One of Coffman's most memorable patients was River, a 92-pound red doberman that was paralyzed after a disk prolapse. "I
would start to feel discouraged, and then I would see his family carrying him in every week. They were so dedicated," Coffman
says. "After three months of hard work, he started walking again. We were all amazed."
The business of hope
Compassionate caregiver. Teacher. Go-to person. These are all words co-workers use to describe Kathy Coffman, a veterinary
assistant at VCA Veterinary Referral Associates in Gaithersburg, Md., and the 2007 Firstline MVP, sponsored by Virbac's C.E.T. University. Coffman, a certified canine rehabilitation therapist and certified canine massage
therapist, offers second chances to dogs struggling to walk. "I see a lot of older arthritic dogs who can't get up on the
couch anymore," Coffman says. "Our clients are so excited when their pets do normal things like climb into bed with them again."
Coffman says continuing education and working with other team members keep her happy with her work. "Being able to go to continuing
education meetings, being with your colleagues, and seeing new people coming into the field—these are all incentives for me,"
Coffman says. "I love it when new people come to our practice, because they bring that excitement about the profession with
them, and I get excited again."
Coffman practices exercises with Max, a Labrador that could barely walk when he first started rehabilitation. Coffman worked
in the intensive care unit at her practice for about 10 years before burnout began to take its toll. Around that time, Coffman's
own dog, Samantha, began to have trouble walking. "When I saw rehabilitation working for Samantha, I thought, 'Wow, what if
you could do that for a living and make other people feel the way I did when I could take her on walks again.'"
Coffman has a special Friday tradition. As a member of the Pets on Wheels program, she loads her dogs in the car and visits
hospitals and nursing homes. "It's such a release for me after the stress of seeing sick animals all week," Coffman says.
"And the people we visit really look forward to seeing us."