VEAZIE, Maine — Kobe used to have a lot more hop in his step. But over the years, his knees have started giving him more trouble.
His Frisbee skills and his will to go on long walks have been on the decline.
The 6½-year-old golden retriever’s owner, Barbara Allen of LaGrange, opted to have Veazie Veterinary Clinic perform knee surgery on Kobe, who is named after the basketball player.
“He really wasn’t doing anything he used to do, as far as running and playing,” Allen said.
She hoped the surgery would improve his quality of life.
Kobe seems happier now and Allen said she expects him to return to his old self as his rehabilitation continues at the Veazie clinic’s new Animal Wellness and Rehabilitation Center, which opened its doors Thursday.
The rehab includes sessions walking on an underwater treadmill in a tank at the new facility.
The State Street clinic purchased the building next door, formerly home to Always Flowers, in February, according to David Cloutier, a doctor of veterinarian medicine and owner of the clinic since 1995.
He said the new facility has given the clinic room to expand its rehabilitation services.
The rehab center offers the aquatic treadmill, massage therapy, chemotherapy, blood donations, reproductive and breeding services, and weight-loss programs.
“All these services are things that we started to do at Veazie Vet but just didn’t have the space for,” Cloutier said.
Kobe eagerly hopped onto the treadmill Thursday when a veterinary technician opened the door for him.
“He looks like he’s smiling to me,” Cloutier said.
The aquatic tank gives Kobe two advantages that a regular walk can’t: The water displaces some of his weight and it provides resistance to give his recovering legs more of a workout.
On the other side of the room, a black Lab named Tuukka — named after Boston Bruins backup goaltender Tuukka Rask — stood on top of a red balance ball and worked to stay on top as employees slowly rolled the ball back and forth.
In a room down the hall, three veterinary technicians calmed Zara, another black Lab, while she donated blood, which will go into the clinic’s blood bank in case a dog needs a transfusion after surgery, disease or an accident.
Like humans, dogs have blood types, which have to be carefully documented to avoid medical complications after a transfusion.
Across the hall, Buddy, a 12-year-old Labrador retriever, lay down in the Reproductive Services Room. This program offers artificial insemination and collects, ships and freezes semen, primarily for use by breeders.
Buddy was the “guinea pig” three years ago when the program started, said Autumn Hill, the lead veterinary technician who runs the clinic’s reproductive program.
Cloutier said his clients have been demanding and using services such as these for years.
The clinic has had a chemotherapy program for more than a decade and has taken blood donations and offered transfusions for about 15 years, he said.
Cloutier said that before the Veazie clinic expanded its rehabilitation services, some pet owners had to travel to veterinarian offices in southern Maine or to another state because there wasn’t enough space for all the equipment.
While a 40-minute drive from LaGrange to Veazie for Kobe’s rehab might seem like a voyage, Allen said it’s nothing compared with the traveling they would have to do if Veazie veterinarians didn’t offer these services.
“There have always been owners out there who want to care for their pets,” Cloutier said. “Vets need to be able to offer it, though.”