"In high school, my gym teacher who was also my Sunday School teacher in Otsego, Michigan, had a stable. So I would go out there once a week to ride the horses (at $10 a ride) and I liked it," Dr. Jeff LaHuis explained.
"Up to that point in my life, I thought I would have grown up to be a computer scientist."
Then there was the offer by his teacher that he would give free riding lessons if LaHuis would come out and shovel manure for three days.
"After that (offer), I was there every day after school, I was there all through the summer. And even as an undergraduate, I would come back and help him out."
Fast forward a few decades later to Sault Ste. Marie.
After extensive schooling and training (he graduated from Michigan State University in 1995), and his time serving in the Army (2009-2010), he opened up Sault Animal Hospital in 2010.
Dr. LaHuis loves animals. All kinds of animals. He has treated owls, rabbits, eagles, horses, cats and dogs ... and more. However, he chuckled, "I do not do spiders. People do have pet spiders .... and some are big. I just do not like spiders."
But he also will not take in skunks, for obvious reasons.
Recently, Dr. LaHuis increased and improved the care for animals. You would have to travel four-plus hours downstate from the Sault to even get the special care he provides. "We try to offer as much as we can here at Sault Animal Hospital so that people do not have to travel," he said.
"I do orthopedic surgery along with veterinary spinal manipulation. In addition, I perform advanced soft tissue operations, like gallbladder, stomach and cancer surgeries," Dr. LaHuis said.
But what is really impressive is what he is doing with stem cells.
"We offer stem cell therapy, along with platelet therapy. Both are regenerative medicine concepts and are very successful," he added.
Stem cells are taken from the fat from the dog's own body, then they wake the dog up, the fat is processed for about three hours in-house, then they collect the stem cells and inject them in the injured area.
LaHuis used stem cell therapy first on his own dog that has arthritis and it has worked well. He then used it on clients' dogs and it has had success.
"There is regular medicine, then there is cutting edge medicine, then there is stuff like this, that is quality of life care that is the tip of the spear type of medicine." Dr. LaHuis explained.
Dr. LaHuis has used this specific procedure on three dogs with kidney failure – all successful.
One dog should have been dead three months ago, but the stem cell therapy was done, and was just rechecked December 28, and the dog is doing very well.
Pets are family. Dr. LaHuis and his staff understand that. Their continued, advanced care in our community can save unnecessary travel and bills by not traveling downstate.
Sault Animal Hospital is located at 2867 Ashmun Street (M-129) just north of 3 Mile Road.
Learn more at saultanimalhospital.com.