Written by Dr. Lauren Barrow, with input from Arnie and Sandie Schultz
Here at Parkside Animal Health Center, we love our patients and their human families and feel lucky that they have chosen us to provide medical care for their animals. However, we acknowledge that true health and happiness starts at home.
Dr. Brenda Eisenhauer, our fair leader, and head veterinarian launched a new program in 2017 called “Parkside Pet Heroes” to reward our clients and to ask them to share their insights with the rest of the Parkside family. For our maiden voyage into the new program, we chose a couple who exemplifies kindness and commitment and also happens to be two of the first people to walk through our doors when Parkside opened in 2011.
Arnie and Sandie Schultz of Aurora, Colorado have thirty years of pet ownership experience, with all the memories, affection and heartbreak that entails. When I sat down to speak with them last month, their love and respect for their pets- all animal life, in fact- shone through. After ordering our coffee and muffins, it was all I could do to keep up with them, scribbling notes as they told me about their furry family.
We started the conversation discussing the animals they currently have, a dog and three cats. Captain Jack is the cat who is clicker trained to sit and sleeps with Hurley, the border collie who really prefers cats to dogs. Maisy and Thornton are the newcomers, kittens adopted two years ago from the Dumb Friends League, where Arnie is employed. Maisy is fearful but has a heart of gold and Thornton, who is full of energy, had a history of urinating in inappropriate places, which was corrected with play, toys and puzzles. Each has their own personality and special place in their guardian’s hearts.
Arnie and Sandie recently lost a member of their furry family when Ryan, a sweetheart of a geriatric border collie, suddenly died last year. “Ryan was my best friend,” Arnie admits, as his eyes tear up. “I still really, really miss him.” As if the mention of Ryan opened a floodgate, Sandie and Arnie both start telling me of the pets they’ve loved before. They spoke of Bogie, their first border collie who loved everyone and died of liver failure at age sixteen, and Beaker, their first cat, a feisty calico. There was Scooter, a black cat who loved everyone and only meowed in couplets, Willow, who died of saddle thrombus and Elmo, who had kidney failure. Buttercup, who was declawed and then started to bite in frustration. There was Sydney, an ultra-smart Aussie who taught herself how to peel and eat a banana, and Seamus the border collie who died at a young age from cancer. The Schultz’s dedication to their animals is obvious and continues on with the next generation. The way Arnie puts it, “Our kids and grandkids learned to love animals, grew up with them…dogs, cats, rats, a chinchilla, a hamster, a bearded dragon…” The friendship with their animals became a family tradition.
The Schultzes are our first Pet Heroes because they care for their animals and strive to do what’s best for them, but that took years of practice, trial and error and creative thinking. We wanted to know what kind of wisdom could they pass on to others.
What diagnostic are you most thankful you did for one of your animals?
Arnie: Basic veterinary exams, on all our animals. Durkin was couch potato dog, black and white border collie. Dr. Eisenhauer was taking his temperature during a regular wellness exam and felt something wasn’t right. It ended up being anal gland adenocarcinoma. We took Durkin to the oncologist, where he had surgery and chemotherapy and it brought us a lot of time together.
Sandie: He died of unrelated cancer at sixteen years old.
Arnie: Dr. Eisenhauer also heard Elmo’s heart murmur early on, during a routine exam. He lived more than fifteen years after that and eventually died of kidney failure.
I try to instruct people on how to brush their dogs and cats teeth, but the truth is, I have a hard time with it! How do you do it?
Arnie: Ryan loved it, and so does Jack. It was the morning routine with the older animals, the younger just followed them. Thornton is at the sink as soon as I get out of bed.
Sandie: Oh, and they gotta love the flavor of the toothpaste.
Arnie: But Maisy still won’t do it! She’s fearful even if we offer the toothpaste to her on our fingers.
Behavioral problems are the number one reason animals are relinquished to the shelter. How have you dealt with the behavioral issues of your animals?
Arnie: Hurley has a lot of problems, due to the baggage he had when we rescued him. He spent his first four years totally ignored in someone’s back yard.
Sandie: He has made a lot of progress after working with a behaviorist for about a year. He still barks at Arnie in the house, but nowhere else and not at anybody else. He loves company and we have learned that he likes females more than males. When we attempted to introduce him to other dogs, we found out he doesn’t have any idea of what other dogs are, but at least he likes the cats.
Arnie: We can’t have another dog as long as we have Hurley, but I won’t give him up…even as much as I’d like to have a second dog. The is the first time in about thirty years that we haven’t had two. He’s part of the family.
Sandie (with a big smile): Our pets have trained us.
Another thing, beside the teeth brushing thing, that you two are famous for around Parkside is the cat food concoction you made for Elmo. Can you tell us all about that?
Arnie: Elmo had renal failure and would not eat.
Sandie: We finally combined a teaspoon of canned pumpkin, ⅓ can of cat food and a teaspoon of baby food. I froze the canned pumpkin in small portions so it wouldn’t go to waste after two days.
Arnie: He loved it. Dr. Eisenhauer said he was the only renal failure cat that she saw gain weight. He lived to be nineteen years old.
Do you have any tips for pet owners?
Arnie: Be kind and love on them. Train your pets. Give them decent food, like Science Diet. Go to the vet for routine and emergency care.
Sandie: Let them sleep on the bed. Say hello when you get home.
Arnie: Spay and neuter. Adopt and rescue. Keep your cats indoors, unless they are working cats. Exercise your dogs every day.
Sandie: Don’t declaw. It is cruel and can lead to behavior problems…like it did with Buttercup. And feed them twice a day and put their snacks in the bowl so they don’t beg, though that only works sometimes.
I have to admit, by the end of the interview we had spent less time working and more time laughing and exchanging stories of the animals we have loved and lost, but it was a great afternoon, spent with two of the biggest hearts in Aurora. The Schultz’s philosophy is clear, and it’s wisdom we all could live by; your animals are your family…treat them that way!