General Interest

Camo-Colored Paw Prints

posted March 15th, 2012 by
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by Kiley Roberson

It came to him in a dream. “I just woke up and thought, why can’t I do that,” explains Rob Wheeler. “No one told me I couldn’t, so I just did it.”

That’s how Tulsa’s G.I. Wishes came to be. The organization aims at matching rescue animals with veterans and also helps foster pets while soldiers are deployed. Rob wheeler, a veteran himself and an advocate for rescue, started G.I. Wishes in April 2010, as a way of helping rescue animals and our military veterans at the same time. The organization became an official 501(c)3 non-profit in May 2011. It’s the only organization of its kind in the state, maybe even the nation, and it’s filling a void many never realized existed.

“So many animals are euthanized, and so many vets would love a pet, but they can’t afford the cost of adopting,” Wheeler says.

G.I. Wishes serves as the conduit, eliminating this dilemma. Wheeler has joined with several area rescue groups including the Animal Rescue Foundation, Tulsa Animal Welfare, even local veterinarians to find pets he can save and match with a veteran. G.I. Wishes pays the organization their adoption fee for the animal and then charges the veteran a flat fee of $50.

“The only reason we charge anything at all is because I believe firmly that if you don’t pay a little for something, you don’t take as good care of it,” Wheeler explains.

“I want them to have some ownership.” Getting a rescue animal ready for adoption is a big expense. They are given all of their shots, spayed or neutered, tested and treated for heartworms, and even micro-chipped. G.I. Wishes also pays for the first year of veterinary services. It’s a cost that Wheeler says grows daily. “We are getting new requests all the time,” he says. “The response has been amazing. I can envision this thing going nationwide. We can really take this thing as far as people want it to go.”

The organization is already working statewide and is slowly entering other states with its fostering program. “We were recently contacted by the Blue Star Mothers in Sand Springs,” Wheeler says. “They said, ‘We need your help.’”

A soldier in Sand Springs was being deployed and didn’t have anyone to care for [his] beloved Lab. Ironically, a veterinarian in Kansas heard about G.I. Wishes and had sent an email the day before saying that [he was] interested in fostering.

“It couldn’t have been more perfect,” Wheeler says. “The veterinarian was actually coming to Tulsa to do some shopping, and we arranged for the two to meet and swap the dog. He gets to play on a lot of land in Kansas, and when his owner gets back from deployment, they’ll be reunited; it’s just things like that.”

Things like that keep everyone involved with G.I. Wishes busy doing all they can to make the organization successful. Barry Abels is the owner of Access Opportunities, a consulting firm that works with small businesses and non-profit groups like G.I. Wishes. He started doing work for the group to help them with all the paper work to become a non-profit. He is now a grant writer, volunteer and foster.

“Unlike Rob, I didn’t serve in the military. So I owe these guys a great amount of debt for everything they’ve done and sacrificed,” he says. “Any small thing I can do to help, I’ll do it.”

G.I. Wishes is always looking for volunteers. The organization has information about how to get involved on its website at In fact, Abels walked his foster dog in Tulsa’s Boo-haha Parade this year, representing G.I. Wishes. The organization has also been at WoofStock, and participated the past two years in the Tulsa Veteran’s Day Parade. Supporters also go to local VFW locations spreading the word about their work, looking for help and those that need help.

It was actually at a local VFW that Wheeler says he met his most memorable case so far. He was visiting on Veteran’s Day and showing some adoptable pets when a man approached to take a look at one of the dogs. “He just [had] this look about him,” Wheeler says. “Like something was missing.”

The man told Wheeler that he had Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and suffered from horrifying nightmares. “He would wake up from these very real, very scary nightmares and be all alone,” Wheeler says.

That’s when Wheeler remembered Jack, a huge 75-pound Lab the organization had rescued and put into a foster home. Wheeler told the man about Jack and watched as his eyes lit up with excitement. They planned a time for him to meet the hefty pup and parted ways.

“He called me every day it seemed,” Wheeler laughs. “He was so excited to meet Jack. I had to explain the whole process to him—that there was an application process, we had to call his references, he had to find out from his landlord what the pet policy was, but he was so excited.”

The day of the meeting came and went, but the eager veteran didn’t show. Worried, Wheeler called but there was no answer. “He called the next day and was so upset,” he says. “He had slept through it.”

The man had been up for days with nightmares and had finally passed out from exhaustion. He slept right through the meeting he had been so anxiously awaiting. Wheeler rescheduled the visit, and this time it was love at first sight. The man bonded with Jack immediately and wanted to take him home that day. Wheeler reminded him of the process and a few days later Jack and his vet were united.

“I got eight thank-you calls from him,” Wheeler says. “He was so excited. He did say that he wanted Jack to sleep with him, but he kept getting up and wondering around at night. I suggested he get a crate to put him in next to his bed, but he couldn’t afford one.”

So G.I. Wishes found a crate that was donated and arranged to meet and deliver it. “When he pulled up, he had Jack with him in his truck,” Wheeler says. “He told me that he takes him everywhere; they’re best friends.”

G.I. Wishes also helped the veteran fill out the paper work to by-pass his apartment’s pet policy. In Oklahoma there is a state ruling for therapy-type dogs that apartments must waive the pet deposit.

“We try to do everything we can,” Wheeler explains. “It’s all really on a need basis, and if we can’t help, we try to find someone who can.”

Wheeler says that there are an estimated 310,000 veterans in Oklahoma. His goal is to help at least 10 percent. The number of homeless pets in Oklahoma is growing every day, and there are plenty more like Jack out there just waiting to be matched with a veteran who needs him or her. They need each other and G.I. Wishes is meeting that need one pet and vet at a time.

One man’s great dream ends terrible dreams for another, a success story signed with a paw print.

For more information and to see their animals available for adoption visit

Afternote: After the time of this writing TulsaPets Magazine learned that Banfield CharitableTrust has awarded a $7,500 grant to G.I. Wishes to be used to further the group’s mission. 

What’s In A Name?

posted March 15th, 2012 by
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by Dolores Proubasta

It is a remarkable sound, a name. It resonates with identity and plucks out the individual from a crowd or a pack. Men have used names since time immemorial, and there are studies underway to determine whether dolphins use them, too. To our knowledge, other species don’t use the equivalent of individual names, but cow or crow, domestic or wild, animals become “connected” to the names we give them. How connected? People seeking to adopt adult dogs, cats, horses, rabbits, ferrets, and others who already have a name often wonder if it is possible to change it.

Animal shelters tend to keep owner-given names—even when the animal is seized from its abusers—in the belief that an animal yanked out of everything he knows (good or bad) will find some comfort in hearing his own familiar name. It’s a debatable theory.

Relative to the radical changes any animal faces in a shelter or a new home—new people, rules, commands, environment and hostile pets, to mention only a few— a new name is the least of his concerns. Some “second chance” animals are in their third, fourth or fifth home (and may have had as many names), and a new name will be as readily accepted as a meal and a dry bed. Therefore, keeping the old name is not as essential as many believe; however, changing it can be.

A disturbing sign concerning timid, abused, neglected or overly-trained animals is that while they may “respond” to their name, they also shiver, cower, flinch or urinate. Whatever negative associations are the cause of the distress, shelter workers, foster parents, or the adoptive parents would be well advised to change it right away.

Even when an animal responds positively to his name, in the voice of strangers like shelter staff, volunteers and visitors, it tends to lose its “grip.” Unidentified strays, for instance, are given provisional names to which they are as likely to respond as not in the chaos of shelter conditions. I never cease to be amused (and equally irritated) by visitors who call out the name they see on the kennel card followed by an imperious command, such as “Sissy, sit!”

“Yeah…” thinks Sissy, “in a minute, Bubba, as if I understand what you’re saying with 92 dogs barking, gates slamming, kids squealing, and by the way, no hablo inglés!”

So the answer is yes, names can, and often should, be changed—left behind with a past best forgotten.

But still what to call the new companion? The power of the word should not be taken lightly, especially for personal names. Why is Dr. Dement a shrink? Or Mr. Goldman a jeweler? Think about it. Rare and crazy are the parents who would call their child, say, Ugly. It is all too common, however, for people to call their pets pejoratives like Loco, Stinkpot, Dummy, Cujo, and worse. Distasteful monikers are no reflection of the true nature of the animal, but of the owner’s low regard for him. It comes as no surprise then that animals surrendered by their owners to the local shelter often have ridiculous names.

Ideally, the name acknowledges the dignity, beauty and uniqueness of an individual. While old standbys like Max, Bella, Oreo and clichés a la Bunny, Kitty and Woof hardly accomplish such a lofty function, they are among the 100 USA favorites; each country has its own hackneyed nomenclature with which cats and dogs get stuck. Refreshingly, some pet parents find more inspired names, borrowing from flowers, gems, historic and mythical figures, natural phenomena, landmarks, vintage car models, heavenly bodies and much more—in English and in other languages, as well.

Dogs in particular quickly learn a new name, regardless of how old they are when adopted. The trick is to use it: 1) preceding every desired action; (2) in connection with treats, walks, play, approval and everything the pet enjoys; and (3) consistently avoiding nicknames, shortened versions, or “boy” until the official name is learned.

Like no other word, a name signals individuality, which is why neither “Hey You” nor “Stinky” will do. 


posted March 15th, 2012 by
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by Suzanne Gunn

Let’s start with the title “Oogy: The Dog Only a Family Could Love.” It’s inaccurate in that anyone who gets to know Oogy has to love him. If someone doesn’t fall in love with him, it’s not for anything he is lacking. When it really gets down to it, you may be attracted by or turned off by looks in the beginning, but it’s the relationship you build, whether it’s a person, a cat or a dog that matters. It’s all about personality, chemistry and bonds made. This book is about relationships. It’s about a family and a dog who are lucky enough to find one another and, more importantly, are meant to be together.

The book begins with the story of a man’s morning. It raised more questions for me than it answered and made me want to skip pages. I wanted to get to the story of Oogy. The story goes back and forth in time, which got a little confusing. Loose ends are tied together later in the book that gave me a better sense of why the author chose to add snippets here and there that originally made me wonder, “Why is he telling us this?” Toward the end of the book, I understood more of why he told those little bits and snippets, and it was after all, his story.

Larry Levin and his two sons first met Oogy when they took their beloved, sick and dying cat to the vet to be euthanized. Oogy was a puppy used as bait by despicable people who were conducting dog fights. His ear had been ripped from his head, his jaw broken and left for dead. The police rescued him in a raid and luckily took him to a veterinarian office where the staff fought to save his life. Many would have chosen euthanasia due to the extent of the injuries sustained.

The boys and their father decided then that they wanted to add Oogy to their family. He was mistaken as a Pit Bull, which evoked fear in many of the people who would come across him, yet his personality was anything but scary and quickly won over most skeptics. Before Jennifer Levin would let them bring the dog home, she wanted reassurance from the vet that this Pit Bull would never attack or bite anyone. She was surprised when the vet said he felt comfortable assuring her that this dog would never attack anyone!

The personality of this dog was described by many who met him as sweet, smart and uniquely special. It turned out Oogy was not a Pit Bull but a Dogo Argentino, a large, muscular and impressive dog, which grows to be much larger than a Pit. Amazingly, even after everything Oogy had survived, he continued to love and trust people and only wanted to love and be loved.

The lasting message of the book can be summed up by this excerpt: “And what appeals to everyone about Oogy is that he is proof that what we all know is lurking out there— the awful and, yes, inevitable tragic loss, the unexplainable savage attack, the seemingly insurmountable occurrence— can, in fact, be survived with love and grace intact, without bitterness or resentment, and with appreciation for all that follows. Oogy is right out there in front of everyone he meets, tangible living proof that there can be happiness, love and hope on the other side of unspeakable and unimaginable horror.”

I know I could stand to learn some of those lessons and would love to meet Oogy some day 

The Skunk Whisperer

posted March 15th, 2012 by
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by Sherri Goodall

If you’ve seen Skunk Whisperer trucks traveling the Oklahoma roads, you’ll not likely forget them—huge black vans (as in UPS trucks) emblazoned in screaming yellow letters bordered with wildlife creatures. That would be Ned Bruha’s trucks (aka The Skunk Whisperer). His fleet includes a flashy decorated Camaro and an SUV, too.

In 2005, when Ned returned to Fort Hood from active duty in Afghanistan, he confronted a situation that would define his career and his mission: a no trap, no kill, humane wildlife removal and prevention.

Many of the troops had pet dogs when they were suddenly deployed from Fort Hood. A large number of these dogs were released in the country only to form feral dog packs and become a nuisance to cattle and sheep ranchers. One of the ranchers Ned visited proudly showed off a tree decorated with shimmering dog collars and tags from dogs he had shot and killed. Ned was horrified. Here was a problem clearly created by humans. Ned suggested to the rancher using a Great Pyrenees guard dog; it worked. Today, many ranchers use llamas and donkeys to guard their herds.

When Ned started his nuisance wildlife control business in Tulsa, it took off far beyond his expectations. He started by simply removing and relocating squirrels. What he didn’t realize is that squirrels are territorial and would simply come back. Ned’s father told him he was missing the point—he needed to prevent the pests from returning, plus learn to repair the damage they had done.

“Dad, how am I going to do that?” Ned asked his father. “Squirrels chew through metal! Start by learning how to repair roofs,” his dad suggested. Like everything Ned does, he became an expert at repairs, and he also developed a spring-loaded one-way door through which the squirrels could exit, but not re-enter. Voila! No more returning pests to destroy wires, insulation and roofs.

Not only does Ned remove unwanted creatures from owners’ property, he rescues pets who find themselves in compromising situations, such as under houses, in house vents, in attics—mainly gerbils, hamsters, guinea pigs, ferrets, bunnies, birds, snakes and cats.

One of his most inventive solutions to furry pets lost in heating and A.C. vents is seemingly so simple, yet so brilliant.

These furry, domesticated rodents have sensitive noses and learn to recognize their owners’ scents, and they know their voices. However, the first order of business is turn off the A.C. or heating unit!

Then, Ned gets the owner’s clothes from the dirty laundry. He’ll pick out a pair of pants, stick the leg in one of the owner’s shoes, and push the whole thing down a vent. He’ll anchor it above. The hamster, gerbil or guinea pig will smell the owner’s clothes and scurry up the pant leg. Is this brainy or what?

Often, Ned will get calls from people with cats under their houses. In one case, a vacant house was about to be demolished, and the neighbor knew a cat was under the house. By the time the neighbor got in touch with the property owner, the cat had kittens. It was winter, and there was no electricity or gas to the house. Ned rigged a box with a hole in it. He put heated dry corn (from the microwave) into tube socks, which he put in the bottom of the box. He then put blankets on top of the heated socks. He placed the box next to the one-way door he installed under the house.

But first he had to crawl in and get the kittens—not his favorite job! He put the kittens in the box, and within minutes the mother came out looking for them. There they were, right next to the exit. Of course, she couldn’t get back under the house, so she relocated her family somewhere else. The tricky part, other than crawling under the house, was making sure the kittens didn’t “bake” in the box. At least it wasn’t a skunk! (Remember: Do not try this at home!)

What about rescuing cats from atop trees? Ned said his father asked him if he had ever seen a cat skeleton in a tree. In other words, cats will come down when they’re good and ready, hungry or thirsty.

As for escaped pet birds, Ned advises the owner to put food in the garage and try to lure the bird in, and then close the door. The thing about domesticated birds is they know their owners, and strangers will just scare them away.

Ned is fiercely passionate about treating all wildlife humanely, even nuisance creatures.

Ned’s mantra: Humans should not try to domesticate animals that belong in the wild or exotic animals that are brought in from other ecosystems. We’ve seen what happens when folks realize they can’t handle that “cute” 3-foot python that then ends up in the Florida Everglades at a whopping 20 feet, gobbling up the native wildlife.

To learn more about Ned, and for a wealth of information and interesting facts, go to The Skunk Whisperer’s website,

Author’s note: When my two Westies would not stop pacing and barking at my fountain (un-filled at the time), I asked one of my yard men to climb down and see what was there. I’ve never seen a human go airborne that fast! All he said was he saw a long tail, beady eyes and teeth. I called Ned, fearing that a 40-lb. raccoon, baby coyote or a rat on steroids had gotten under the works.

After donning long leather gloves and high boots, Ned wrestled a rat—a BIG rat—out of the fountain. I don’t want to know where he released it. He supplied me with a long piece of wood, like a gangplank, so future victims falling into the fountain could climb out, and a Frog-Log™, which looks like a large pool cleaning net. One side is anchored with weights, and the other side has floats. The critters can climb onto the Frog-Log™ and crawl or slither out of the pool or fountain—ideal for ducks, bunnies or pets that fall into pools.

I looked at the Frog-Log™; I looked at Ned. “Seriously? Do you think I’m going to lure creatures of the night out of there? I’ll call the Skunk Whisperer.”

An Unexpected Fortunate Discovery

posted March 15th, 2012 by
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by Anna Holton-Dean

Since November, patients of Tulsa Sunshine Center Pediatric Therapy have been receiving treatment with assistance from an unlikely helper—Serendipity (aka Sere), the therapy dog. So, what do the patients and parents think of their new furry therapist?

Jennifer, mother of a son with special needs, says, “Having Sere at the clinic adds another dimension to our visit. I believe that she makes it easier and more fun to come to our physical therapy appointments. My son seems to act calmer when she is present. We know that even Sere needs a day off from work, but we are disappointed when she is not there.”

Sere, the two-year-old Border Collie, belongs to Sunshine Center Physical Therapist Liesa Marie Persaud (PT, DPT, PCS). “I was looking for a place to utilize her, and improve my therapy skills,” she says. “Sunshine Center is very innovative and open to exploring anything that will improve quality of care and therapy for the children, even if it’s not especially traditional.”

Tulsa Sunshine Center provides speech/language, occupational, physical, nutrition and counseling therapy. Therefore, Sere’s job is to participate in 60-minute sessions where she calms the child and facilitates motivation and interactions. Persaud uses Sere to address functional goals just as she would use toys, equipment or any other therapeutic method.

For example, children must pronounce commands correctly, so Sere can then perform the appropriate trick. She also provides stability for children working/learning to stand or walk, and she assists with other therapeutic goals. Additionally, fine motor skills are improved by allowing the patients to put Sere’s collar and leash on her and brush her; balance is addressed by carrying her water bowl without spilling.

“Young children work on hand-eye coordination by rolling a ball to Sere,” Persaud says. “She rolls it back, and they have to catch it in order to return it to her. Children with cerebral palsy can throw a ball for her to promote arm use and strength. Also, they have to practice standing and squatting to hide treats for her to find; stretches can be done by reaching their hands up high for Sere to jump up and touch with her nose.”

Apart from the testimonies of pleased parents, Persaud says she can see firsthand the positive results of Sere’s presence. “Children report less pain (or discomfort),” she says. “A child with autism spoke for the first time outside of her home to Sere. [Sere provides] greater motivation to crawl, walk, etc., and we also discuss life and social skills, such as turn-taking, obeying, kindness, consideration of others and responsibility.

“I had a child the other day who has shown increased self pride and sense of accomplishment as shown by posture and increased smiling since he began working with Sere. His mother says she has noticed it, too, and his speech therapist says he is more assertive now and better able to express himself.”

In another instance, Persaud says a teenage patient recovering from tendinitis used her hand more functionally while brushing and petting Sere as opposed to when she performed traditional physical therapy activities.

With such positive results, Persaud has even more therapeutic plans for Sere, including the use of a sturdy harness for children—with more involved physical impairments—to hold on to while learning to walk and a lightweight saddle for very small children to sit in while working on strength, trunk control and balance.

When she’s not working at Tulsa Sunshine Center, Sere is a student at K9 Manners & More in Broken Arrow, and she has passed tests to be titled a Certified Therapy Dog and a Canine Good Citizen. According to her staff bio on Tulsa Sunshine Center’s website, she enjoys swimming, gathering sticks, running with her mom (Persaud) and playing with other dogs in her free time.

For such a well-trained, productive, loved dog, it is impressive and important to note that Sere was not born into such a fortunate situation. Persaud found her wandering on the Turnpike between Tulsa and Oklahoma City at 8 a.m. one day in the height of morning traffic.

“She was a fluffy little thing and from a distance looked like a cat.” she says. “My friend—now Sere is her god-dog/goddaughter… get it?—and I dodged traffic to get her. She was full of fun and independent right from the start; I fell in love immediately! So, I called her Serendipity, which means unexpected fortunate discovery.”

Perceptive enough to spot a diamond in the rough (or traffic), Persaud has an impressive resume herself. With 16 years experience in adult and pediatric physical therapy, she has a Master’s and a Clinical Doctorate in Physical Therapy. Also, she is a national speaker and local educator on pediatric physical therapy topics.

Persaud is excited to see what future strides she and her K9 partner can make in the lives of their patients at Sunshine. “Sere has truly lived up to her name,” she says. “She has already had a great impact, and I can’t wait to see the difference she makes for many more children.”

To learn more about Sere and Tulsa Sunshine Center, visit

Avian, Exotic and Zoo Medicine Service

posted March 15th, 2012 by
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by Derinda Blakeney

The Avian, Exotic and Zoo Medicine Service (AEZ) at Oklahoma State University’s Center for Veterinary Health Sciences, directed by Cornelia Ketz-Riley, DVM, DACZM, treats a myriad of animals. Dr. Ketz-Riley is board certified through the American College of Zoological Medicine, which currently only has 132 diplomates. She also brings more than 20 years of experience in working with a lot of different species, not only privately-owned exotic pets, but also with animals kept in zoos or free-ranging wildlife. The AEZ team, consisting of Dr. Ketz-Riley, Jill Murray, certified veterinary technician, and an intern, provides high-quality medical care to all creatures big and small. “Here at the Center’s Boren Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital (BVMTH), we treat all kinds of birds, from canaries to ostriches, small mammals, reptiles, amphibians, fish, invertebrates, actually any animals, from spiders to elephants,” laughs Ketz-Riley. “We have taken care of zebras, giraffes, camels, antelope, primates, and even an elephant. Our philosophy is that all animals should get medical care.”  The BVMTH is open to the public, and anyone can bring his or her pet to the hospital for care. If the pet is under the care of another veterinarian, a referral appointment can easily be arranged. The AEZ service offers state-of-the-art veterinary medical care for a wide variety of non-traditional animals.

The following is a list of services available for these patients:

• Preventive Health Care

• Exotic Pet Grooming (Beak, Wing & Nail Trims)

• Dental Care

• New Pet Examinations

• Nutrition Consultations

• Behavior Consultations

• Wildlife Rehabilitation

• Referral Services for Veterinarians

• 24-Hour Hospital Care

• Advanced Medical Care & Procedure

• Advanced Imaging

o Digital Radiography

o Ultrasound

o Computed Tomography (CT)

o Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

• Endoscopy

• Internal Medicine

• Ophthalmic Consultations

• Hematologic, Histopathology & Viral Testing

• Surgery

o Micro-Surgery

o Orthopedic

Being located in the Small Animal Clinic of OSU’s Veterinary Hospital gives the AEZ service access to the latest technology in veterinary medicine, including CT scanners and an MRI. The interdisciplinary atmosphere at the university allows Ketz-Riley and her staff access to many board-certified professionals in such fields as surgery, anesthesiology, radiology and more.

“One of our goals is to provide good client education regarding preventative healthcare,” says Ketz-Riley. “Many of the animals we see have systems that are much more sensitive than your everyday pet. Early detection of problems, proper husbandry, good nutrition, wellness exams, blood work and vaccinations can go a long way in making sure your special pet has a long, good, quality life.

“For example, an annual wellness exam for a guinea pig or a rabbit will cost an owner anywhere from $47 to $147, depending if blood work is included. It is important for a guinea pig to have regular checkups because it could develop bladder stones or large ovarian cysts, for example. This can go undetected for a long time, since rodents and rabbits often hide symptoms of illness as they are potential prey animals that have to hide weakness to avoid predation.

Once the animal is exhibiting clinical signs and is brought into the veterinary hospital, the disease is often far progressed, and the animal may need surgery. At that time, additional diagnostic work-up and surgery could cost the owner much more, so early detection through regular health checks is the key to less expensive medical management and treatment of this problem. So, in the long run, a wellness exam is money saved in the future and helps keep your pet healthy,” she says.

The Oklahoma State University Center for Veterinary Health Sciences is the only veterinary college in Oklahoma and one of 28 veterinary colleges in the United States and is fully accredited by the Council on Education of the American Veterinary Medical Association. The Center’s Boren Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital is open to the public and provides routine and specialized care for small and large animals. It also offers 24-hour emergency care and is certified by the American Animal Hospital Association. For more information, visit www.cvhs.okstate. edu or call (405) 744-7000.