Gregg Takashima, DVM, stole his first pet—and saved lives in the process

Gregg Takashima, DVM, stole his first pet—and saved lives in the process

This veterinarian believed so much in the human-animal bond he “liberated” his surgery dog while in veterinary school, leading to a change in university policy.
source-image
Oct 26, 2015

Dr. Gregg Takashima spends his days preaching the gospels of high-quality veterinary medicine, the human-animal bond, the healing power of pets, the benefits of animal-assisted therapy and One Health. Gregg is a “doer,” a “Git R Done” kind of guy. Like a scout, he's always prepared and has dedicated his life to helping pets, people and our profession. Dr. Takashima is founder of Parkway Animal Hospital in Lake Oswego, Oregon, past president of the American Animal Hospital Association and current president of the American Association of Human-Animal Bond Veterinarians.

Where were you born and raised?
San Diego

Your first job was?
Working on the vegetable farm we had.

My dad always taught me to? 
“Do it right the first time, then you will not need to do it again later.”

The best part about being a veterinarian is...
Meeting people from all walks of life who care about their furry or feathered or scaled companions.

Takashima in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, with Dr. Sivagurunthan, where he was spoke on the Human-Animal Bond, Dermatology for the practitioner and the value of the Human-Animal Bond. Dr Sivagurunthan was later honored with the Hills Excellence in Veterinary Healthcare Award at the 2015 WSAVA Congress in Bangkok.

What’s the worst mistake you ever made as a veterinarian, and what did you learn from it? 
When I was a newly minted veterinarian, I allowed a verbally abusive and negative client to remain on too long. I learned to stand up for our values of decency and respect for others and never allowed this to persist in our hospital again.

Tell us about a patient that shouldn’t have lived but did. 
I had a small parakeet patient that was egg-bound and toxic. I advised the owner I had never performed this surgery, and the bird was sick and likely to succumb during the procedure. Both the client and I understood that at that time you could purchase a pair of parakeets for $15, but the owner encouraged me to move forward. Of course, this little bird bounced back from the surgery and lived many more rich years!

What is your greatest strength?
Perseverance, though some may call it stubbornness.

Who are your heroes in real life?
My parents for teaching me to always do my best and speak my heart even when it’s not popular.

What memento of your mom or dad do you keep close or visible and why?
My dad received the Congressional Gold Medal for his service in World War II. I am proud of what he did and stood for during those times. His family lost (stolen) family heirlooms and property, yet he still believed he should fight for his country and show he was a loyal citizen. I keep a photo of both my mom and dad smiling while on a family vacation on a beach in Hawaii. It reminds me of how much they sacrificed for their children and family, yet remained loving and nurturing to us kids.

Tell us about your first pet
The first pet that was mine—and not my parents’ or family’s—was a little mutt I called Freddy. He was small and bichon-looking in size, and black and white in color. He also was my surgery dog in veterinary school, purchased from the shelter where he was destined for euthanasia. I kept him alive through many procedures and, after a year, he was supposed to be returned to the shelter to be euthanized. I wasn’t allowed to adopt him due to a school policy. Because I also worked my way through school, I had keys to the ward and liberated Freddy on the weekend prior to his return to the shelter.

I ended up being brought before the dean and asked to explain why I stole university property or face expulsion. I explained, very fearfully, that I had been taught this idea of the human-animal bond and how important it was as veterinarians to understand why clients cared so much for their pets and that I had grown attached to this little mutt. Why should his life need to end to satisfy a policy that was just not right? Considering all I had been taught, I was willing to adopt him.

In the end, I did not get expelled and I was allowed to adopt Freddy, but I did get reprimanded. A few years later, the school modified this policy and now allows students to adopt these animals.

Who was your favorite teacher and why? 
Dr. Carl Osborne, who was the dean of my veterinary school. He taught in the abstract, asking and challenging us to think versus just regurgitating facts. He was the dean who called me before him to explain why he shouldn’t expel me for taking my surgery dog home instead of allowing him to be euthanized. Later on, he also told me I did the right thing. 

Takashima performing acupuncture on a patient.

What talent would you like to have?
Photographic memory

What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Being honored to ascend to the American Animal Hospital Association presidency.

As president of AAHA, Takashima spoke about the value of accreditation and Standards of Care in Bangkok, Thailand, at the SE Asian Regional Meeting. Dr Siraya Chunekamrai (center) was the president of Veterinary Practitioners Assciation of Thailand.

Describe a perfect day away from work?
Smug in knowing that all is well at the practice, I fly-fish in the morning, play in the garden by afternoon, and enjoy the company of friends and family around a relaxing meal and good wines that evening.

As Takashima fly-fished for bonefish in Cuba, he caught this 20lb barracuda, that kept following him as he waded the flats.

If you had to wear one thing for the rest of your life what would it be?
Shorts, T-shirt and slippahs (a type of Hawaiian sandal).

If you could take back one fashion look you ever wore, what would it be?
My brief fling with disco.

If you had one superpower, what would it be?
To neutralize evil.

If you could give yourself advice at age 13, what would it be?
Live life without hesitation and follow your dreams, but it's OK to change them.

Dr. Marty Becker is a renowned speaker, TV personality and author of many books, including The Healing Power of Pets: Harnessing the Amazing Ability of Pets to Make and Keep People Happy and Healthy. Dr. Becker practices at North Idaho Animal Hospital in Sandpoint, Idaho.