Sitting in the waiting room Thursday morning, the minutes crept by for Kat Schoettle.

It will be a long day, she said.

A dear loved one was undergoing a stem cell transplant.

I m a little nervous, said Schoettle.

The patient on the operating table was only 10 months old. His name: Ralph.

He's family, said Schoettle, with a sigh, wringing her hands.

Ralph has a degenerative condition in his leg. It's essentially rotting from the inside and would one day need to be amputated.

Ralph is also a pug.

Doctors at Bremerton's Compassionate Critter Care Veterinary Hospital are giving him a stem cell transplant, a procedure previously reserved for people.

Veterinary medicine is in a lot of ways catching up with human medicine, said Dr. Angela Lehman.

The procedure is simple and less invasive than many surgeries. Doctors pull fat from the pug's belly, and use it to create stem cells which are then injected into Ralph s leg, allowing the leg to rebuild itself.

Ralph s transplant was the first of its kind in Washington. The procedure is being used in dogs, cats and horses with degenerative disorders and osteoarthritis.

This can be a good option for things like inflammation, problems in the joints, said Dr. Lehman. This is where we're starting and we're looking to see what we can do in the future.

The cost for a transplant is $1,200 to $1,800. Doctors say they may actually prove less expensive than a standard surgery accompanied by years of medication, and it's done in one day.

Sports stars Tiger Woods and Bartolo Colon have undergone similar procedures to heal injuries.

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