Dr. Susan Persico studied music when she started college in Colorado in the late ’60s. Her instrument was the piano, but it didn’t take long for Persico to realize her real passion was for animals. So she switched to veterinary medicine at Colorado State University in Fort Collins. It was in biology class that she met the man who would become her second husband.
They moved to Buffalo where Persico had been raised and in the early ’80s, the two veterinarians opened Central Park Veterinary Hospital on Main Street. In the 1990s, Persico launched a restaurant near Kleinhans Music Hall called Coda. That business sold in 2002.
Today, Persico and her husband of 38 years, Dr. Ed Letson, live on the West Side with their three dogs and eight cats. Persico also works pro-bono for the SPCA of Niagara County.
People Talk: What are you most passionate about?
Susan Persico: Animals. I’m very passionate about finding homes for animals, about raising the consciousness of people so they recognize that animals are spirits in furry bodies. They’re sensitive, loyal and loving. We can’t throw them away. We can’t just turn them out on the streets like we do.
PT: There seems to be an increasing public awareness for animal rights.
SP: I’m very happy about that, but it can go further. Working at the shelter I take the animals that are broken, old, sick – they need some work done – so I bring them to our animal hospital to put them back together and try to get them adopted. What kills me is when people get purebred dogs when there are so many shelter dogs who need homes.
PT: Do you watch the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show?
SP: No. I don’t like it. I am not a fan of purebred dogs. A lot of them are genetically bred for certain characteristics that cause a lot of business for veterinarians when you have to fix nasal folds. People love that little smooshed nose in pug dogs so they try and make it more smooshed. And then their eyes bug out. People think that’s cute.
PT: What do you find cute in dogs?
SP: I like little dogs, like toy fox terriers. I like the ears, expressive eyes. I like a dog that pays attention to you. They watch your face. They watch your eyes. Different dogs have different attention spans. There are some dogs that actually try and figure out what it is you are saying.
PT: What makes you a good vet?
SP: I care very much, and I can understand how attached people are to animals. And I don’t give up. Some vets don’t want to have an emotional attachment to their patients, but you have to be a little detached. Let’s face it, none of us are going to get out of here alive including the animals. I will do my best and try and try. If I give up, then it’s time to give up.
PT: Do you get away on vacation much?
SP: Not nearly enough. We’ll do little vacations like whale watching this year. Our clients think the world will end if we close our hospital. We talk about retiring and they gasp.
PT: What else are you passionate about?
SP: I love cooking. I love having dinner parties. I mean that’s one reason I started the restaurant. We had it for over 10 years. I did all the desserts, the sauces. My mother was a good Italian cook. But I learned French cooking from watching Julia Child.
PT: What would a perfect world be for you?
SP: An animal in every home. That would make me happy. Several animals in every home because people don’t realize what they are missing.
PT: What have I been missing?
SP: Unconditional love. They’re always glad to see you. You don’t have to buy them expensive sneakers, plus if you drop food on the floor they’ll eat it. And they keep people going. They rely on us. They give you exercise. When diabetics get out and walk the dog, their blood sugar will drop. There are so many reasons to have an animal. They’re chick magnets.
PT: Is there anything else you’d like to say?
SP: Pit bulls are sweet dogs. We keep them for quite a long time at the shelter trying to find a home for them. One of the programs we have at the shelter is a program called Dog T.A.G.S. It helps veterans who are suffering from post traumatic stress disorder. They work with pit bulls who are a little cage crazy. It benefits the dogs and the veterans.