By Carmen Newman
Dr. Robert Sharp has been a veterinarian for 36 years.
He graduated from The Ohio State University in 1979, and bought his current practice in Hillsboro in 1980.
Both of his children work with him. His daughter, Amy, has a degree in journalism and he calls her the “heart of the office.”
His son and fellow veterinarian, Dr. Reid Sharp, has practiced alongside him for the last three-and-a-half years.
He graciously took time from his day to talk to us about the proper care of puppies and dogs and the selfless love they give to us.
Salt Magazine: If people’s pets could talk to them, what do you think they would tell their owners?
Robert Sharp: That’s an interesting question. I believe all dogs would like to say the following:
1) “Hey, how about spending more time with me?” Any animal, without question, would want more time with their owners.
2) “Do not treat me like a possession. Treat me like a member of the family.”
I have seen people get a dog, chain him up outside the house, and treat the poor creature like a bumper they threw out behind the garage. When you have a living being, you have to treat him like a living being.
As tough as the reality can be, when pets get sick or injured, the owners are put in a position where they may or may not be able to care for them. I can envision most animals would be appreciative, if the owners have committed to keeping them, that the owner is also prepared to provide for them properly.
3) The pet would say, “OK, I live with you now and you have a responsibility to take care of me and not overlook things like my vaccinations and annual exams. Keep current on other considerations that keep me healthy. If I do get sick, take care of me.”
SM: What are the most common illnesses you see in dogs?
RS: Diarrhea and vomiting, not necessarily parvo, but more from dietary indiscretions.
People feed table foods to them. Dogs can eat a lot of stuff, but human food is not always agreeable. I also see a lot of coughs in dogs.
SM: What symptoms or signs when presented by our pets indicate that it is time to take them to the vet?
RS: A condition that is getting worse, definitely. Lameness, cough, vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, and all other obvious signs that something is wrong.
An interesting fact all should know is animals do not have symptoms. Animals only have signs.
A symptom is a verbally expressed opinion of your condition. For example, if you say, “I feel sick at my stomach,” that is a symptom, but vomiting is a sign. A dog never says, “My foot hurts.” A dog limps and that is a sign.
Animals never lie and there are no hypochondriacs in veterinary medicine. No animal limps for the sake of sympathy.
SM: What is one of the most common questions you are asked?
RS: Behavior questions are common. Clients will ask about house training their young dogs. I also often am asked about what is the best breed of dog for the kids or my family. The best match isn’t always based on which breed but rather which personality.
People will pick a dog by the way it looks instead of by the way the pup acts. They may pick the rambunctious puppy they think the kids will love playing with, only to find out as the pup grows, he becomes too much for the kids to handle. Then another might pick the calmest pup in the litter and wonder later why that dog will not hunt. As a result, they can end up with a beautiful dog that is a poor personality match for them. They are left to sort out what is the next step.
SM: What pets do you own?
RS: Of course, there is Debbie, the one-eyed office cat, our 3-year-old Scottie named Stella, and a 13-year-old standard poodle named Clipper, who has been to numerous places with me such as libraries during book signings, nursing homes and schools.
Clipper is a canine who did not win his home by his looks. When he first came in here, Clipper was covered in maggots and sores. We had to clip every hair from his body. Clipper weighed a little over 40 pounds. He was 2 years old and should have weighed 80 pounds.
Clipper was emaciated beyond belief and his skeleton showed through his skin. Clipper was such a kind, calm dog, I knew that no matter what he looked like on the outside, he was a great dog underneath.
His first two weeks of care, he could not even stand up, but after five months of often uncomfortable treatments, he began to grow new skin where there had been sores and his hair began to come back in. All the time, Clipper had remained true to his gentle demeanor, and when it came time to find him a new home, of course, Clipper already had one with me.
SM: Is there anything you would like to add?
RS: Clipper is getting on in years. I will soon be coming to the fork in the road I often talk to others about when it comes to their pets.
I don’t even like to think about “it” and neither does anyone else. The tough decision and the point at which each person can no longer watch their four-footed friend go downhill is different. The only advice I ever gave people is that I think the whole family should be in agreement that time has come before the final decision is made.
When the time is at hand, I do what I must. Often, I have known these dogs for 15 years or more. This makes the act personal to me. I have delivered quite a few of these dogs, some even by c-section. I see that heart-breaking decision as the last gift we can give our pets, a gift given from selfless love.
Carmen Newman resides in Berrysville, just outside of Hillsboro, with her husband, Rodney, and various critters including Huck the miniature horse. She enjoys writing and life on the farm.