A couple of weeks ago, a list of all places I had shopped during my first year of living local appeared in encore. Because I spend a very significant portion of income on pets, I included Dr. Brad Kerr of WellSpring Holistic Veterinary Care on the list. Since, I have been positively deluged by phone calls, e-mails and people dropping by to ask about him. It seemed like a cue to introduce his practice to the Live Local column.
I have sought holistic care in compliment with allopathic care for our family’s pets many times in the last 10 years. To say I have been impressed with Dr. Kerr is the understatement of the year. He has made house calls, opened his clinic on the weekend and taken emergency calls late at night. After 24 years as a licensed doctor of veterinary medicine and 11 years as a holistic vet, his wisdom and experience is incredibly reassuring when facing baffling and difficult situations with our beloved quadrupeds.
I sent some questions to Dr. Kerr to familiarize encore readers with his practice as well.
encore (e): Why did you become a vet?
Dr. Kerr (DBK): I went to college right out of high school, studying journalism. After two years, I realized this was not a fulfilling career choice for me and dropped out. I spent 10 years working in the restaurant industry and, by something of a coincidence, ended up owning a horse—then two, then three. The veterinarian who helped care for my horses was a charismatic character who had switched careers- going from teaching high-school English to being a veterinarian. I began going on farm calls with him, and I was hooked on the profession.
e: Why a holistic vet? What does that mean?
DBK: I am a holistic veterinarian for three reasons: I was impressed in the 1970s by a co-worker’s experience with acupuncture. At the time, I was living in San Francisco, and worked with a guy who had been injured when he stepped on a land mine during the Korean War. He still had a lot of shrapnel in his body and would start feeling very painful every couple of weeks. His solution was to see an acupuncturist in China Town. The next day he would be free of pain. Although his problem was chronic, the improvement was amazing. That impression stuck with me for years, and when I got into veterinary school, I began searching for acupuncture training for veterinarians, which was almost non-existent at the time.
The second reason I pursued holistic medicine was that I began to see, after practicing “regular” veterinary medicine for 10 years, that there were only a few options to deal with health issues in animals, and I wanted to use other modalities than antibiotics, steroids and surgery.
When my wife, Dr. Betsy Burbank, decided to get training in veterinary homeopathy, everything fell into place. She heard from another student in one of her classes about a new school for veterinary acupuncture, the Chi Institute. I signed up post haste.
e: Funniest thing to ever happen to you as a vet?
DBK: My wife and I had opened a practice in Shallotte, and a young couple came in one afternoon with a new puppy. The exam was routine, and the owners paid with a couple of bills and a lot of small change. I didn’t bother to count the change, and just put it in the change drawer. When the next appointment came in, it was an elderly gentleman with a very mean cat. After his visit, I made change from the change I had gotten earlier. The gentleman accepted the change and started for the door, then he turned around and said, “Are you sure you won’t be needing this?” He was holding up part of a joint, which had been in the change. The look on my face must have been priceless. He then proceeded to tell me, in a very serious voice, that he was a fire inspector for an insurance company. He really had me worried when I explained that I didn’t know it was in the change.
“So you’re telling me someone gave this to you with their change?“ he said. “And you expect me to believe that?”
It turned out he was joking, and we became friends and ended up going kayaking together. I think he kept the joint.
e: What would you like pet owners to know about veterinary acupuncture?
DBK: That it is very safe and that more than 95% of pets will accept acupuncture treatment. There are no negative side-effects.
e: How do animals react to acupuncture?
DBK: Most animals relax and enjoy the treatments. A lot of them go home and sleep for the rest of the day, and are more energertic and happy the next day.
encore: Is it different than humans?
DBK: It is hard to say. Pets can’t tell us directly how apprehensive they are before treatment. Once they get used to the results, they usually welcome the visits.
Read Gwenyfar’s full interview with Dr. Kerr online at www.encorepub.com.