I discovered Georgia Veterinary Rehabilitation, Fitness & Pain Management when my beloved 13-year-old rescue dog began limping. Through a series of vet referrals,
I landed on Johnson Ferry Road in East Cobb for “in demand” weekly spots for acupuncture and underwater treadmill treatment.
I was intrigued to see the mezuzah on the door, which led to owner and veterinarian Evelyn Orenbuch, a leader in the field of pet rehabilitation for aging and ailing pets, primarily dogs.
The topic is hot, as one of my favorite author/pundits, Dennis Prager, remarked recently that when contemporary preteens were asked to choose between saving a drowning family dog and a human stranger, they chose the family dog. Our emotional chord has been touched.
Those of us who were lucky enough to grow up with a dog circa 1960 doubt that our parents spent hundreds of dollars on a dog’s teeth cleaning, which is de rigueur today.
Orenbuch heads a staff of 14: two other vets, two rehab therapists, veterinary assistants and customer service representatives. They specialize in dogs that are recovering from surgery and athletes of all degrees, up to international competitors, having difficulty with mobility including neurological conditions, pain or just a lack of fitness to enjoy life. She is a board-certified diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Sports Medicine and a former president of the American Association of Rehabilitation Veterinarians.
Here is what she had to say about her journey.
Jaffe: As a youngster, did you know you wanted to be a veterinarian?
Orenbuch: Although I grew up in Philadelphia, I spent time on my grandmother’s ranch in Arizona — chickens, goats, horses, dogs. … Loved animals.
Jaffe: How did you end up in Atlanta?
Orenbuch: My husband, a business management professor, had faculty interviews in various cities. We thought Atlanta would be the most open to my type of innovative practice, so he selected Kennesaw State.
Jaffe: From a launching base as a general veterinarian, how did you decide on rehabilitation and pain management?
Orenbuch: My original focus in vet school was large animals, which was very time-demanding. So I made a lifestyle choice for more regular office hours and took a job in a small animal practice. Although I was trained in traditional Western medicine, I attended an animal chiropractic course, which opened my eyes to the world of complementary medicine. From there, I added acupuncture and rehabilitation training. After moving to Georgia, I was able to have my own facility and install underwater treadmills. This tool was developed in the late 1990s after practitioners in Illinois, who were using water treadmills for horses, began to understand that it could work for ailing dogs. At GVR, we now have a pool and two underwater treadmills.
Jaffe: Modern values demonstrate the elevation of pets in family life and also legally. Would you concur that you are riding the wave of this phenomenon?
Orenbuch: Yes. A recent study showed that around 60 percent of American dog owners allow pets to sleep in their beds. We care for them as family members. Remember, human medicine changed to be more accepting of physical therapy, acupuncture and other complementary treatments. Veterinary medicine tends to follow the trends in human medicine.
Jaffe: You spent some time in Israel doing what?
Orenbuch: I completed my required two-month externship for veterinary college in Israel working with veterinarians in the Haklait, the government-run large animal vet association, who work primarily with cattle on the kibbutzim and moshavim. I returned two years after graduating to spend seven months in Arad with the WUJS (World Union of Jewish Students), studying Judaism, Israeli culture and history, as well as attending ulpan. I returned to WUJS for an additional three months in 1999.
Jaffe: Share with us your unusual sports hobby.
Orenbuch: I was always athletic, but in 2002 I found the ancient Chinese sport of dragon boating (large, canoe-shaped boats for 20 people). I was a member of Team USA for 10 years, competing in Australia, China, Germany, Hungary, Czech Republic and the U.S. I no longer compete at that level, but I am still an avid paddler, getting on the Hooch weekly. My career as an athlete has helped me to better understand and work with my patients.
Jaffe: Where do you go from here?
Orenbuch: We are the largest freestanding rehabilitation facility in Georgia. Next, we need to go inside the Perimeter and fill that void.
Jaffe: You are active in Congregation Ner Tamid?
Orenbuch: Yes, it’s a warm, active synagogue with about 60 families in Marietta.