for the dogs
Carmel Holistic Veterinary Clinic
26135 Carmel Rancho Blvd, Carmel
by Carie Broecker
Dr. Tom Boekbinder has been around animals as long as he can remember. His parents and his grandparents were all animal lovers. As a child, Tom was particularly close to his grandfather who cooked homemade meals for his dogs.
When he was just four years old, Tom saw his Cocker Spaniel, Goldie, get hit by a train. He ran home to get his mother and father and they rushed her to a vet, but she succumbed to her injuries. He still remembers that feeling of helplessness and wanting to save her. He knows that incident was instrumental in his desire to become a veterinarian.
Dr. Tom graduated from veterinary school in 1977, married a veterinarian, and opened a private practice with her. The most heart-wrenching part of being a vet both then and today is dealing with dog guardians who cannot afford, or choose not to pay for, lifesaving surgeries and treatment for their animals. Dr. Tom and his wife rescued many pets that were signed over to them when the guardians chose not to seek lifesaving treatment. They would take the animals home, provide all the medical care they needed, and find new homes for them.
For the first 20 years of his career, Dr. Tom was not exposed to homeless, shelter animals. He was living in a very rural area of Quebec and due to the brutal winters, predators, and vigilante farmers, there were virtually no strays to be picked up and sheltered.
It wasn’t until Dr. Tom went through a divorce and relocated to Victoria, British Columbia that his eyes were opened to the animal overpopulation crisis. He was hired by the Victoria SPCA, and in his 18 months with them he performed 3,500 spay/neuter surgeries and developed his affinity for homeless animals.
In 1999, Dr. Tom visited Carmel, California. The morning he was set to leave, he was sitting at the top of a steep sand dune overlooking the beach at dawn. The beauty moved him and he thought dreamily, “I could live here.” Then he caught himself, and he thought with conviction, “Wait, I COULD live here!” It would mean a big change in his life, but it felt right. He asked for a sign from above that this was the right move. Just then an old black Labrador trudged up the steep dune and stopped to rest, leaning up against Tom’s legs for support, then walked off. Then another dog hiked up the steep dune, and he sat right on Tom’s feet, taking a much-needed break from the strenuous climb. Dr. Tom took that as his sign, and he moved to Carmel and opened his own practice, Carmel Holistic Veterinary Clinic. Right away he started providing discounted services to the SPCA for Monterey County and Animal Friends Rescue Project.
He now provides pro bono and discounted services to Peace of Mind Dog Rescue, Labrador rescue, Golden Retriever rescue, Pug rescue, and Boxer rescue. He loves doing rescue work. He says both the people and the dogs he works with are so appreciative, and he finds a deep satisfaction in providing care for dogs who have been abused, neglected, and discarded. Some of the rescue dogs who come into his clinic are in such bad shape they break his heart. But with proper care and treatment, they blossom—and that makes his heart sing.
Dr. Tom says he will never retire. He wouldn’t know what to do with himself if he wasn’t a doctor. It’s what he does. It’s who he is. It’s what he loves.