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Dog with tongue out

Bobbie Werbe, rehab master for dogs

From the Indianapolis Star-Tribune -


Bobbie Werbe grew up in a family where dogs and cats weren't just pets --they were family.

Werbe's love of dogs helped forge her career as a registered veterinary technician and certified canine rehabilitation practitioner at Circle City Veterinary Specialty and Emergency Hospital in Carmel, which equates to a physical therapist for dogs.

"In high school, I couldn't picture myself doing anything without animals," she said.

Her sister, Kit, refers to Bobbie as the "Jillian Michaels" of the dog world.

After an ankle injury sidelined her for the track and field season, Werbe's high school coach told her that she likely wouldn't run competitively again. She decided to prove him wrong, just as she knows dogs can be rehabilitated.

"It upsets me to see someone give up on animals so quickly. I know whatever the problem is, I can teach them how to stand and walk again and accomplish normal daily activities," Werbe said.

With the encouragement of Dr. Don Kalt at Broad Ripple Animal Clinic, she pursued a career in canine rehabilitation.

Werbe has used her techniques at home on one of her two rescued dachshunds, Billie and Winnie. Billie was paralyzed from a herniated disc. Werbe paid for her surgery and taught Billie to walk again.

"That really helped me learned what motivates a dog and what discourages them," she said.

How did you manage to stand out in a crowd and advance quickly in your career?

My patient care is a high priority to me. I make sure all of the exercises are done on time and correctly and thoroughly. I rely a lot on the dog's nonverbal to understand their feelings. They have to trust that I'm not going to hurt them. The relationship with the owner is also very important. They have to trust me and feel comfortable as well.

I am detail-oriented, and I don't give up when I set a goal for myself.

What was your first job or entrepreneurial experience? How did it impact your future?

After graduating a semester early from high school to work full time at Broad Ripple Animal Clinic before attending Purdue University, I had the opportunity to be fully immersed in the veterinary community. I learned superb patient care and client communication, which continues to help me succeed to this very day.

What's the toughest obstacle you face in your career?

The biggest obstacle is ongoing -- trying to convince older vets why physical rehabilitation is needed and earning their trust. Rehabilitation is now taught in schools. Newer vets understand it, but some of the older vets haven't used rehab specialists before.

How important is it to have a mentor? Did anyone in particular help you advance in your career?

I think it's incredibly important. I wouldn't be where I am without Jennie Dobie, Don Kalt and Kim Knapp.

I wanted to emulate Jennie. Don helped me get into Purdue with recommendations, and Kim was instrumental into providing me with the building blocks to start my post-graduate work to become certified.

What advice would you give to other young people trying to get started in animal rehabilitation?

I would tell them to buckle down, study hard and remain focused. There are a lot of distractions in college. There are a lot of things that don't seem pertinent at the time, but you pull that information back at times. Be patient. Have a plan, and check things off as they happen. It's a long road. Things don't happen overnight. Enjoy all the different learning challenges.

Call Star reporter Jill Phillips at (317) 444-6246.

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