd Street has been a pioneering veterinary hospital with (equine) roots that go back to 1906 when Ellin Prince Speyer founded the Women’s Auxiliary to the ASPCA. Their first major activity was a Work Horse Parade on Memorial Day 1907, encouraging peddlers and carriage drivers to treat their animals better. Thousands turned out, which inspired the group to establish their first AMC, a dispensary and low-cost clinic for poor and immigrant pet owners on the Lower East Side.

Weathering two World Wars plus the Depression, Speyer’s compassionate concept continued to expand. The present high-rise facility was built in 1960. The AMC is now a 501(c) 3 non-profit veterinary center that remains a national leader in animal care. As an academic veterinary hospital, the AMC promotes the health and well-being of companion animals through advanced treatment, research and education with a staff of 80+ veterinarians who utilize an interdisciplinary team approach combining expertise in more than 25 key specialties and services 24/7. Discoveries and techniques perfected at innovative places like the AMC trickle down to all pets, and may even benefit homeless dogs and cats in the care of shelters and rescue groups.

Let’s take a look at the 2012 AMC “Living Legends:”

•Ruby and her sister were kittens rescued off the streets of Seattle in 2005 by Katherine Scharhorn and Danielle Morgan. Two years later, Ruby developed seizures and was put on anti-convulsive drugs. The next year the seizures became a violent, daily occurrence, but luckily her owners were referred to the Neurology Service at the AMC.

Within moments Dr. Chad West noticed that Ruby had loss of vision in one eye and weakness on one side. He suspected a structural problem. An MRI revealed an old skull fracture and fluid build-up which suggested early head trauma, perhaps in utero. Dr. West prescribed a different regimen of three drugs that will continue indefinitely. Ruby has been completely seizure-free for four years.

Ruby is an exceptional cat. At home she snuggles with her sister, and is once again the gentle soul her family had always known. Her film-maker family has adjusted to her medical routine. Katherine feels their new schedule has allowed her time to write a screenplay; while Danielle whose own mom managed seizures believes she was meant to be Ruby’s person.

On some level Ruby sensed the attention in the grand dining room was all on her behalf. She relaxed quietly on Danielle’s lap while people pet her. It didn’t bother Ruby one bit that she had 200 admirers. She merely continued to purr.

•Blueberry the Chihuahua puppy led a charmed life in Queens until one evening in November when he began screaming and shaking uncontrollably, and then his body suddenly went stiff. His owner Rosetta Bruni rushed him to the AMC unsure whether she would get there in time. An MRI showed that two of Blueberry’s vertebrae had separated, twisting and compressing the spinal cord, causing a hemorrhage that could lead to permanent damage or death. He had a specific malformation found in Toy breeds but also in Dobies and Rotties.

Blueberry was wrapped in a stabilizing neck cast. Dr. Josh Gehrke explained that they could leave him in the rigid brace for a prolonged time and wait for scar tissue perhaps to form some sort of protection, or they could do a highly invasive surgery that had only been done a few times before and never on a dog as tiny as three pound Blueberry. The surgery required a small stainless steel implant that had to be custom made in Spain, but there were risks of paralysis or death. While they waited for the aparatus, Dr. Gehrke and Dr. John McCue consulted with the European surgeons who had performed the procedure called “Kishigami atlantoaxial tension band,” and before attempting Blueberry’s intricate five-hour operation, practiced with seven mock surgeries.

Blueberry spent a month hospitalized in his splint before the device arrived and another three weeks in recovery. Everyday his family would visit bringing his toys and a “seven-course meal.” They were comforted seeing how bonded Blueberry had become to his medical team.

When Blueberry went home, he healed faster than anyone had anticipated. At the luncheon, he posed for photos in a tuxedo alongside his doctors. Sandra Bruni, Rosetta’s daughter, spoke, closing with these remarks: “Dr. Gehrke (aka Dr. Josh), what can we ever say to you to express the gratitude and respect that we feel for you...you are truly our hero! That night in November, we prayed for a miracle and that miracle came in the form of you and the Animal Medical Center.”

For Adoption at Babylon Town Shelter (631-643-9270) Lamar St. Babylon: “Shorty” # 94230 a Cattle Dog/Shepherd has grown up at the shelter. She was chained in a yard until her family faced eviction last July. She is very sociable but needs someone to teach her the basics and put her on a diet. “Snowbelle” #2-122 is a gorgeous Siamese mix who arrived at the shelter nursing five kittens. She and several of her kids are available in the lobby.

Dogs: “Blondie” yellow Lab/Pit captured in St. Charles Cemetery; wirehaired Dachshund mix pup.

Cats: “Mr. Man” #2-101 tuxedo found with his collar imbedded in his armpit; “Tabitha” #2-130 lovely Persian mix who is depressed in a cage.

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