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Monday, December 28, 2015

Have a Little Faith




We've been open a little over a year (5 quarters to be exact) and we have performed 2622 surgeries.  Not a bad start at all, although we wouldn't mind doubling that number for the next 5 quarters.  It was no surprised that we got more holiday cards this December than last- but the picture above is our favorite.

The St. Bernard on the right is aptly named Faith.  We met her at the end of last May.  She and her family sat in our waiting room after a long night  while Dr. Potter and I had a tough discussion with them.  Faith had been diagnosed with a pyometra at the local veterinarian's office.  This is a life threatening uterine infection.  If not addressed quickly, it can lead to sepsis, organ failure and death.  As a spay clinic, we are quite equipped to handle this surgery, and do so regularly for our clients.  Faith, however, was a special case.  She was 11 years old, which is ancient by St. Bernard standards.  On top of that, she was already clinically ill- she was pale, shocky, and too weak to stand.

Dr. Potter and I wrestled with whether she was a good surgical candidate or not.  We sat down with her owners and explained the serious risks- Faith could already be beyond our help surgically.  Even if we managed to catch it in time, we were still concerned about the significant anesthetic risk in a giant breed of her age.  Her family understood, and were willing to take these risks if we were.  They reasoned that her name is Faith, and that we all needed to have some.

After some IV fluids and antibiotics, we anesthetized her and performed the surgery.  Everything went as planned, and her recovery was slow but smooth.  Her family then took her and transferred her to an emergency facility for additional fluids and pain management.

When Faith arrived for staple removal 10 days later, she was a new lady- swaggering into our clinic on her arthritic hips, wagging that gorgeous tail without a care in the world.  She met us all with kisses and paw giving, and left with her share of cookies in her belly for being excellent for her staple removal.

Seven months later, we get this holiday card from her family, who were very happy to have her home for another holiday.  It was heartwarming to hear how well she is still doing.

Sometimes as veterinarians we have difficult cases.  They won't always work out, but whenever I feel a little cynical, I remember Faith, and my optimism is instantly restored.

From our family to Faith's, thank you for reminding us to always look for the good.  And from our family to yours, have a happy holiday season.   Each day is a gift.

Dr. H

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Indoor Rowing and Small Business Ownership

What does indoor rowing have to do with small business ownership?  Most of the time nothing, but for The Spay & Neuter Center of New Jersey something.

In a scramble to prepare for our grand opening back in October, while my partner and I were neck deep in conducting inventory and planning our orders, we realized we were in need of one big ticket item- bedding for our patients.  And lots of it.  My partner was ready to spend our future hard earned money on a trip to the thrift shop.  I placed my hand on her shoulder and said, "Don't worry.  I got this."  Why?  because I know Staten Islanders love animals.  and I know the Staten Islanders who go to Staten Island Crossfit are the best of them.  At my request, avid dog lovers and coaches Dan and Marc were kind enough to make their gym a temporary bedding depot for me to pick up some donations.  Everyone came through for me.  A special thanks goes to Paul, Doug, Rebecca, and Jake  for their extra effort.

The big shout out, however, goes to my friend Carrianne.  She has something like 18 jobs, is an awesome mom and pet owner, and a kick-ass workout partner.  She is also a bit of a sadist.  So when I said I would row 100 meters for every piece of bedding I collected, (and she knows how much I hate rowing) the game was on.  I don't remember her exact wording but something to the effect that I would wish I was dead when she was done with me.

Carrieanne rallied her awesome animal loving coworkers (people who save lives for a living- she's an EMT).  By the time I was done collecting I had 38 pieces of bedding.  I could have taken more, but we lacked space to store it!  I told her double or nothing for comforters, of which I had 3.  So that's 4100 meters.  Who rows 4100m?  Losers, that's who.  So it was on my to do list to do a 5k row.  At the bottom somewhere.  Dr. Potter will also vouch for the fact that I have lots of to do lists, too.  I could have easily misplaced the post-it I had this particular task written on.  I mean rowing is for people who don't run, right?

In all honesty, I was battling elbow tendinitis, fatigue (running a small business can do that), then training for a couple of races.  Every time I walked past my rower, I managed to find something else to store on it.  A jacket, a book, a child...anything to avoid sitting on it.  But that 5k was in the back of my mind.  An albatross.  I kept telling Carrianne that I owe her.  I knew she is not one to forget, and I knew, eventually, she would find me.

Finally, this Sunday afternoon, 8 months after I made a promise, I had nothing better to do because I can't run (I hurt my leg running-awesome job, Dr. H!).   I decided to make it happen.  It wasn't pretty, but like a Lannister, I pay my debts.  I didn't videotape it, because that would be really boring and embarrassing to watch.  But it did happen and I have the sweat angel to prove it.

So Carrianne, Staten Island Crossfit, and the 1158 dogs cats and rabbits to date that have comfy bedding to recover on:  this one is for you. And let me reiterate-I hate rowing.  -Dr. H



Thursday, February 26, 2015

Pet Expo Hhmms and Haaahhs











A couple of weeks ago, our new business set up a booth at The Super Pet Expo in Edison, NJ.  It was a much bigger deal than any of us could have imagined and it was amazing.  The amazing part happened after a little bit of drama involving a dead car battery, a banner that wouldn't hang straight, and unlocking the secrets of the expo hall's hidden wifi network-but that is another blog entry in itself.

The entire weekend we spoke with people all day- and it was encouraging to be around so many like-minded rescue groups, veterinarians, animal lovers, and pet owners.  We met hundreds of kind people and got to meet their wonderful dogs.  And one snake.  And a monkey.

The point of us going there was to connect with people and get our names out there- google us and you'll find us, but some people weren't really looking but happened to stumble upon our booth.

The end result of this exciting weekend was education.  Yes, we booked a few appointments for new clients who have since walked into our clinic and trusted us to spay or neuter their pets.  But the intrinsic value was far greater- reaching out to people who were brave enough to ask us why we do what we do, and why it's important.  We had the opportunity to dispel some common arguments- here are a couple...

1.  My children need to understand the miracle of life.  While I agree watching little puppies and kittens grow  is wonderful, there are plenty of movies and books on the subject.  And there are no long term responsibilities associated with it and you get more sleep.
2.  We need to get one litter just to make a little money before she has the surgery.  Yes you can sell puppies.  But you might not get what you want for them.  Is your breed registered?  Have they had the appropriate (and ethical) veterinary screenings to make sure there are no genetic problems?  How much do you realistically think you will get for your puppies?  Will it offset the cost of feeding the mom and pups, vaccinating and deworming them, and giving them appropriate medical care if mom or puppies gets sick?  Although you can sell them, they are still living things, which require a much greater commitment than selling food or clothing.   Very few people make money on breeding animals.  Most in fact, lose money.  Financials aside, if you go down that road, and have puppies, who are you selling them to?  Will they be a loving pet owner?  Will they give the pet the care it deserves?  Are they going to spay and neuter the puppy?  Are you going to spay your dog after just one litter?  If the 2 latter things don't happen, you have further contributed to the pet overpopulation problem.
3.  My dog needs to sire one litter because if not he will go crazy.  We actually heard this one a lot over the weekend.  To be honest, I hadn't heard this one before so I wasn't even sure how to respond.  I don't know where this came from, but let's be clear.  Dogs and cats are not people.  They are lovely, and they have emotions and they do think things through in terms of conditioned responses.  But they don't think about what "could have been" like we do.  Their life of celibacy will not weigh them down and have a bearing on their personality.  It will give them more time to focus on bonding with you as a pet owner.
4.  My pet will get fat.  Maybe, but let's not pretend that obesity is a problem of spayed and neutered pets.  It is a problem in all pets.  It's one of the number one health problems that veterinarians deal with.  And the reasons for it mirror the reasons people are too fat-they eat too much and they don't exercise enough.  If you pet is fat, cut back the food.  Exercise them more.  See results.  This requires discipline, I know (just like in people).  But the concept couldn't be simpler.

I'm sure we heard more, but these are the ones that stood out.  Myths dispelled.  We are here to help you and your pets, and to help the community one surgery at a time.  So what are you waiting for?

Dr. H


Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Resolutions




With New Year fast approaching, we all often fall into the trap of making resolutions.  Sometimes we dream big, sometimes we set smaller short term goals, and sometimes we do a bit of both.  It occurred to me that every year my resolutions fall under the same general categories-

1.  how to be better to my family and friends (listen more, be more patient, keep in touch better...)
2.  how to treat myself better (more organic food, meditation, sleep, exercise, reading a good book...)
3.  how to be better in my profession (take more continuing education, hone communication skills, client education...)

And that is pretty much where it ends.  I set small goals in each category (read a book every night to the kids, take 5 cleansing breaths every morning, create a more comprehensive set of surgery discharge instructions for my patients...)  so at the end of the year, I know I've made small changes that improved myself and helped reach my goals.  Then I realized something-not once have my pets made the cut.

I have never once resolved to be a better pet owner.  All of a sudden I am very disappointed with myself.  It's as if being a veterinarian has given me a free pass.  I'm a vet, so of course I'm a wonderful pet owner.  Guess what?  I'm far from it.  Veterinarians are actually notoriously bad pet owners.  We spend all day caring for other people's pets.  And then we come home to everything else life throws at us.  And unless there is dog vomit on the floor or the cat has chosen not to use the litter box, we are also sometimes guilty of giving them a quick pat on the back, a bowl of food, then moving on with our busy lives.

Don't get me wrong- my pets have it good.  They are up to date on their immunizations and geriatric blood work.  They are within a healthy body weight (give or take 10% of their mass-it's winter, people!).  My lovely cat Ricky sits on me whenever he wants...I stay up late sometimes at night watching TV so he doesn't have to get up.  My other cat Zoe, who is a bit of a nightmare behaviorally, has the outdoors at her feet by day (with her own kitty door) and free run of the house at night.  My pets have it good.  But I never once thought about how I can make their lives even better.

We all strive to be better spouses, moms, dads, daughters, sons, and friends...how about we resolve to be better pet owners too?  It could be getting your pet to a healthier weight, or taking her in to check out a lump that you've been ignoring.   It could be getting her spayed (subliminal marketing). It could be playing more with her or taking her for an extra walk.  A little change can make a big difference to your companion's life.  And if your pet is happier, you will be too.

So this year, I resolve to be a better pet owner.  Ricky and Zoe:  I promise to replace your cardboard cat scratchers once they look worn down, instead of after they have collected dust for 3 months.  I will even throw in a catnip refill for your enjoyment.

Happy New Year and we look forward to a bright 2015 together!

Dr. Hancock

Friday, December 12, 2014

The Life of a Tech

Being a veterinary technician is an extremely rewarding but challenging labor of love.  I never really planned on doing this as my chosen profession, I happened to just naturally fall into it.  As a child I always loved animals, especially my first dog, a super affectionate Collie/Shepherd mix named Princess Pup Pup.  As a teenager, I began volunteering my time with an animal rescue organization and became actively involved in rescuing and rehabilitating homeless animals.


When I eventually got my first job at a veterinary hospital I had no idea I was in for such an exciting experience!  Dealing with life, death, and everything in between was fascinating and I couldn’t wait to learn and do more!  Vet techs perform a wide variety of duties and we perform some of the same duties as nurses, anesthetists, radiology technicians, dental hygienists, laboratory technicians, pharmacists, surgical assistants, and janitors!  Even with all of that responsibility, almost every technician I know loves their job even when it gets difficult.


In the past 9 years I have worked in general practice, emergency and referral, management, and now at The Spay and Neuter Center of New Jersey!  I can't express how happy I am to be working for such a wonderful clinic that is providing such an important service for a cause that is so near to my heart.  Over 3 million pets are euthanized each year in shelters across the US.  Many of these pets are healthy and well-tempered, however, there are simply too many of them to find loving homes for them all.  The first step in solving this heartbreaking problem is spay and neuter!  By preventing litters we can decrease the number of animals that enter the overcrowded shelter system and prevent unneeded suffering and euthanasia of loving pets.  It’s my hope that we can make a difference in the lives of people and animals.

Stephanie Mulligan, Certified Veterinary Technician

Thursday, November 20, 2014

The Mission






Every business is meant to have a mission statement.  It's in business planning 101.  But now that we have opened and the ball is rolling, I thought it would be a great time to really evaluate the mission of our business. Is it accurate?  Does it reflect what we are really trying to do?  Are we being true to it?

Our mission is to provide a high quality low cost service to the community, namely spay and neuter.  Simple enough.  That's our mission.  That is what we are doing.  But to fully understand the mission, we need to get into the how and the why- anyone can come up with a what, but the how and the why are the meat and bones of it.

How can we do this?  How can we give the same quality and charge less?  We have been asked this question numerous times by other veterinarians and clients alike.  It's quite simple- repetition leads to efficiency and perfection.  When you do one specific thing (spay and neuter surgery) for as long as my partner and I have, and you hire a staff that has been involved in this one thing (operating a spay/neuter clinic) for as long as they have, you end up with a clinic that moves fluidly in all aspects of our day- from the paperwork and admissions, to the animal care, to sending every pet home to their family safely at the end of the day.  When you have a staff with that much experience, we know what works best- from scheduling and software, to anesthetics and surgical techniques.   When you dedicate yourself to one thing (spaying and neutering) you take the other overhead (xray/ultrasound/in house labs etc) out of the equation, this allows you to charge more competitively for your services.  It's simple economics.   With experience comes efficiency and perfection.

Now the really nitty gritty stuff...the why.  Why do we do what we do?  To make money?  Because animals are cute and cuddly?  Well... yes, and yes.  We all need money to live and to eat, and if you are in animal care of course you think animals are cute.  The real why?  Millions of animals are euthanized every year in the United States.  Countless cats are dumped into feral colonies, and thousands of pets are surrendered to shelters everyday.  These shelters are already inundated with homeless animals.  If more people spayed and neutered their pets, less animals would die in shelters.  Spay and neuter needs to be on the front lines of the battle to curb pet overpopulation.  Spay and neuter services should be accessible to everyone.  Spay and neuter services should be convenient and affordable.  And spay and neuter services should always be high quality.  That's the why.  Also, animals are cute and cuddly.

We are truly happy to finally be open and offer our services to you.

We hope to see you soon!

Dr. Hancock