Gallery: A typical Sunday at the Fresno Pet ER [3 Images] Click any image to expand.
A typical Sunday at the Fresno Pet ER
by Mike Scott
Welcome to a typical Sunday at the Fresno Pet ER, one of three emergency animal hospitals in the area open around the clock, seven days a week. It’s where people take their sick or injured pets when their regular vet office is closed. Nights and weekends are always extremely busy.
At least a dozen animals are in various stages of treatment and care. Veterinarian Dr. Kelly Weaver and four veterinary nurses (Selina, Meghan, Marissa and Dani) keep cool under the pressure, constantly deciding which cases need priority and which ones can wait just a little longer.
This is triage, animal style. The most critical patients get seen first.
Phones ring almost constantly. Frantic callers with sick pets need directions to the ER or inquire about prices. Buzzers go off, reminding staff that a certain pet is due for its meds. The nurses put on protective gear every time another pet needs an X-ray.
A large white board is continually updated with critical information. Someone runs to the front desk every time the doorbell rings, signaling the arrival of a new emergency case. Dogs need to be disconnected from their IV lines and walked outside quickly so they can relieve themselves. Dirty towels are loaded into the washer, and clean ones are taken out of the dryer and folded.
Everyone on the staff wishes she could get a moment of free time to eat, but the animals come first. (Pizza eventually gets delivered, only to be quickly devoured by the famished crew.)
In the space of an hour, a cute, fluffy puppy comes in suffering a severe reaction after swallowing a bee. A toy poodle having difficulty breathing is rushed in, possibly with a foxtail in its nose. A larger dog, obviously very sick, can’t control himself and makes a mess on the floor that is quickly cleaned up. A cat gets shaved and examined for a possible pellet wound.
Imagine these things happening all at once. It doesn’t even include the other animal patients admitted earlier. They are in various cages around the emergency room, hooked up to monitoring equipment and medication drips.
I’ve spent quite a bit of time at Fresno Pet ER in recent years. I was there when Fresno State’s first Victor E. Bulldog took his last breath after a battle with cancer.
I also watched for several days as the amazingly talented veterinarians tried their hardest to save Bones, a severely emaciated Catahoula dog found starving near Livingston. People from all over the Valley followed that dog’s story online and on TV, sending toys and get well cards to the ER and making donations to cover the expensive cost of his round-the-clock care.
And the ER is where I said goodbye to my precious Dalmatian, SamDog. After 13 years of a great life together, he let me know one night that it was time to go. I rushed him to the ER in the middle of the night. Within minutes, his pain was gone. The sweet staff that evening let me hold him as I cried and cried. I felt him relax in my arms for the last time after they gave him first one shot, then another, and I sadly knew I’d done the right thing. He would never suffer again.
But don't get the wrong idea; it's not all gloom and doom at the hospital. I’ve seen plenty of wonderful, uplifting, happy moments at the ER, too. Dogs reunited with their owners after a life-threatening crisis, and owners crying tears of joy when they realize their sick or injured pet will survive. Those things happen all the time and certainly make it easier for the staff to balance the rough times.
The two vets who own and operate the ER, Kelly Weaver and Chris Dobbins, are good at what they do. I feel fortunate to have seen them both in action many times, doing surgery after surgery, juggling other emergencies simultaneously, and calming anxious pet owners.
The insanely busy Sunday I’m writing about here brought Anthony Canales of Sanger through the door of the ER with his 5-month-old Jack Russell Terrier, Remington. Canales suspected his four-legged friend had picked up parvo, a highly contagious disease that’s widespread in the Central Valley. He was well aware that parvo treatments can be expensive, sometimes running into the thousands of dollars. But he was ready.
“I’d pay whatever I have to pay to take care of him,” Canales said. “He’s my best friend and goes with me everywhere.”
Canales is getting married later this year and he had to spend some of the money he was saving up for the ceremony to pay for Remington’s hospital stay.
“He’s family,” Canales explained. “He can’t take himself to the hospital, so I have to.”
Will Remington be a part of the upcoming wedding? “More than likely!”
People sometimes complain about how long they have to wait in the front office or gripe about the cost of the emergency care. Trust me: It takes a lot of money to keep an ER vet and several nurses on duty 24-hours-a-day. And those long waits for treatment? If you could see through the hospital doors into the treatment areas, you’d understand that the most critical cases are being seen first. Your animal’s minor cut, or sore leg or vomiting will get treated as soon as possible.
The folks at Fresno Pet ER do the best they can, typically under high-stress, demanding conditions that pet parents can’t begin to understand. For all the challenges, there are always reminders that the work they do is important and worthwhile, Kelley Weaver says.
“Sometimes it’s hard to remember why we do what we do, especially after a long or difficult shift, or after missing holidays with friends and family,” the vet said. “But when those times hit, there always seems to be a fur-kid with big, kind eyes that looks up and gives you a big, wet kiss that reminds you where True North is on the compass.”