Veterinarians are used to treating less-than-cooperative patients, but rarely do they have to change their entire appearance in order to accommodate a grumpy cat or dog.
When Sonya Schiff of England adopted a rescue Dalmatian named Rupert, she knew that building trust with her new canine companion might be an uphill battle. Rupert has extreme anxiety and trust issues from being passed around from place to place before arriving at his forever home with Sonya. He fiercely guarded his food bowl and his bed, and touching his damaged hind leg would get you a scary growl in return.
But, after years of love and nurturing, Rupert slowly began to trust Sonya and many of his issues resolved on their own. Unfortunately, a byproduct of gaining Rupert’s trust was the onset of separation anxiety that kicked in whenever Sonya left him alone.
“When I adopted Rupert from Dogs Trust a couple of years back he had some quite serious guarding issues and aggression, which we believe were pain associated,” Sonya explained. “It took a year for him to bond with me after his rehoming, at which point he developed separation anxiety if I left him.”
When Rupert’s damaged leg finally required surgery to fix, Sonya racked her brain to think of ways to keep her best friend comfortable and calm during the overnight trip to the vet. When she first brought Rupert in to Davies Veterinary Specialists in Hitchin, Hertfordshire, the dog flattened his ears back and growled at vet Mike Ferrell before he could even get close to him. It wasn’t until Sonya came up with an unconventional idea that everything changed for Rupert.
Sonya went home thinking she’d grab a sweater that smelled like her, but instead, she spotted a giant mouse onesie that Rupert likes to sleep on. She figured since the costume smells like Rupert, home, and herself, it might soothe the animal when it came time to spend the night in the hospital. Mike, who is an orthopedic specialist at the clinic, took one look at the giant mouse costume and started to laugh.
Then the dedicated veterinarian thought more about it and decided Sonya’s idea might actually be the missing piece of Rupert’s puzzle. It couldn’t hurt to try, right?
Mike put on the onesie and approached Rupert with caution… and what do you know? Rupert absolutely loved him!
The vet was able to fully examine Rupert and then perform surgery on his leg, all thanks to this giant, silly-looking onesie.
The clinic’s behaviorist, Monika Kafno, explained why the suit worked better than any drugs or muzzle ever could. “As dogs have a superior sense of smell and ability to smell between 10,000 and 100,000 times better than people, their brain processes information in a very short period of time,” Monika said. “This triggers an association of the smell with a particular experience or event in their life.”
So Sonya’s motherly instinct was spot on, and thankfully she has a veterinarian who doesn’t take himself too seriously to don a big ol’ mouse suit if it gets the job done.
Now that’s a true commitment to treating the whole patient — well done, doc, and good boy, Rupert! This well-behaved boy deserves a few extra treats as he recuperates from his surgery.
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