A Little Brightness on the Other Side

Sunset over the ocean

It was one of the more stressful situations a veterinary practice can face: a patient with life-threatening injuries howling in pain, a shocked and grief-stricken owner and doctors restricted by limited options for care. When to all involved it’s almost certain that a patient is beyond medical help, and when you want to make every effort to avoid that certainty, but an owner simply doesn’t have the means to pay for heroic efforts, what do you do? What choices do you make?

That was the setting at Laursen Veterinary Service in Fairgrove, Michigan, when IDEXX sales professionals Marty Van Almen and Dane Davis stopped in for an appointment. They’d shown up early, as requested, with breakfast and in high spirits. But as soon as they entered the practice, they knew something was wrong.

After making their way into the back room, Marty and Dane were met with a heartbreaking scene and story. The patient, Leah*, an 8-year-old husky mix, had been attacked by another dog. Leah suffered from multiple fractures and lacerations, a major contusion, possibly a punctured lung and broken vertebrae. Leah's doctors, Stacey Laursen, Alli Doherty and Jon Doherty, were in the difficult position of deciding where they could best apply their limited resources.

Marty assessed the situation and decided to take action as well. “Do whatever it takes to help this animal,” he said. “Anything you need from us or IDEXX. We’ve got this covered.”

With that simple statement, these doctors were able to take immediate steps to treat her life- threatening injuries and provide her with pain relief. In the end, Leah and her owner were given only one more day, but they were able to share each other’s company and to say good-bye—in peace.

Leah’s owner was so moved when she heard about Marty’s actions that she took the time to write and mail a letter. He received the letter, along with several handmade leashes and pull toys as a sign of her gratitude, a short time later.

Handwritten note from Leah's owner

“She wrote me a letter—by hand!” Marty told his colleagues at IDEXX, touched by this nearly unheard of gesture in our technology-driven world. “I keep it with me,” he adds.

As for Leah’s owner, she will always be grateful that strangers cared enough to help her beloved pet in a time of crisis. “As much as I miss her, at least there was brightness on the other side,” she told Dakotah Sherman, head technician at Laursen.

She thinks of Leah as if she were still with her and her remaining dog still searches for Leah around the house. There will always be a void, but the family is recovering. Leah’s owner says they may adopt a puppy soon, a Great Dane or perhaps a Labrador retriever.

“It wasn’t about the money,” Marty says now, “What really mattered was that those veterinarians were free to do whatever they felt necessary and best for that patient, and they did. They weren’t able to save Leah, but they gave her and her owner one more day that they wouldn’t have had otherwise. I would do it again in a second. This is what we do—this is IDEXX.”

“She wrote me a letter—by hand!” Marty told his colleagues at IDEXX, touched by this nearly unheard of gesture in our technology-driven world. “I keep it with me.”

Marty Van Allen, IDEXX Veterinary Diagnostic Consultant

*The name of the patient has been changed to protect her owner’s privacy.