|Mar 1, 2012
By: Stephanie Fellenstein
NATIONAL REPORT — Veterinarians Ronald Lyman and Leilani Alvarez briefly traded their every-day duties for a couple days in a television studio. And if network execs like what they see, Lyman and Alvarez may soon be able to add ‘TV personality’ to their resumes.
It all began on a routine day with an almost 16-year-old English Cocker Spaniel.
Rick Dobbis and Mary Ann Koenig were at their home in Vero Beach, Fla. when their dog Dodger needed medical treatment.
“We were referred to Dr. Lyman’s hospital,” Dobbis recalls. “We met him and found him to be quite extraordinary. He was very smart, thorough and able to communicate to lay people pretty complicated stuff.”
Lyman, who opened his 24-hour emergency and critical care hospital—Animal Emergency & Referral Center—in 1984, used hyperbaric oxygen therapy to treat Dodger.
“It improved the dog’s quality of life,” Lyman says, adding he treated Dodger for about a year.
Alvarez also used alternative practices, like acupuncture, while treating Dodger in New York, where Dobbis and Koenig had their other home.
Alvarez joined the Animal Medical Center in New York City in January and is trained as a certified canine rehabilitation therapist and is certified in veterinary Chinese herbal medicine.
“I am still very much a conventional practitioner,” Alvarez says. “I see many chronic cases that wouldn’t respond to traditional therapy. It was so common to hear, ‘isn’t there anything else to do for my pet?’ Now I can say ‘yes.’ This allows me to be a better veterinarian.”
About a year after Lyman started treating Dodger, Dobbis contacted him and Alvarez about an idea.
It turns out Dobbis was actually head of R-DOG (Rick Dobbis Organization; Global), an independent company involved in various entertainment-related projects. His resume includes a laundry list of experience with companies including Arista Records, RCA Records and Sony Music International.
“I didn’t know what they did for a living,” Lyman says. “They said ‘we’re TV producers, and we would like to develop and market a show about the human/animal bond and the sophisticated things you can do to try to give your animal better health care and better quality of life.'”
Dobbis says Lyman and Alvarez were a natural team.
“Ron is on the cutting edge with the hyperbaric chamber and Dr. Alvarez is a veterinarian also trained as a physical therapist, acupuncturist and Chinese herbalist,” Dobbis says. “I like them both. They are very interesting people and very different.”
Lyman says once the plans were in place, he and Alvarez were filmed in a New York City studio. They then came to Florida where they were filmed in front of a live studio audience at the Sunrise Theater in Fort Pierce last August.
“I have never done anything like this,” Lyman says. “It is quite different. The first one, when we were in the studio, I broke out in a cold sweat. The live audience was easier. I’m used to teaching so it was more like that.”
Alvarez says she also had never done anything professional on camera.
Before the live-audience show, the producers visited the family of a dog Lyman previously treated and then showed that interview on a large screen.
“The dog had heat stroke after ingesting large amounts of saltwater. It was young, a large breed with brain damage and was now blind,” Lyman says. “It had been treated by local vets and they didn’t think any more could be done. He was referred to our hospital and the hyperbaric chamber.
“It was a striking interview with the family, especially the wife,” Lyman adds. “The whole family was playing with the dog at the beach. It happened right in front of them. The wife says, ‘I’m being told I need to put my dog down, but my brother is getting married the next day. I couldn’t do it.'”
The dog regained neurological function and his sight, Lyman says. “He did wonderfully in the hyperbaric chamber.”
After the audience viewed the video, the dog ran across the stage and the whole family came out.
“It was one of those feel-good moments,” Lyman says. “The producers really want to emphasize the human/animal bond.”
Producers also spent a couple hours at a ranch where Alvarez did acupuncture on a horse. During the studio show she did acupuncture on a dog and physical rehabilitation on a cat with an amputated leg.
“Veterinary medicine has so many therapies available to us that we really want to promote hyperbaric oxygen therapy, physical rehabilitation and acupuncture,” Alvarez says. “We want to be at the forefront.”
The studio shots, the live-audience portion and the side trips were boiled down into a 3 1/2–minute promotional film.
“We met with a number of agencies and a couple potential production partners,” Dobbis says. “We’re just waiting to hear. This show is not just about pets, but about people and animals, and their related health issues. We share the planet. We are interdependent.”
In the meantime, Lyman still spends seven days a week at his hospital and Alvarez is busy in New York City.
Lyman and his wife, Kip, also are busy teaching others about hyperbaric oxygen therapy.
“Still, for me,” Lyman says, “the most fun is taking care of the patients