RYAN LAWRENCE, Daily News Staff Writer
POSTED: Friday, April 19, 2013, 8:38 PM
Jimmy Rollins stepped into his house following the first road trip of the season and was greeted by a four-legged family member.
Kayla, his 3-year-old Akita, greeted the longtime Phillies shortstop as if she hadn’t seen him in years. But Rollins didn’t give Kayla his full attention because something wasn’t right.
“Kato is usually here,” Rollins recalled on Friday.
Kato, also an Akita, didn’t come when Rollins called either. He yelped from another room, but he didn’t move.
“When I called him,” Rollins said, “he just wouldn’t get up.”
This was a year ago, when Rollins had just returned to his Swedesboro, N.J., home following the season opening series in Pittsburgh. Rollins and his wife, Johari, immediately took Kato to the vet.
What followed was a round of X-rays, medicine, but, perhaps most important, a summer of rehab for the Rollins’ 9-year-old dog.
“We went the rehab route and it worked. … He was a brand-new dog,” Rollins said. “His energy and his strength was back. He was running. I thought, ‘That stuff is really crazy.’”
As a regular at the Swedesboro Animal Hospital, Rollins had regular dialogue with the owner, Dr. Mark Magazu, and both came to the conclusion that a separate rehab center would be an excellent addition to the hospital.
And so, on Saturday afternoon, about 7 hours before first pitch at Citizens Bank Park, Rollins and his wife will officially cut the ribbon to commemorate the opening of The Jimmy and Johari Rollins Center for Animal Rehabilitation.
The collaborative partnership between the Rollins and the Saint Francis Veterinary Center has facilitated the state-of-the-art rehabilitation and pain management center for animals.
“When I called him about it,” Magazu said, “not only was he interested, but he was excited about it.”
With the new facility, located next to the Swedesboro Animal Hospital, Rollins is doing his part to allow other families the ability to get the treatment and care for their pets that his family received with Kato.
“I had to go through rehab myself,” said Rollins, who has dealt with several injuries during his 14-year career with the Phillies. “So I was talking about how animals could probably benefit from rehab just like we humans do, doing the same type of things. I think that sparked the interest.”
Although Kato wasn’t a fan of a treadmill, he went through laser treatment and a variety of rehab exercises last summer. After taking steroids to help ease the pain in his left hind leg for about 2 weeks, Kato went strictly into the rehab route.
“Walking up hills, walking over things, balance balls, things like that,” Rollins said. “As long as he did that, he was fine. … And his attitude was a lot different.
“It isn’t just about medicine. You actually have to rehab, figure out what’s wrong, get things going in the right direction. You have to neutralize it before you fix it, and the medicine doesn’t neutralize it, it just covers the pain.”
Kato lived through the duration of the baseball season. The Rollins’ had to put him down just before the final road trip of the season when he wasn’t eating or sleeping.
“He was only 9,” Rollins said.
But in going the route of rehab, the Rollins’ family got 6 more months out of Kato. Regardless of the animal’s age or condition, Rollins believes the rehab and physical treatment will improve the overall quality of life for both the pet, and their owners, too.
“[Even] if it doesn’t increase life span, it will help their quality of life while they’re going through it, however long it may be,” Rollins said. “It’s like any of us: If something is wrong, usually it’s nothing you can stop from eventually taking its toll. But it’s how do you improve their quality of life while they’re here. Maybe they won’t be able to do everything, but some of the things they were able to do.”
For more information: http://www.saintfrancis.org/rollinscenter/