Ask Dr. Becky Schaffer about her favorite animal story, and the conversation quickly turns to cats – BIG cats.
Becky, the newest veterinarian at Cascade Hospital for Animals, once had the opportunity to care for a circus lion that had fallen ill while the troupe was touring West Michigan.
“I had to remind myself that despite his size, he was a lot like any other cat” said Becky, 34, a graduate of South Christian High School who received her bachelor’s degree from Calvin College and her doctorate in veterinary medicine from Michigan State University.
Very little seems to intimidate Becky, particularly with regard to dogs and cats that have experienced some physical trauma. She said she thrives on the challenges of emergency work and she enjoys working with owners to keep pets comfortable as they age. She has a special interest in ultrasound imaging, a technology that can be used to diagnose traumatic injuries, heart problems, and disorders of the internal organs.
To a great extent, her comfort in working with animals can be traced back to 3rd grade, when Becky wrote in a booklet she gave to her parents as a Christmas gift that she wanted to be a veterinarian when she grew up.
Becky said CHFA is “definitely the most all-encompassing clinic I have ever worked at,” with a surprising amount of specialized equipment and a full range of services such as doggie daycare and boarding.
“We can provide physical rehabilitation, ultrasounds, orthopedic surgery, laser therapy or other services without referring the pet somewhere else’” she said. “At the same time, we also have really good relationships with specialty clinics if the treatment needed is something we don’t offer.”
Becky, her husband Phillip, and their two daughters share their home with two cats, Charlotte and Templeton. But the cat that still looms largest for her is the lion that she treated about three years ago when a traveling circus came to town.
“One of their male lions was vomiting up blood, but they were having trouble getting treatment,” Becky said. “Zoos generally have the appropriate equipment to treat lions, but they don’t want to admit an unfamiliar animal that may carry something contagious.”
Becky said the lion’s keeper drove up in a circus trailer that allowed her to examine the lion through the bars, and she was able to provide supportive care so he was comfortable enough to be transported to an exotic animal hospital in Tennessee. “Just last summer at the Lowell Fair, the circus was in town and I got to meet the lion again,” she said. “He was doing great!”