What’s Going On In There?

Have you ever looked at a closed door and wondered what is behind it? Or maybe a cabinet that is very high and said, “If I only had a ladder.”

For years we veterinarians wondered the same thing about dog’s and cat’s mouths! Well specifically, what is going on in there? Guess what, we found the ladder!

So you’re saying, “Dr. Steve, what in the world are you talking about?”. Over the last several years, dental radiographs or x-rays, have become available. And thanks to modern technology, regular and dental x-ray machines are now digital. When we as humans go to the dentist, we often have x-rays made of our teeth. What are the dentists and us vets looking for?

We are looking at the present condition of of the tooth roots and bone that support and anchor our pet’s teeth. And we are also looking at the future of your pet’s mouth.

According to the American Veterinary Dental College, periodontal disease ” is the most common clinical condition occurring in adult dogs and cats, and is entirely preventable.” ( https://www.avdc.org/periodontaldisease.html ) Statistics show that by 3 years of age, most dogs and cats have signs of periodontal disease. Let that sink in: “most common clinical condition” and “3 years of age”. Is that shocking to you?

If you think about it, for the average dog and cat, 1 year of age is equivalent to 7 years for humans. (That is an average. Dogs in particular age at different rates based on size, breed, and sex) At what age do we start brushing our children’s teeth? At what age do our children start going to the dentist? Hopefully not at age 21!

So back to the matter of dental x-rays for dogs and cats. Many of our pets can suffer from hidden tooth root damage and periodontal bone loss. This can result in a tooth that is dying, or severe infection, and pain. And many of our pets never show us the pain. And when they do, the problem is advanced and requires immediate action.

A case in point is Emmy, my own 12 year old Miniature Schnauzer. She had a routine dental performed in June of this year. Dr. Mark Plott and his team performed dental x-rays. Emmy’s right upper canine tooth was basically dead. She had shown no obvious signs of pain and discomfort at home. When they cleaned the tartar from that tooth, there was a slight discoloration near the gum line. Without the x-rays we would have never known about the advanced nature of her problem and her pain. The recommendation was to remove the tooth. Once she healed from the extraction, she was like a new dog. She was playing often and hard with our new puppy. Even acting like the puppy herself!

My point is, we never knew Emmy was in that much pain. And to make matters worse, she was in a position to develop an abscess that would have created more pain and misery and could have potentially seeded her blood stream and body with infection.

All dental cleanings performed at Foster Animal Hospital now receive full mouth x-rays. Yes, this has increased the cost of the procedure. Unfortunately, the digital dental x-ray machines are not cheap. But we feel as the advocates for your precious family members, the benefits and value of this step are definitely worth the cost. And Emmy agrees!

There is probably not a more important procedure to have done for your pet. You never know what is behind that door!

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All the best,

Stephen E Foster, DVM, CCRT

Foster Animal Hospital, P.A.

Foster Animal Clinic at Parkway Commons

Paws In Motion Canine Rehabilitation Center

730 Concord Parkway North

Concord, NC 28027




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Paws In Motion Canine Rehabilitation Center

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Canine Rehab, similar to physical therapy in human medicine, is ideal for dogs that have been injured, undergone surgery or who suffer from arthritis, obesity, or neurological disease. By using Rehabilitation techniques and modalities we can maximize your pet’s ability to recover physically while minimizing his/her pain. Some signs of pain and discomfort are as follows: Sleeps more/ Restlessness, especially at night Lethargic, doesn’t want to walk as much or at all, Cannot jump onto bed or sofa, Pants more, Lameness, Stiffness, Whines or moans for no apparent reason, Irritability or personality changes, any or all of the above but doesn’t seem or act painful. Below is a list of services that we offer.

  • Weave Cones
    • When walking through vertical weave cones it helps develop coordination and balance while learning to turn and pivot.
  • Initial Assessment
    • To begin an assessment, the patient is observed at rest and at several gaits. General palpation is performed to determine proper symmetry and muscle atrophy. Postural reflexes, ROM measurements and proprioception testing are performed. Every tendon, ligament, muscle and joint from the tip of the nose to the tail is assessed.
  • Cavaletti Rails
    • Helps dogs learn how to negotiate obstacles and walk over them by lifting their limbs to the appropriate height.
  • Underwater Treadmill
    • This is effective for improving strength, muscular endurance, cardio respiratory endurance, ROM, agility, psychological well-being, while minimizing pain; beneficial for post-op fractures, Cranial Cruciate Ligament stabilization, neurological conditions, tendinitis, and conditioning.
  • LASER (Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation)
    • LASER is used to accelerate wound and joint healing, to promote muscle regeneration, acute and chronic pain control, decrease edema (swelling), neurological conditions, and post–op care. It is measured in Joules/cm² (dose of laser energy).
  • Dry Needling
    • Dry Needling is the use of either solid filiform needles (acupuncture needles) or hollow-core hypodermic needles for muscle pain from trigger points (knots); sometimes known as intramuscular stimulation.
  • Gulick
    • A measuring tape with a spring tension device used to measure limb circumference. Measures muscle mass around thigh.
  • Goniometer
    • Device measures joint angles of flexion and extension. The measurements are given in degrees.
  • ESTIM (Electrical Stimulation)
    • Helps to increase muscle strength, muscle re-education, increasing ROM, correction of structural abnormalities, improving muscle tone, accelerating wound healing, edema (swelling) reduction, muscle spasm reduction, and enhancing trans dermal administration of medication.
  • TENS (Trans cutaneous Electrical Stimulation Nerve Stimulation)
    • TENS works transcutaneously (through the skin) through surface electrodes to excite nerves
  • Massage
    • Is the manipulation of the soft tissues of the body, helps to relieve stress, anxiety and discomfort, helps to reduce muscle spasms and soft tissue discomfort, relief from pain, reduce tension, and help to sedate the nervous system
    • Techniques: Stroking, Effleurage, Petrissage, Compressions
  • Stretching
    • Improves flexibility of the joints and extensibility of periarticular tissues (tissues around a joint), muscles and tendons; beneficial with conditions like shortening of tissues, reduced mobility, injury and neurological conditions.
  • PROM (Passive Range of Motion)
    • Is useful to diminish the effects of disuse and immobilization. There is no muscle contraction performed, helps to decrease pain and improves rate of recovery.
  • Balance Board
    • Is used to provide balance and proprioceptive training from the forelimbs or side to side

Here is a link to our Rehabilitation website page



Watch Me Rehab!

Hello Friends!

I’m excited to show you my newest Canine Rehabilitation Therapy video!

Have you ever wondered what I do during my rehab sessions at Paws In Motion Canine Rehabilitation Center? Well, Candace (my Certified Canine Rehabilitation Assistant) doesn’t just massage knots out of my muscles, she makes me work hard! But it’s ok, because that’s what makes my knees strong.

Here’s a video of one of the exercises I do called ‘Sit to Stand’. I have to balance on an inflated ball called a ‘peanut’ while I repeatedly sit and stand (for treats, of course).

This exercise helps strengthen the muscles in my legs, especially the ones around my knees. My knees sometimes pop in and out of place which hurts and makes me skip a few steps. Once my muscles get stronger, they will hold my knee joint in place better and they won’t pop out of place anymore.

That’s good news because if I can make my joints stronger now, I won’t have lots of joint issues when I get to be a lot older. Well, I better go now, I hear Candace calling me for my next canine rehab session.

Until Next Time,


To Flex or Not to Flex?

To flex or not to flex? That was the question I asked myself during my canine rehabilitation therapy this week. Candace, my certified canine rehabilitation assistant, was making me do all sorts of yoga poses today!

Yoga 3


I have to say that it does feel really good! It helps take away all my tension.

Yoga 2

It also makes me limber so I can do more exercising on the treadmill to help build up the muscle around my knees. I have to admit, I used to think that canine rehabilitation wouldn’t help me feel better, but wow, was I ever wrong!

Yoga 1


All of this therapy is making me feel great! I may be 8 human years old, but you would never know it! I bounce around like a puppy again! I can’t wait for my next canine rehabilitation therapy session!

Until next time,


My Rehab Experience…


Today my adventures brought me to Paws In Motion Canine Rehabilitation Center at Foster Animal Hospital. Dr. Steve Foster evaluated me from head to toe to see if I need rehab. I was shocked that he found some problems. I know I’ve been having knee issues and a bit of pain in my lower back, but I never thought it was something that rehab therapy could help with.

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Dr. Foster told my mom what he found during my Rehabilitation Assessment. He told her that I have lower back pain. This is something I’ve been hiding from mom, so I’m glad Dr. Foster finally told her so we can make it go away. He also told her that my knee caps are loose. I can feel my knees popping in and out but I didn’t know rehab could make them better. He found all my muscle knots on the front part of my thighs, too.


Mom was glad that Dr. Foster found these problems that I’ve been hiding from her. She was excited to know that Dr. Foster and Candace Lafond are certified in Canine Rehabilitation and they can help me feel better! I started my rehabilitation therapy today and it felt really good! Candace does massage therapy on my legs to help loosen my muscle knots and I get LASER therapy to reduce inflammation in my knees and lower back. When I get my LASER therapy, I get to wear these cool shades called “Doggles” to protect my eyes. Dr. Foster and Candace wear a pair too. Don’t we look cool?

Amadeus Doggles

I’m going to Paws In Motion Canine Rehabilitation Center two times a week so I will have updates for you as I go along. I can’t wait to feel the results of my new therapy! Thank you Dr. Foster & Candace for helping me feel great again!


CANINE REHAB: What’s in a name?

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It’s funny at times, when we hear certain words and our minds portray something other than what is intended. At times, our staff will tell a client that I am unavailable because I am in rehab. This statement has been met with pause, with a chuckle, with an “Oh my”, and sometimes with an understanding affirmation. Just to be certain here, when I am in rehab, I am performing Canine Rehab on a patient!

We use the term Canine Rehabilitation Therapy because we are not allowed to use the term Physical Therapy. The trained professionals that are Physical Therapists have the legal right, and rightfully so, to the title Physical Therapist. But just because the names are different, the practices have many similarities.


Canine Rehabbers are first and foremost concerned with the well being and functionality of the patient. Can I improve my patient’s ability to function, e.g. walk, run, eliminate, perform life’s daily functions? Can I help to control or eliminate pain? weakness? incoordination?

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The answer to these questions is usually yes. I say usually, because there are no guarantees that we can help every patient. But the majority of the time we can. I will also emphasize the word help. Many chronic, degenerative conditions are not curable. BUT, they can be improved upon.

I became a Certified Canine Rehabilitation Therapist two years ago and have loved every minute of it. The vast majority of my cases have seen significant improvement when compared to where we started. I have performed Canine Rehab on geriatric patients, neurological patients, post-op patients, and those with unspecified injuries. It is extremely rewarding to see the gains they have made to normal or mostly normal functionality (depending on the individual’s situation).

Please feel free to browse our website and learn more about Paws In Motion Canine Rehabilitation Center: https://www.fosteranimalhospital.com/veterinary-services/canine-rehabilitation.html. I am also a phone call, 704-786-0104 or an email, sfoster@fosteranimalhospital.com away!


All the best,

Stephen E Foster, DVM, CCRT

Foster Animal Hospital, P.A.

Paws In Motion Canine Rehabilitation Center

730 Concord Parkway North

Concord, NC 28027


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Paws In Motion Canine Rehabilitation Center- Press Release

Canine Rehabilitation Comes To Concord
For Immediate Release
Canine Rehabilitation Comes To Concord
Concord, NC – (February 18, 2013) Foster Animal Hospital has been providing Concord with superior veterinary care for over 50 years and is proud to announce certified canine rehabilitation is now available.
Dr. Steve Foster, son of founder Dr. Tom Foster and current co-owner of Foster Animal Hospital, recently became interested in Canine Rehabilitation at a continuing education lecture. “Canine Rehabilitation is very similar to physical therapy and reading about the successes with dogs, I became fully energized to be a part of this exciting new field. I wanted to bring this service to our hospital and our area,” states Dr. Steve Foster. In March 2012, Dr. Foster completed his required courses and completed an internship for certification.
What is Canine Rehab? Basically it is Canine physical therapy. However, physical therapy is a human term; therefore, the appropriate term in veterinary medicine is Canine Rehabilitation. Just as in physical therapy, Canine Rehab helps to restore appropriate functionality to our patients. Whether the issue is due to trauma, a surgical procedure such as anterior cruciate ligament repair, degenerative arthritis, obesity, a neurological issue such as intervertebral disc disease, or others, Canine Rehab can help restore functionality.
After six months of working with local pets and owners, Dr. Foster shared, “The results I have seen have been nothing short of amazing. Patients’ lives have been extended, patients’ quality of life has been markedly improved, and clients are ecstatic that their ‘babies’ are recovering from surgery faster and completely. Geriatric dogs are active and happy again and have a new lease on life. As a veterinary practitioner of almost 28 years, Canine Rehabilitation Therapy is one of the best career decisions I have made. Seeing my patients do so well is especially rewarding. All post-op dogs, neurological cases, and older patients should experience the wonderful benefits of Canine Rehabilitation Therapy.”
Foster Animal Hospital is launching Paws in Motion Canine Rehabilitation Center which will offer full therapy services custom to the pet’s individual needs. From laser to manual therapy, each case is unique. Dr. Foster evaluates each patient to customize a rehab plan in order to reach the owner’s goals for their pet. To find out more, please visit www.fosteranimalhosptial.com or the FAH blog at https://www.fosteranimalhospital.com/blog/
Foster Animal Hospital www.fosteranimalhospital.com
Foster Animal Hospital offers full-service veterinary care and pet services for dogs and cats. We are proud of our more than 50-year reputation in the community, along with our commitment to providing modern, up-to-date veterinary care. Our progressive methods and the latest thinking in pet care make us the #1 choice in Concord, North Carolina

What our clients are sharing…

“I made an appointment with Dr. Steve Foster knowing in my heart that Molly, our 13 year old Lab, only had days to live. Her arthritis had become so bad in her left front elbow and her back legs that I could no longer bear to see her suffer. Through the tears, I explained Molly’s problem. Dr. Steve asked me if I would be willing to try rehabilitation/physical therapy. This was the best thing I have ever done for Molly. After several sessions, her limp is gone and her back legs move independently where before the back legs did the old man shuffle. If you have a dog like Molly it is definitely worth doing therapy. It saved her life. Words cannot express our gratitude.”
~ Michelle

“Our walk was longer and very interesting. Jackson does not sit or lay down which indicates he is more comfortable walking. HOWEVER, he is showing his stubborn streak of planting his feet and refusing to move when he sees something interesting. Last night it was a neighbor’s garden. He was totally focused and standing with his feet firmly planted. It was very hot and I got a little lax with the leash. He sensed the lack of tension and bounded in the garden. He jumped a rabbit!!! The energy was amazing. He didn’t go far and returned when I called him but it was a Jackson miracle. Afterwards, he turned towards home and was ready for water and a nap!”
~ Janice

“My family took me to see Dr. Foster and he thought that I either had severe arthritis in my back and hips and perhaps some neurological deficits which made use of my legs very difficult. He suggested arthritis medicine and pain medicine and then a new program to make an effort to strengthen my legs through physical therapy and rehabilitation. On Mondays and Wednesdays my dad would put me in the front seat beside him and take me into the hospital and I was met by the nicest girls. I was treated like a queen and got a lot of attention. I had a funny haircut so Dr. Foster could do laser therapy to my hips. I did a little better at first and then I had a bad spell where I almost could not get around at all. We took a couple of weeks off and started working hard again. My daddy was worried that I would not improve. He thought it was time to call in hospice. Dr. Steve and I proved him wrong. Mother was happy as I continue to make improvements over the last two months. I still have periods of stumbling and I need a little help getting up the front steps in the house. I now spend more time in the house and get so much more attention. When I go for walks in the neighborhood the cats stay away from me. Neighbors are amazed at how well I get around. I got a new hairdo and bath for the summer. My parents and sister Diana love me so much probably because they realize how close they were to losing me. I cannot say enough good things about the people at the hospital. They have loved me as much as my parents. Dr. Steve has pushed me hard and made me work for all of my improvement. I owe all of my improvement in the quality of my life to Dr. Steve and the girls. Without the new expertise of Dr. Steve and the compassion of everyone, I would probably not be here. Rejuvenated and Rehabilitated Pup, Cleopatra”
~ Dr. Robert


Stewie, Step By Step, Part 2

As you may recall from my earlier blog about Stewie, he had surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee. As part of his recovery, we were doing Canine Rehabilitation Therapy to help him recover quickly and completely from this surgery. Once this process is finished, he will do it all over again, as his left knee has a torn cruciate ligament as well!
When we left off, Stewie was half way through his 8 Rehab sessions. At that point in time, he was doing so well, we were able to progress to strengthening exercises.


REHAB Session 5: Stewie continues to excel in his recovery. We continued with Passive Range of Motion, stretching, compressions, and massage. We also continued with his early strengthening exercises, but added to the number and type of exercises done. We finished this session with more LASER therapy. As mentioned before, LASER speeds recovery, helps relieve pain and inflammation, and can help revitalize worn or damaged cartilage.


REHAB Session 6: Stewie’s session today was very similar to session 5 except today we asked him to start doing exercises unassisted. Up until this point, everything we have done has been by me or assisted by me. At this point, we let Stewie start using the leg un-aided. He did everything as designed. He’s a very energetic and willing patient!


REHAB Session 7: Stewie has had 4 days since session 6 and has done well at home. Today, we doubled the number of reps we started last time. He responded expectantly and didn’t appear to have any issues. His rehab is ahead of pace!


REHAB Session 8: Stewie’s last day! We continued from session 7 but added more strengthening exercises. Stewie’s leg is stronger and more flexible than ever and he is only 22 days post-op. Even as a Certified Rehab Therapist, I am amazed. We humans certainly can learn a lot from our canine friends. So many have the drive and determination to keep going, even in the face of a severe injury. Way to go Stewie!


At this point, we have released Stewie for 4 weeks. His parents have been given several take-home exercises to help Stewie on his road to a full recovery. We are excited about seeing him in 4 weeks and to see the progress he has made!

Steve Foster, DVM, CCRT

Foster Animal Hospital

Paws In Motion Canine Rehabilitation Center

Concord, NC 28027







Stewie, Step By Step

Meet Stewie! This fine young fella came to us for a second opinion. Stewie had been diagnosed with a torn cruciate ligament in both knees. Ouch! The decision was made to repair the right knee first and once fully healed, repair the left knee.
His surgery was done on January 8 by Dr. Mark Plott here at Foster Animal Hospital. The following is a look at Stewie’s progress through Canine Rehabilitation Therapy.

REHAB Session 1: Stewie returned on January 14 for his first rehab session. At that time, much of the post-op swelling had diminished. He was still carrying his right rear leg “high and tight”. He was protective of the leg, although not in an aggressive manner. He basically didn’t want me to touch the leg much. Some of this was due to remembering pain, but also, he hadn’t developed the trust he needed to have the leg rehabilitated. Initial rehab for cruciate surgery begins with Passive Range of Motion, Flexibility, and Pain relief. So basically for Stewie that day, we did various stretches, other motions that simulate joint and leg movement without bearing weight, and joint compressions. We also massaged Stewie’s tight muscles. To help with pain and healing, he received LASER therapy as well. By the end of the session, Stewie was much more relaxed.


REHAB Session 2: Stewie returned 2 days later for his second session. In just the 2 days since his first session, Stewie was walking, albeit with a limp, on his leg! We repeated all of the same measures from session 1.


REHAB Session 3: Stewie returned the next day for his 3rd rehab session. He was walking even better than the day before! Because he was doing so well, we began very minor strengthening exercises. We also repeated all of the Passive Range of Motion, stretches, compressions, and Laser like we had the first 2 sessions. Because many dogs will not fully use their legs with an ACL rupture, muscle atrophy can occur quickly. Therefore, being able to start strengthening exercises put him way ahead of the game.


REHAB Session 4: Our boy Stewie returned 4 days later for his fourth rehab session. Our treatment for him will be over 8 sessions. So we are halfway there. Stewie bounded from his apartment full of energy and walking without a noticeable limp. What a guy! We continued all of the therapy from the first 3 sessions but began to intensify his strengthening exercises. Bear in mind, these exercises are not haphazard or uncontrolled. Everything we do is measured and done with care as to not harm the surgical repair that was done 13 days before. As we finished the session that day, I remarked to myself what an excellent patient Stewie is!


Please stay tuned as I will recap Stewie’s progress and his status following his remaining 4 Rehab sessions.

Until then,

Steve Foster, DVM, CCRT

Foster Animal Hospital

Paws In Motion Canine Rehabilitation Center

Concord, NC 28027




No! Over Here!


So, yo, it’s Bunker again. Sorry, I couldn’t steal any of dad’s stories recently, you know, Christmas, New Years, and all. But I found this one about a pig. (Dad’s squealing like a pig at the start but soon changes his tune!) Well anyhoo, just wanted to share another story from Dad’s early days veterinarianing, or somethin’ like that.

Be cool,

Bunker man.


“I’m going to own his farm”, I screamed at my wife. “This guy’s sow has been in labor 2 days and here it is 10 o’clock at night! Boy is this going to cost him.”

“Be careful”, my wife Joanna muttered as I hurried out the door.

“The very idea that he waited this long to call. I’ve been at it all day and evening. I just want some rest”, I thought to myself during the 30-minute drive.

I had not been out of veterinary college 2 months. My father’s busy practice made for long days and often long nights. Weekends on call were filled with phone calls and emergency office and farm visits. Often times for emergencies but oftentimes not. Many were not even regular clients. But how do you turn someone away when they, or in these cases their beloved animals, were in need? Such was the commitment that my father, Dr. Tom, had made to the community for the last 27 years. It was certainly expected and participated in by me, his oldest son Steve. As I sped down the curvy, country roads to the Birkdale’s farm, the window down and the radio on, it brought back memories of a young boy, me, with my Dad, the man I adored, on his way to much the same type call. I can remember listening to Ernie Johnson calling the Atlanta Braves baseball games, or listening to NC State basketball and football, or NASCAR races as we sped along, many times on those same roads. “I want to be just like him”, I thought, never dreaming that long days and nights were not as much fun for Dad as an occasional call with Dad was for me. Everyone respected Dad; he had more than earned it. Because of him, I was drawn to helping animals through good times and bad.

At least I thought so until tonight!

“At last” I said as I made the final turn onto the Birkdale farm driveway. The palatial porcine palace I was “going to own” was mine for the taking. The Chevrolet Blazer made its way up the dark gravel drive. The surroundings were not fine, painted wooden fences as I had envisioned, but instead old junk cars piled treetop high. The palatial palace was an old run down mobile home with one muted light on in the middle of the trailer. My heart sank, as I knew that this could be a long night.

Many people in this area of North Carolina had “a few head” of cattle, pigs, sheep, or other assortments of critters as a supplement to their regular careers, oftentimes a career in the textile mills. Most were well meaning folk trying to supplement their finances or use land that had been left to them or perhaps they were carrying on a family tradition in farming, if only in a small way. Most were, by and large, well versed in caring for their livestock. Some were not.

“What have I gotten myself into”, as I took the final drag from my cigarette and climbed from the trusty truck. I looked around and the only beacon in the pitch black was the light on in the middle of the trailer. I slowly walked to the back of the Blazer, pulled on my coveralls and rubber boats, gathered the “OB” bag and various supplies and headed to the front door of the pig palace. A growing rumbling could be heard, much like a herd stampeding on dry hollow ground. The rumble would reach a peak and a small child’s head would pop up in the window and then disappear again only to resume the stampede through the abode. This occurred over and over again. Halfway to the door the thought entered my mind to turn around, quietly get in the truck and zoom back home. The thought of snuggling up to Joanna in a deep, peaceful slumber was very tempting.

“Over here”, the voice boomed from my left. Startled, I peered into the darkness to the sight of nothing.

I pressed on to the front door.
“No! Over here!” the voice boomed again. Again I looked into the endless black night and again saw nothing. “Am I hearing things?” I thought to myself. ” What the hell am I into” I worried. “I am surely going to be on the channel 9 news tonight” I thought. The news anchor would say “A tragedy in Cabarrus County tonight. The new owner of the Palatial Porcine Palace, Dr Steve Foster was found murdered tonight!” His last words were something like “can you believe she’s been in labor 2 days!”

“NO! OVER HERE!” the voice rattled me back to the present. Again I looked to my left. Finally a small ray of light fell on a man sitting on the ground at the corner of that trailer! She’s over here he said again. Slowly, I walked toward the small figure as he sat on the ground. Quickly, I tried to think of my escape route!
“Thanks for coming Doc. She’s back here in the barn. I’m really worried about her.” Effortlessly I replied’ “No problem! Let’s take a look.”
I anxiously approached him as he sat on the ground. I could see thick, heavy gloves covering the farmer’s hands and that his legs, or better yet the stumps that were once legs, were covered and wrapped with large black trash bags.
“Come on back” his panicked voice said. “I’ll show you.”

Birkdale then proceeded to drag himself along the ground. Rounding the trailer, the Birkdale Estate came into full view. To our right were worn, tattered 3-foot tall wooden fences precariously holding back equally as tall ponies. The ponies were hard to discern from the fence rails because of their extreme state of malnourishment. Their hooves were untrimmed and curved much like a jester’s slippers. To the left was his barn. The roof was barely 10 feet tall and I was again fearful as the barn had a certain lean to it. “She’s in here”, Birkdale stated as he squirted through the 3-foot tall door.

I folded myself up and crawled through the minute opening. Once inside I could see the concerned farmer next to his prized sow. Even though I was inexperienced, I could see right away what the problem was. The same problem I had seen many times with dad. This sow was a mere “baby” trying to have babies herself. Part of the problem with part-time farmers is they have limited time to deal with all that is required of them. Oftentimes, young female stock are never separated from the herd. The results are adolescent livestock attempting to give birth, sometimes successfully but usually not.

The young sow lay on her side. The labored breathing was only interrupted by fierce abdominal straining. She was barely 150 pounds. The stench and drainage from her womb was recognizable as that of dead piglets.

“I’ll need to examine her”, as I tried to conceal my disgust. I attempted to pass my gloved and lubricated hand but due to the narrow constriction of the tired and overexerted birth canal I could only place my fingertips inside.

I vaguely remembered one of my large animal clinicians from Auburn saying that a treatment for sows with undeliverable pigs (and when a c-section was not an option) would be medication and flushing which may help the pigs to literally rot out. The sow could sometimes be salvaged for slaughter. “I can’t even examine her. It doesn’t look good. She’s too weak and toxic for surgery (not to mention the unlikely ability to pay for such a surgery), our only choices are to treat and hope (explaining the professor’s treatment) or to put her down.”
“I hate to lose her Doc”, he sorrowfully stated. “We really need her.” I gave him the medicine and explained its use.

Now came the moment of truth. The chance to own that farm and move the wife to the country! “How much do I owe you”, Birkdale questioned.

“Uh, well, um, let’s see, how about thirty five dollars?” (Thirty-five dollars are you kidding me?! During the day alone it should have been over $100!)

“Well, can I pay you next week? “

“Well, ok sure, that would be fine.”

I climbed in the Blazer for the 30-minute ride home. While driving, I thought about the turn of events: The farm I was going to own but now didn’t want and the senseless, inevitable death of the poor, young sow.

What have I gotten myself into- not only tonight but for the rest of my life with this career?

Why did he have to call me?

Will I ever see my money?

I hope I never hear anyone say “no, over here” again.


Steve Foster, DVM, CCRT

Foster Animal Hospital, P.A.

Paws In Motion Canine Rehabilitation Center

730 Concord Pkwy North

Concord, NC 28027




(Please do not reproduce this article without the permission of the author)