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