As official office greeter, surgeon's poodle helps patients' anxiety melt away


Dr. Kevin Petersen never considered himself much of a dog person. He didn't own one growing up and hardly had a relationship with the Jack Russell terrier his wife, Kelly, adored until its dying day.

All that man's best friend business? He didn't get it. Until a standard poodle named Bounder got him.

Some dogs get you with a whipping tail, a playful disposition or, the ol' standby, a pair of puppy dog eyes, which, by the way, remain puppy dog eyes well beyond the puppy dog years. But, the then 4-year-old Bounder got Kevin with something else, something he can't quite articulate.

"I could just sense who he was almost immediately," he says. Man and dog made a connection.

Two weeks after meeting him, the general surgeon shocked himself and adopted the big lug. Bounder has been a Petersen ever since.

That in itself makes for a sweet tale, but the charms of the 60-pound dog delve much deeper.

Kevin owns No Insurance Surgery, where he performs surgery on the uninsured and underinsured for an all-inclusive fee. He also founded Helping Hands Surgical Care, which provides free surgery to those with no means for it. That waiting list stretches to the hundreds. A charitable doctor is never an idle doctor.

Last summer, his wife and kids took a trip while he toiled away at the office. One day he decided to bring along Bounder, who can suffer from "inconsolable" separation anxiety, as Kelly puts it.

Bounder made himself comfortable in the cherry-wood digs, but every time he heard the lobby door open and close, he sprung to his feet. Most folks might see this as the turning point of a lesson to keep the dog at home. But, instead of ordering Bounder against his curious nature, Kevin let the meet-and-greet take its course. What he observed resulted in a permanent post for the poodle.

Keep in mind these patients have often lost hope in health care. They've heard of this doc who might be the answer they seek, but experience makes them skeptical. They exude anxiety.

"And then this big, goofy dog shows up," says Kelly, "and it's kind of funny."

Patients are used to seeing a white coat when that door opens between the lobby and the office. But not a white coat of fluff, and certainly not four legs beneath it.

They go from tense to shocked to eased very quickly. That certain something that converted Kevin to a dog person shows up at just the right time. No barking, no jumping. Bounder lets the patient decide what to do with him, not vice versa.

That usually leads to a pat on the head, which turns to a stroke of the back, which ends with full-blown heavy petting. Touching his soft hair, not fur, feels just as good for the patients as it does for Bounder.

Kind of like the people who visit the No Insurance Surgery lobby, he just wants some attention.

His work as a pseudotherapist at 5 years old is a far cry from his former career as a professional model. That world knows him as Bound for Gold, his championship name as a show dog.

With white puffs on his crown, chest and ankles - a standard poodle show coat - Bounder made for quite the ladies' man. Some might even call him a stud. OK, everyone would, especially the breeder who owned him before the Petersens.

That's where Kevin and Kelly met him, at a breeder home. They went in search of a friend to the poodle they had at home and left with Bounder's cousin, Zoe. Kevin didn't have any interaction with him during that visit, just saw him in the hallway briefly. That was enough to make him want to return 14 days later for a third family dog.

"Boundy" raids the food pantry, tears down backyard fences and swipes entire loaves of French bread from the kitchen counter with one turn of the head. He's the family's lovable rascal, but he's Kevin's loyal companion.

Kelly paid the two a visit at the No Insurance Surgery office recently. Bounder shot out to the lobby to give her a proper greeting. Once he got his fill of love, he headed back to Kevin's personal office where his master sat at his desk.

Bounder placed one paw on the desk to prop himself into his desired position. His free paw landed on Kevin's left shoulder, the other paw quickly found his other shoulder.

It's probably safe to say Kevin fully understands the whole "man's best friend" thing now.

Contact Xazmin Garza at xgarza@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0477. Follow her on Twitter @startswithanx.

 

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