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Equipped to Serve

Kathe Garrison has an exact memory of when her involvement with the NC State College of Veterinary Medicine (CVM) began. “It was October of 1988,” she says confidently. But there’s a reason why it’s easy to remember.

Kathe and her husband Jim were bringing their cairn terrier Angus to the NC State Veterinary Hospital. They had been referred by their personal veterinarian because Angus was suffering from pancreatitis and was not doing well. He was about to go into intensive care, in fact, where he would stay for a week. In the midst of this trauma, though, they found themselves navigating their way through the dense, slow-moving traffic outside the state fairgrounds. It was October, and the North Carolina State Fair was in full swing, making for an unforgettable experience — and date.

But what happened next made an even more lasting impression.

“When we brought Angus in we were met by a resident, Leah Cohn, and one of the first things she said was ‘He looks like he might also have Cushing’s disease.’ She could tell that just by looking at him. And it turned out that he did have Cushing’s,” Kathe remembers. “In fact, she was involved in doing research on Cushing’s, and I thought ‘thank you, lord.’”

Happily, Angus recovered from his pancreatitis and he was also successfully treated for his Cushing’s disease. “We were able to have three more years with Angus,” Kathe says. “And he was a great dog.”

Kathe was greatly impressed by the skill and compassion of the medical team she met at NC State. It wasn’t until a second experience that she became a committed supporter, though.

The Garrisons love cairn terriers and had also adopted two rescues who had been abused — Lillie and Oliver. In time Lillie also developed Cushing’s, which affected the blood pressure in her eyes and her vision. When they brought Lillie to the Ophthalmology Service at NC State for treatment, they found that budgetary constraints at the time had made it impossible to acquire a tonometer, the necessary equipment for measuring ocular blood pressure. Kathe says she was scared. “I thought ‘Wow, we need to do something.’”

“We’re not millionaires,” Kathe says, “but we do the most that we can. This is my passion…”

And so that’s how it came to pass that the Garrisons decided to support NC State by funding the acquisition of the most critically needed equipment. “We thought, if there’s no funding available we can help,” she says.

And that, as the saying goes, was the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

Given her distinctive way of supporting the CVM, Kathe was approached about serving on the North Carolina Veterinary Medical Foundation (NCVMF), an organization that focuses on raising funds to support the educational and scientific mission of the CVM. Kathe doesn’t remember the exact year when her tenure on the board began, but she knows that it was sometime in the mid-’90s’, and after serving two four-year terms, she cycled off, only to return after a year. She is now if her fourth term, still going strong. Her latest cairn terrier, Harry, is also an occasional patient at NC State.

The Garrisons’ most recent contributions have funded the purchase of a digital dental radiography sensor and an Olympus BX 40 microscope. They have also underwritten a faculty office and a portable ultrasound machine, and have contributed to the CVM in a variety of other ways. Funding the purchase of badly-needed equipment is an option that other supporters of the College can and do exercise.

“We’re not millionaires,” Kathe says, “but we do the most that we can. This is my passion. We’re grateful for the outstanding care that our cairn terriers have received over the years. This is a wonderful place.”

~Steve Volstad/NC State Veterinary Medicine