Cats, dogs, iguanas—you name it and Dr. Stuart Dalton has treated it. As a veterinarian and the owner of White Bear Animal Hospital his doors are always open to ailing animals, but a few weeks ago he got a call about a sick assistance dog. At the time he had no idea this call would change the life of a pet owner.
The call came from the Courage Center, a rehabilitation facility that specializes in helping people with disabilities. One of their clients, Steve Cluckey was near tears over his dog Brewster. Cluckey thought his 3-year-old black lab had a raw hide lodged in its stomach.
“He was getting sick and he wouldn’t eat and he just wasn’t the same Brewster,” Cluckey said. “So, I took him into the vet but they wanted to charge me $400 just for X-rays, and I couldn’t afford that.”
Cluckey has a limited income because of a traumatic brain injury sustained from a motorcycle accident in 2001. He and his girlfriend were going to grab a bite to eat after a Vikings game when he and another car merged into the center lane of traffic at the same time. The result was a horrific crash that left him with a brain injury, memory loss and limited use of his right arm. His girlfriend didn’t survive.
“That day changed me life,” he said. “I had to try to move on and Brewster was my answer.”
About a month after being released from the hospital, Cluckey found Brewster at the . “When I saw him, I knew he was meant to be with me.”
Ever since that day the two have been inseparable. Brewster has become his unofficial service dog so when Cluckey couldn’t afford the X-rays, he thought the worst. “I really thought I was going to have to put him down.”
When Liz Louis at the Courage Center found out about Cluckey’s situation she started making calls. "I talked a dozen people before I found Dr. Dalton," she said. "He didn't hesitate to help."
Dalton took X-rays and had to perform surgery on the dog to see what was obstructing its stomach. While Dalton didn’t find anything large, the surgery must have done the trick, because days later Brewster was back to his normal self. “If I can help out in a situation like this, I’m happy to do it,” Dalton said.
“Dr. Dalton is a miracle man, there is no other way to describe him,” Cluckey said. “He gave me my dog back and I don’t think I’ll ever be able to repay him.”
They are kind words for a vet who said he was just trying to help. “It was obvious Brewster was more than just a pet to Steve so I was glad to be able to reunite the two,” he said. “This kind of situation is the most rewarding part of my job.”
In all, the medical costs for Brewster ran about $1,600, and Dalton didn’t charge Cluckey a dime.