Hugs, laughter and tears
The invitation arrived several weeks ago. The date on the card ironically, the second anniversary of letting Tank go.
Next door to the space it had been renting and four years in the making, January 19 was the grand opening of Southeast Veterinary Oncology's new facility. One of only a few dozen certified veterinary oncologists in all of North America who specialize only in that field, Dr. LaDue describes it as her dream come true.
To quote Da Kid, the former Senior Vet Tech when he called one of the veterinarians he'd worked with for several years, "You need to get over here and see this place! I've NEVER seen anything like it."
The ability to provide in-house radiation therapy is new. If it had been part of Tank's protocol, we would have had to meet Dr. LaDue at another facility — one for humans — on the other side of town, then hoped that we could manage whatever problems may have been presented at home OR boarded him at the animal emergency-care hospital across from her offices.
One entire section of the new hospital is dedicated to nuclear medicine. That area also includes special kennels (each complete with individual see-through doors, ceiling fans and beds) for those pets needing extended care. Some even have individual outdoor runs.
Old and young, some in remission and others currently in treatment, many of Dr. LaDue's canine patients also attended the grand opening. Newt, 13, won the Tricks Contest. A Chihuahua, the Best Costume Contest. Cooper, a Dachshund and the only contestant in Best Howler, received the first place prize in the instantly renamed Best Listener Contest.
(While every one of the hundred some-odd humans there was howling hoping to inspire him to make any sound at all, Cooper just looked at us like we were all nuts. And Newt looked sad not because he doesn't feel well. He was disappointed that no one will slip him more of their hamburger, hot dog or barbeque.)
Da Kid and I, like several there whose four-leggeds have gone on ahead of us, were there not only to see SEVO's new facility, but to participate in the dedication of its not-yet-in Memorial Garden. Like the area in back of the space they rented, this one — overlooking the same lake — will be a quiet place for people to go.
It will be shaded, like the other one was, once the plants are in and have a chance to grow. Da Kid and I chose a crepe myrtle that will be planted there, as a dedication to Tank. And one of the pavers in the walkway to or in the garden itself, will bear his name.
It's been two years since I've seen either Dr. LaDue or any of her staff. When I arrived, as soon as I got out of my car, familiar faces began crossing the parking lot and the hugs started. Not that any of them remembered what my name is. Then again, none of them called me by that name back then, either.
To them I was, remain today and always will be "Tank's Mommy."
SEVO's services are not inexpensive. But if your pet receives a diagnosis involving cancer and you are anywhere in the Central or Northeast Florida or Southeast Georgia area, please call them for at least a consultation.