The veterinary profession meets in Las Vegas, NV March 4-9 for the 2017 Western Veterinary Convention (WVC). Several Fear Free sessions will be held throughout the conference as this initiative aims to take “the pet out of petrified.” Two Fear Free sessions are taking place on Monday, March 6 from 9am to 10:50am, with two more scheduled for 4pm to 4:50pm on Tuesday, March 7, 2017. Marty Becker will be co-presenting the symposium sponsored by Zoetis on March 7th, covering “Managing Oncologic Pain in Dogs & Using Sedation without Hesitation in the Fear Free Practice” with Carlos O. Rodriguez Jr., DVM, PhD, DACVIM (Oncology).
The brainchild of Dr. Marty Becker, “America’s Veterinarian,” Fear Free is transforming the way veterinarians look at and treat our beloved pets. Here’s a taste of Dr. Becker’s initiative, along with his consuming interest in all things pets.
This interview was originally published March 8, 2016 and updated March 1, 2017.
Where did your passion come from to become a veterinarian?
Growing up on a small farm in Southern Idaho, I was surrounded by dairy cattle, beef cattle, horses, pigs, sheep and of course, dogs and cats. It was like the Ark had unloaded on our 160 acres. When I was about 7 years old, the local veterinarian had me help him treat a Holstein dairy cow with Milk Fever; while we were standing there, he asked me if I’d ever thought about becoming a veterinarian. I hadn’t. But then the spark of working with animals, having the trust and respect of the community just ignited what’s turned out to be a lifetime of purpose, passion and plan.
Your major initiative today is bringing Fear Free visits to every pet. How is that going and what would you like other writers to write about it?
Creating Fear Free veterinary visits is the largest and most important transformation in the history of companion animal medicine. Far from a practice fad, it’s being looked at as a practice imperative for if you fail to understand, embrace and implement it in a practice, it won’t thrive and many not even survive. I’ve asked large groups of folks two questions (writers, it’s your turn):
- How many of you hate taking your own pet(s) to the vet?
If you’re like veterinarians, technicians and other people that work in a veterinary hospital, it’s almost all of you. So, we’ve been doing something to cause both pets and pet owners to dread a trip to the vet. Fear Free makes it where nobody fears a trip to the vet. In fact, many dogs and pet owners look forward to it now.
- Would you rather have your pet suffer permanent physical damage (lose an eye, leg, most of it’s teeth or all of these) or permanent emotional damage?
Everybody picks permanent physical damage.
How did you get involved in writing about veterinary medicine?
I was the editor of the school new paper (tiny school in Southern Idaho) and had a teacher that encouraged me to write. I told Mrs. Hughes that I wanted to be a vet. In college, I had an English teacher, Daniel, who told me that I had a talent as a writer and should pursue it. Again, my answer was that I wanted to be a veterinarian. After graduation from veterinary school, I found my self being quite inventive in ways to improve a practice’s operations in terms of pet care, customer service, marketing, management, merchandising, leadership and motivation. Word got around and some editors of major veterinary publications asked me to start writing. Now I get to explore and enjoy two lovers: veterinary medicine and writing.
What is it that you like best about writing about veterinary medicine?
Being able to speak both to my colleagues and veterinary healthcare members and to pet owners. This is an incredible opportunity and responsibility.
As a three time New York Times best-selling author, amongst many other great accomplishments; what would you say has been your proudest moment as a writer and why?
It was going over the threshold of having sold over 8 million books.
The book you co-authored, “Chicken Soup for the Pet-Lovers Soul” is still ranked as the fastest selling pet book of all time. Why do you think that book resonated so much with pet owners?
Chicken Soup for the Soul books were white hot at the time. So that really helped. But moreover, that was the first time people could read short, true stories that evoked an emotional response ranging from tears and a lump in the throat to an “ahh moment” or an even more exalted reason to love and share your life with pets.
Thinking back to when you were a student, and now teaching at multiple universities and having lectured at every veterinary school in the United States, what advice would you give to cat writers that you know now but wish you knew then?
- Be nice to everyone. Take a personal interest in editors, fellow writers, industry players, etc. I tell my children “nice is underrated.” To give you a concrete example, I send out about 200 birthday cards a year. Once you’re an adult, you get very few cards outside of the immediate family. I take my time, write a rather lengthy personal message in each as such that I have been told, “I both stand out and fit in.”
- Be doggedly persistent – Those people that know me know that once I commit to something, I never take my eyes and focus off it. Like Nordstrom, in your pursuit of a worthy goal, the only no you know, is “no problem.”
The general public’s understanding of the human-animal bond has evolved over the years. What is the most important concept writers should get across today about the bond?
That pets don’t just make us feel good, but are good for us. Our pets are like human life support systems, cleverly disguised as four legged children.
What do you hope your attendees take away the most from your presentation at BlogPaws?
That Fear Free (veterinary visits, homes, shelters, groomers, trainers, kennels, etc.) is the largest and most important transformation in the history of companion animal medicine and pet care.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
Remember, there’s only one greatest pet in the world, and every family has her.
To learn more about the Cat Writers http://catwriters.com/wp_meow/
The read more about Dr. Becker https://www.drmartybecker.com