Pet Spotlight: Walden and The Meaning of Loving-Kindness

By: Melissa and Peter Stanz

Our beloved Walden died on February 10, 2011. He was a 14 ½ year old chocolate lab, our constant companion, the child we loved and spoiled in lieu of human kids. Walden started his long life with a trip to North Asheville vets for a clean bill of health—for 14+ years he loved his trips to the vet, especially those cookies and all the attention.

Through the years Walden received annual checkups and treatments for minor ailments—then when he was 6 he blew out his first ACL. Referred to the wonderful orthopedic vet in town, he ended up with plates and screws in his right hind. Two years later, the left hind ACL blew, more plates and screws. And, inevitably, the beginning of arthritis. Dr. Amy Plankenhorn and Dr. Susan Wootten helped him all the way—even after these experiences, he loved going to the North Asheville vets.

Three years ago during a routine teeth cleaning, Dr. Thompson found a spot on his tongue, nothing big, but he called us while Walden was still under anesthesia, suggesting a biopsy. It was melanoma, cancer on the tongue. With the diagnosis we began a long, strange journey—one guided by Dr. Wootten. She helped us find a Board Certified surgeon in Greenville, SC who had the expertise to do the extensive surgery required for this melanoma. After surgery, Dr. Wootten counseled us on the next steps. She helped set up a referral to NC State University for experimental drug treatment—a melanoma vaccine. We were fortunate; the vaccine and the surgery combined gave our precious dog another almost three years with us.

During his last two years, old age, arthritis, laryngeal paralysis, and a horrible stomach resulting from all the pain meds took their toll. Dr. Wootten, the vet techs, and the entire office staff talked with us countless times, providing options and warm, caring words. We knew we were in good hands; we had total trust in them.

And yet, his time came. When it did, Susan and Linda, her exam room  assistant, who both knew and loved Walden, were so gentle and caring as they helped Walden pass from this life while we cried, petted him, and told him he was the best dog in the universe.  They helped us through the process in such a caring manner and seemed to feel so much of our pain.  

They showed us loving kindness. We will forever be grateful for the excellent care and graceful death they gave our baby boy, and the caring compassion all the North Asheville staff gave so freely to us. We are clients for life. Thank you.

Melissa and Peter Stanz

First two photographs by Benjamin Porter, a local photographer.


Your story-Walden's story- is reminiscent of Leon's story. Leon was our regal chocolate lab who lived 10 1/2 glorious years and enrichened the lives of our family and so many people in Beaverdam. We too appreciated the excellent care of the staff at AHNA, who has cared for our pets for almost 30 yrs. It took us over a year to adjust and then we adopted a rescue mixed lab who is another wonderful pet. Best of luck coping with your loss.

As I read your story of your beloved pet, it brings to my mind the memory of loosing our two dogs, Tucker and Blizzard. They were our first "babies" and loved so much. Loosing them left a huge hole in our hearts.
When my family moved to the Asheville area, we needed to find a new vet for the dogs. I called the AHNA just on a whim. I have never had a more wonderful experience than I did there. The office is clean, the staff is friendly and Dr. Wootten is the best vet anyone could ever hope for. Its like being a part of a family.
Our dogs passed within a year or so of eachother and when the time came, Dr. Wootten and her assistant were right there. Holding our hands, petting our animals and crying right there with us. It made an almost unbearable moment tolerable. And we too are grateful for the loving care and kindness that they have given us through the years.
Of course, we find ourselves with two more precious 4 legged creatures in our lives and our trust and loyality lie with Dr. Wootten and the wonderful stall at the Animal Hospital Of North Asheville.

What a beautiful story about Walden and your time together. We are so sorry for your loss and thankful for the joy that he brought both of you as your "child". You made such a difference in his life and he in yours. Keeping you both in our thoughts.

I'm glad to hear your story of Walden. We are your neighbors, and had a similar experience with our Rottweiler, Sheba, 2 years ago. She had an abdominal tumor which wasn't operable, but everyone at AHNA was wonderful. Sheba was 12, and was the dog our girls grew up with. AHNA was supportive of the timing we chose and was ready at just a phone call. Our older daughter wanted to be there, so she and I stayed with Sheba till the end. It turned out to be a priceless experience. Sheba looked at the needle and simply turned her head and laid it on both our legs where they touched as we sat in the floor. Camille said she would never have thought something like this would be so peaceful. The atmosphere and kindness provided by AHNA was so special. A blanket and flowers were waiting for Sheba when we entered the room and she went straight to that blanket and laid down.
I know you treasure your time with Walden like we do with Sheba.

Thank you Andrea, and I am sorry for your loss too. It is five weeks today since he died and my heart continues to hurt, but i'm so grateful that he graced us with his love and devotion.

We are so touched by everyone's support and stories. Dogs do leave paw prints on our hearts. We will miss our Walden for a very long time, but we know we did the best thing for him.

Thank you for sharing Walden's wonderful story with everyone. He was a great dog, and was so well loved and cared for by you, his family. He fought through so many challenges that it seemed he could just keep fighting forever, even though we knew he couldn't. We will all miss him at the hospital, and send you {{{{hugs}}}}.