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Class of 2022: The Tale of Tony, a Mix of Magical Proportions

A first-person story from Alex Grobman, who is headed to a rotating internship at the Equine Medical Center of Ocala in her home state of Florida.

Tony is a Chihuahua-American Staffordshire terrier mix.

I never wanted a Chihuahua. If you had asked me five years ago, a Chihuahua would not have even remotely been on my radar. They were yappy, high energy and obnoxious. My dream dog was a middle-aged golden retriever with a heart of gold. 

Regardless, a dog during vet school was off the table for me. I loved having the opportunity to be away from my house without the responsibility of caring for a dog. I also anticipated doing an internship after vet school, which was not conducive to owning a dog. 

However, I was going into junior surgery. 

Rumor had it that everyone loved junior surgery so much that they ended up adopting their patients. I told myself there was absolutely no way. I didn’t really like surgery that much, anyway. Sterile fields made me anxious, and all of the anatomy looked like vaguely similar pink tissue. I could barely make a cut on a cadaver without questioning every move let alone on a live patient. Not for me.

And then came Nemo, now Tony. Tony is a 3-year-old MN (N courtesy of me and classmate Tania Hummel) Chihuahua/American Staffordshire terrier. What a mix, right? It never gets old telling people about Tony’s heritage. “Which one was the mom?” I always respond the same way, “I hope the dad was a Chihuahua!” I’ve had Tony 2.5 years now, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

In October 2019, I walked into the dog kennel ready for another junior surgery. That week, we had a juvenile neuter. I was working with a classmate, but a different groupmate than usual, Tania. The mom of the group, the confidante of the class and the one everyone wanted to be around. I felt lucky and excited. 

I found the cage associated with our group, and my heart sank. A Chihuahua. And a loud one at that. Nemo had interesting conformation. Dumbo ears, antelope legs, pitbull body and eyes that could guilt you into complete submission. He was undeniably one of the cutest puppies I had ever seen. 

I opened the cage, and he melted into my arms. He was warm and smelled like a rescue puppy. His body condition wasn’t great, and I wondered what his situation was like. I loved him, and I didn’t want to put him down.

The next day, Tania and I neutered Nemo. It was exhilarating; the surgical instruments fit into my hands like they were meant to be there.  Wait, why did I like this? I felt the anatomy, maintained sterile technique and worked diligently with my team. 

Tony is now a neutered male, thanks to Grobman and classmate Tania Hummel.

Nemo recovered like a champ. I never saw him discharged and spent several days in complete agony. It was only after my mom simply stated, “You need a dog,” that I reached out to the rescue group. 

They told me that Nemo already had interest and that I was too late. I said I was Nemo’s student and had bonded with him. I finally managed to have them allow me visit, only if I beat out the other interest. 

As soon as class let out that day, I raced to the rescue. He was still there. I would have recognized those ears anywhere. He was more high energy than I remembered. Regardless, he rode passenger and had a new name, Tony.

Tony has been my vet school dog. He has seen me through the most difficult coursework and my entire clinical year. He has been there through utter heartbreak and unbelievable success. Tony has taught me patience and understanding. He knows me, and I know him. It’s never been easy, but it’s always been worth it. 

Tony will travel with me to Florida for my equine rotating internship, and I’m more than grateful to have him by my side. 

The irony, though? He hates horses. And I want to be a surgeon.

  • Alex Grobman