December 16, 2019


A small white dog running on a dirt path


Written by Charlotte’s owner, Emma L.

CHARLOTTE: a sunny, stubborn, adoring West Highland Terrier, the joy of my life, and a case study in never, never, never giving up.

When Charlotte spent her first night in my apartment as a tiny puppy, she was too small to jump up on my bed. But she was determined, so she tried and tried again. Part of me wanted to just scoop her up, but a bigger part told me not to interrupt her process. On her ninth try, she achieved her goal, settling in contentedly. Her bed now. That dogged, optimistic determination would inspire me, impress me, and make me laugh for all of her eighteen years.

When Charlotte had an opinion, which she always did, she expressed it. Closed door? Open it immediately please! Toy Ratty lost behind the couch? Retrieve it immediately please! Rehab exercises? Certainly, but treat first, please!

Charlotte loved to sprint (especially in figure eights), flying through the woods of Maine, the parks of New York, and on the beaches of LA.

When she was fourteen and a half years old, she was listless for the first time her life—and her longtime veterinarian and former AMC resident, Dr. Julia Chiverton, sent her to her colleague Dr. Dennis Trafny. On a sunny day in June 2014, Charlotte entered the Animal Medical Center for the first time.

That day, Dr. Trafny saved her life, implanting a pacemaker that would gift her three and a half years of borrowed time.

Within days of getting her pacemaker, she had the energy of a puppy. Within weeks, her incontinence had stopped, a benign cyst on her back had disappeared, her hearing had improved—and she was sprinting again.

When her sprinting caught up with her (then-16-year-old) body and she tore both ACLs, she limped into her first rehab appointment at AMC with Dr. Leilani Alvarez. Charlotte wasn’t a good candidate for surgery, and Dr. Alvarez and the rehab team put her on a whole-dog plan of exercise, massage, acupuncture, and supplements.

Within five days, she had stopped limping. Within weeks, she was back to sprinting.

When Dr. Chiverton moved to LA, only one replacement was recommended—by three separate people. AMC’s Dr. Heather Brausa took over Charlotte’s care with a fond, omniscient focus. With all of Charlotte’s doctors under one roof, I saw exactly how collaborative the care at the AMC is. All of her doctors were aware of all of Charlotte’s medications, tests, and updates in real time. All of her doctors responded to my emails immediately. All of her doctors freely gave of their love, their intuition, and their expertise.

When Charlotte got pneumonia at age 17, Dr. Trafny saved her life again.

When she turned 18, Dr. Alvarez threw her a birthday party with gifts, balloons and party hats— and even made her a cake out of her favorite treats.

And when she threw a clot to her kidney that even she couldn’t recover from, the doctors and staff at AMC enveloped her in the highest forms of love, science, and respect that I have ever witnessed. Charlotte spent her last day on the rehab floor with me and her beloved Dr. Alvarez, receiving tender visits from a steady stream of doctors and staff. In her final moments, I knew—and still know—that a part of her will live on at AMC forever, sprinting in figure eights, and never giving up.


A small white dog running on a dirt path
A small white dog smiles on an orange carpet
The rehab team at the Animal Medical Center celebrates Charlotte's 18th birthday
AMC's Dr. Leilani Alvarez feeds cake to a small white dog
A small white dog watches a sunset over a lake