Many pet owners have stories about their favorite dog or cat, but few can say their pet’s life has helped to make an impact in human and animal medicine.
Jeannette and David Hall’s dog Patti, a Great Pyrenees mix, has touched the lives of many, and her story is making a difference. Patti’s positive energy and perseverance to push through various medical conditions, while being treated at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM), encouraged her owners to establish a fund to help with the discovery of possible remedies for animals with similar health issues.
Jeannette was pursuing a career as a veterinary technician and spending time at the Citizens for Animal Protection (CAP) shelter in Houston when her life changed. “The clinical manager of the shelter said that someone had dropped off this little handful of a puppy,” Jeannette said. “She wanted to know if I would foster it, and of course the answer was ‘Yes’. All you had to do was look at her and you fell in love.”
Jeannette fostered Patti for a few months when John Walzel walked into their lives. John saw Patti and quickly fell in love, deciding this was just the dog he was hoping to find one day, and adopted her. Patti was curious and adventurous, as puppies often are, and in a sudden burst of excitement ran into the street and was hit by a car. After an emergency trip to the local veterinarian, some plates and screws in place, she went back to enjoying life again.
Shortly after her accident—life took a dismal turn. Patti slowly starting having seizures, and her loving owner suddenly passed away. Jeannette and David, her former foster parents, heard about the passing of Patti’s owner and took her home with them. By this time, Patti was on seizure medication and needed special treatment throughout the day to prevent episodes. The Halls moved to College Station shortly after welcoming Patti back into the family and were referred to the CVM for Patti’s reoccurring seizures.
Dr. Jonathan Levine, professor in the Small Animal Hospital neurology service, began treating Patti with consistent care. Like many cases of seizures in dogs, the cause was unknown.
“Dr. Levine did everything,” said David. “The Small Animal Hospital at A&M did lab work and a CT scan but they could never find a cause of the seizures. Even when Patti’s necropsy was done, her brain pathology was normal.”
Communicating and working with Levine, the Halls learned how the studies conducted at Texas A&M were leading to potential human therapies. The information Levine was able to collect from managing Patti’s case was key to advancing the science behind seizure treatments in both humans and animals. In addition to the clinical data that Levine used to advance the neurology discipline, the Halls noted that Patti’s case had even more far-reaching impacts than knowledge alone.
“It’s just amazing what they are doing at Texas A&M,” said Jeannette. “That’s why we wanted to give. We want more people to understand what Texas A&M did for Patti and what that means for human medicine.”
The neurology program has since expanded through their funded research, and Levine and his team are now studying the possible similarities between human and canine tumors.
Levine noted that, even though it seems like Patti’s story is about seizures and researching new possible treatments for cancer, the common thread is that some medical conditions are really hard to treat. At Texas A&M, Levine and his colleagues represent those that are really dedicated and want to continue moving forward to find answers for their clients.
“The importance of funds, like those donated by the Halls, is that we have been able to expand beyond spinal cord injury in our service,” Levine said. “We have been able to collaborate with neurosurgeons in human medicine to investigate new therapies for brain tumors, and see if what works on canine brain tumors will translate into treatment for human brain tumors.”
Though pets often depend on their owners to teach them good character, the Halls further developed their own character because of Patti. “She gave us love—unconditional love,” said Jeannette.
Even after her death, the Halls’ commitment to Patti’s legacy lives on in the fund that bears her name—the Patti Hall Endowment in Neurology—supporting the ongoing growth and research efforts of the CVM neurology service at the Small Animal Hospital. Her spirit lives on through her contributions and the many memories she gave to those who helped care for her. “The thing that Patti taught us,” said Jeannette, “is to never give up. There’s always something coming, and it’s always better.