An Unbreakable Bond

Story by Monika Blackwell

Dr. William McCain and Brenda Bridges are paying tribute to their beloved Jetty — and her teddy — with an endowed residency at the Texas A&M Small Animal Hospital.

black lab dog Jetty laying on the grass with a teddy bear
Jetty and her teddy

Jetty Bridges is a legacy. As a frequent visitor of the Texas A&M Small Animal Hospital (SAH), Jetty was known as the sweet black lab who could always be found carrying her beloved and well-worn teddy bear in her mouth.

Following Jetty’s death in 2017, her legacy has taken on a different form—the namesake for the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences’ (CVM) first endowed residency, established in her honor by owners Dr. William McCain and Brenda Bridges.

Everyone’s Friend

Jetty first came to the VMTH when Bridges brought her to participate in a radiography study of the front limbs of healthy Labrador retrievers. For several weeks, Jetty visited the clinic to receive imaging that would one day be part of a published paper, contributing to the body of knowledge about standing radiographs.

When Jetty was 5 years old, she returned to the Small Animal Hospital (SAH), this time receiving a diagnosis of Chagas disease, a parasitic disease caused by kissing bugs. 

It was an alarming diagnosis, as Chagas disease can often be fatal to dogs and people, but Bridges and McCain knew Jetty was in good hands.

Over the years, Jetty was seen by nearly every service in the SAH, from cardiology to dermatology to neurology. 

Throughout her life, she underwent several surgeries, including a partial pinealectomy and several surgeries on her elbow, including a canine unicompartmental elbow replacement in 2013.

Thanks to the SAH, Jetty lived for 9 years after her Chagas disease diagnosis. She was almost 14 when she passed away. She was cremated with her beloved bear.

Over those years, countless students, interns, and residents learned from Jetty and became better prepared for their veterinary careers as a result of treating her.

“Through all of her surgeries, Jetty never balked at entering the CVM,” Bridges said. “It was her stage. She loved going there and seeing the doctors and staff. This stoic, small Labrador toughed out whatever fate threw her way.”

Following Jetty’s death, clinicians throughout the hospital commented on the loss.

“Jetty brightened any room and made everyone smile,” said one of Jetty’s clinicians.

“Losing Jetty hurts a bit more than other losses. She was a good friend,” said another. “The good fight is over, but Jetty and teddy will not be forgotten.”

The Happy Huntress

man and black lab Jetty sitting on a deck
Dr. William McCain and Jetty

Outside of the SAH, Jetty was an elite show dog with a much longer title: CH Dewberries Argonaut Atalanta RA SH.

She was one of a select number of dogs to receive this combination of titles by excelling in more than one AKC sport—CH is conformation “Champion;” RA is “Rally Advanced;” and SH is “Senior Hunter.” In Greek mythology, Atalanta was a fierce huntress and was always happy; Jetty was both.

But to her family, she was simply “Jetty,” a name given to her because a jetty protects a harbor.

Bridges spent many years breeding black Labrador retrievers, and there were always dogs at the house. Jetty immediately stood out to her and McCain as a special pup, so they decided to keep her. 

But it wasn’t until a few years later that McCain knew she was his dog and understood their unbreakable bond.

“Jetty had done her conformation championship, and one weekend we had taken her to do her senior hunter test,” McCain said. “During the water test, I was sitting under a tree in a folding chair, and when she finished the trial, she cut a trail directly to me. She was completely sopping wet, but she jumped into my lap and started kissing me in the face. That’s when I knew I’d been selected!”

McCain and Jetty grew even closer over the years—he is full of stories about her exceptional abilities. 

He recalls how she would ride with him in the elevator to his apartment. Each time they’d go up, she’d wait in the corner of the elevator with her teddy.

“Just before it got to my floor, she’d deliberately walk over to the door so that when she got to the door, it would open as if on cue,” McCain said. “I wondered, ‘How does she know which floor we live on?’ And then I realized she could count.”

Honoring Jetty

For McCain and Bridges, honoring Jetty with a residency was an important way to pay tribute to their favorite dog.

The endowment will fund a full-time resident in the Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences (VSCS).

Veterinary residencies provide advanced training in a clinical specialty that leads to specialized certification. These positions typically last for three-year periods and are critical to the hospital, as they allow for increased caseloads and create more opportunities for invaluable research. 

Residents gain experience in professional veterinary medical education and develop invaluable skills as veterinary teachers.

McCain and Bridges hope that future recipients will be proud to earn the title of “Jetty’s Resident.”


Note: This story originally appeared in the Fall 2019 edition of CVMBS Today.

For more information about the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, please visit our website at or join us on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter.

Contact Information: Jennifer Gauntt, Director of CVMBS Communications, Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences;; 979-862-4216

An Unbreakable Bond

Show Buttons
Hide Buttons