Ace ambled into a room at the Southside Community Center and immediately hefted himself up onto a table. He waited expectantly for his treat – a peanut butter and tuna popsicle.
“He loves them,” said veterinarian Julie Sowa.
When the practice she’d been working with suddenly closed, Sowa looked for a way to continue treating patients like Ace, while looking for new digs.
Enter Southside Community Center director Lisa Rosier.
Her dog Tonka, a massive Black Russian Terrier, is one of Sowa’s patients and the official mascot of the center.
“Like many clients, I was devastated when the previous practice closed,” Rosier said. “I knew we had the space, so I asked her if she’d like work here. We have easy access to a park if she needs to exercise animals, and we’re a very pet-friendly place.”
Indeed, Tonka has the run of the center. He greets visitors and checks in on classroom activities. And now, on Tuesdays and Thursdays, he’s not the only canine on the premises.
Sowa practices holistic and therapeutic veterinary care. After graduating from Colorado State University in 2003, she went on to complete training in veterinary spinal manipulation (chiropractic) and veterinary acupuncture. She’s currently completing coursework for certification in canine rehabilitation therapy.
While working at the center, Sowa doesn’t do any surgeries or lab work; instead she focuses on improving fitness level and quality of life for pets.
For Ace, that means cold laser therapy. The 3-year-old Giant Schnauzer suffers from injuries he suffered as a puppy when he was run over by a tractor.
His owner, Peggy Kolhase, brings him in from Chewelah, Washington. She was relieved to find he could continue his treatments at the Southside Community Center.
After an exam, Sowa fitted Ace with doggy goggles to protect his eyes during the treatment while the patient pup slurped up a second popsicle.
“The laser uses light therapy to speed tissue healing,” Sowa said. “I try to work with referring vets and urge clients to get a diagnosis from their regular vet. If they come here with X-rays, it’s even better.”
She also treats cats at the center.
“Acupuncture can really help cats with neurological problems or arthritis,” she said. “Not all cats tolerate it, but the ones I’ve treated in the past have loved it.”
Sowa also makes house calls; she treats horses and, once, even an alpaca.
“I called it ‘alpacapuncture,’ ” she said, smiling.
The innovative solution has been a win for both Sowa and the center. The veterinarian rents the space while looking for a more permanent spot. She offers discounts to members, but nonmembers are welcome to schedule appointments as well.
“I was quite the novelty when I first started here, but I think overall the members are excited about having an unusual addition to their usual routine,” Sowa said.
“It’s been fabulous,” she said. “The members enjoy seeing the dogs come and go. It’s a good partnership.”
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