Our pets are part of our families, and their lives are intimately enterwined with ours, so these Animal Health columns are often just as much about us as they are our pets. Sometimes the line between my animal stories and people stories becomes blurred by accident, but this month it is entirely intentional.
This month you won’t learn anything about your dog’s itchy skin or why your cat doesn’t always use its litter box. Instead, we’ll learn about something much more important, something that speaks to the heart of the passion we have for our pets. This month we’ll look at a few good men: three men who embody the best in our relationships with animals. I’ll use their real names. (Because I’m complimenting them, I haven’t asked their permission…it’s easier to ask forgiveness! I also ask the indulgence of the ladies this month; their passions for pets are just as deep, but they’ll have their turn sometime soon.)
Doug is a client I have known for many years. He and his wife have had wonderful relationships with a number of special little friends over the years, and they brought in two of them last week for routine visits. As I checked their pets and we talked, we discussed many aspects of their pets’ health. We also shared our thoughts on some of the special times we’ve had with their pets in the past.
I was especially impressed with their pets’ oral health. We had performed a dental cleaning procedure on them last year, but I was still expecting to see the telltale signs of tartar and gingivitis re-developing; this is very common, especially in toy breeds. I was very pleasantly surprised to see their teeth still pearly-white! More important for their good health, their gums were perfectly healthy…there was no active inflammation at the tooth margins (when you get a moment later today, lift your pet’s lip up and look at its gums; there is often a narrow red line where the gum meets the teeth- evidence of gingivitis.) When I expressed my happiness about their healthy mouths, Doug reported that he routinely brushes all of their dogs’ teeth; that is what made the difference.
Doug has channeled his love for and passion about his personal pets into the care of and dedication to them that has really made a difference in their lives. With routine tooth brushing, his pets will live longer and better and Doug and Linda will spend less money on professional dental care. In addition, the success that Doug has had in training his pets to have their teeth brushed has encouraged me to improve my efforts to inform other clients that it really can be done. It is easy to become cynical when year after year many clients don’t seem interested in performing involved home oral care, but Doug’s persistence and success has helped me as well as his own pets. And that is why I’m including the simple but important story of Doug in this article about “a few good men.”
Ed is also one of this month’s good guys. I actually just met Ed several weeks ago, when he brought in a Brittany Spaniel he was fostering, trying to find it a new home. One of Ed’s passions is helping those pets who really need a relationship with families, and that is why he has become involved in pet rescue. You may know that there are many pet rescue groups who specialize in providing temporary homes for stray or unwanted pets. While being cared for by the “foster” home, the rescue groups and foster families help the pet become re-accustomed to a loving home, and generally help provide the necessary medical care. Ed has taken that rescue group passion to another level, being willing to literally take on the role of Good Samaritan, and paying personally for the food, housing, and medical care for the strays that need his help. I know that many of you also have become involved in similar ways, but learning of Ed’s straightforward approach to helping meet their needs was touching and meaningful to me.
Not only did Ed help the pet he brought in find a new home, not only did he offer to pay personally for the care it needed, but his perspective on how that was his “responsibility,” not just a passion was especially refreshing. Ed shares my feeling that we as humans have a stewardship responsibility to God’s creation, and that responsibility shows itself in a mighty way in the manner that we care for our (and other’s) pets. So, Ed makes this month’s good guy list because his love for his pets has spread into his care for many others as well, not just as a contributing member of a rescue group, as many of us already are, but as someone willing to take time out of their day and go out of his way to become personally involved in the lives of animals who can’t help themselves.
Passion for their pets, and passion for helping other pets, are certainly marks of a good man. Turning that passion into a lifelong calling and career puts Roger on my “A Few Good Men” list, and he is the real reason for this month’s column. Roger Troutman is my partner at Catawba Animal Clinic, establishing the practice here in York County in 1978, and has been my best friend for the past 34 years. After 36 years of Veterinary Medicine, serving the pets and families of York County, Roger retired from practice at the end of September. I cannot write a column on the “good men” of animal care without sharing from the heart a few paragraphs about Roger.
I’ll first share some basic biographical information, much of which some of you may know. Roger grew up in Charleston, where his passion for animals and people stirred him into a desire to become a veterinarian. He received his undergraduate degree from Clemson University, and then graduated with honors from the University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine in 1977. After a brief time practicing in Atlanta, Roger followed his dream of opening a veterinary medical office, choosing Rock Hill to be his family’s home, and Catawba Animal Clinic was born. Roger started out with just himself and his wife Kathy doing it all, from answering the phone (it didn’t ring very often at first, he has said!) to examining and treating the pets, working every weekend (except Clemson home football games) only being closed Wednesday afternoons. I had known Roger in Vet School (he was a senior when I was a freshman) and by the time I graduated in 1980, he told me his practice had grown to the point of needing “a half of a veterinarian.” Not sure exactly what he meant by that, I still took the job, and we have been partners ever since.
During the past 35 years, the practice Roger started has grown into a meaningful voice for pet care and the relationship between pets and families, and is currently one of the largest in the state, with 10 veterinarians and a total of 50 team members. We have helped many vets start their careers here, and many former staff members have gone on to follow their own dreams of becoming a veterinarians. Despite our size we have kept focused on Roger’s dream of keeping families first, providing practical, compassionate, and comprehensive care to our patients while helping meet our staff and doctors’ families’ needs as well.
Professionally, Roger has served in the South Carolina Association of Veterinarians in many leadership roles, including President, and has served on the South Carolina Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners as a member and Chairman. Roger is a respected member of our profession, and vets from across South Carolina know his reputation for caring and competence.
He has been especially well-liked by those in the “business” of veterinary medicine, such as medical and pharmaceutical representatives, because of the respect with which he treats them and the important roles they play in developing new medical options for our pets. Roger has served as a Trail Vet on the Iditarod Dog Sled Race on Alaska for the past decade.
Roger has also turned his passion for the vision of Clemson University into a lifetime of service to the Tigers. He has served with the athletic support organizations, but even more importantly he has played an influential role in supporting the academic mission through the Clemson parent organizations and the Clemson Alumni Association. Roger has been named “Distinguished Alumnus” and currently serves on the Clemson University Board of Visitors. Roger and his family’s blood truly does “runneth orange.” (I know some of my readers’ blood “runneth garnet,” but please know that Roger would be just as loyal to USC if he had attended there, so don’t hold that against him…or me!)
Roger’s passion for Clemson and pets still revolves around his love for family and his faith. Roger married his college sweetheart Kathy, who has served as Children’s minister at our church, First Baptist here in Rock Hill, as well as being headmistress at Westminster Catawba Christian School (my youngest son spent so much time being sent to her office when he attended that he had his own chair right by her desk.)When caught misbehaving he would simply slip into her office and sit right down, both of them taking it all in stride). Kathy and Roger have two children, Ryan and Katie, and over the years have had an assortment of dogs and cats.
Roger is a deacon at First Baptist, and has served in many church leadership roles, including building fund chair, missions conference director, and Sunday School teacher. All of his other areas of service spring from the relationship he has with his Savior, Jesus Christ.
Ultimately, Roger has considered the pets and families for which he has cared and the team members with whom he has served to be his extended family. Many of you reading this column know firsthand of the compassion he shows to his patients: his late-nights at the office, his patient understanding over concerned phone calls, the joys shared when he has met your new pets, and the comfort that came when sorely needed.
Anything I could share about how he cares for his patients would be inadequate to describe what many of you have experienced.
Roger’s patients, the families has served, the team at Catawba Animal Clinic with whom he has worked, and the profession of which he is proud to be a member, are all better because of him. He is truly a good man, and I am proud to call him my friend. Best wishes to Roger and Kathy as they find new areas of service outside the office.