Every time I take my dog for a walk in the neighborhood, I can’t help but notice the Bethany Family Pet Clinic. My dog seems to feel the same way too – as soon as we get within a hundred feet of the building, my dog raises his nose, and starts to sniff the air. In just a matter of seconds, my dog starts barking, and drags me all the way to the front door of the clinic, eager to walk through its doors once more.
The Bethany Family Pet Clinic opened in the summer of 1998 in Portland, Oregon to “provide quality veterinary care” (Bethany Family Pet Clinic). It is a full service companion animal hospital in the Bethany Village Center, serving animal owners in the Bethany area six days a week Monday through Saturday from 7 a.m. in the morning to 9 p.m. at night. Started by veterinarians Mark Norman and Bob Merrill, the clinic has grown into a popular neighborhood pet clinic with a great reputation. According to one pet owner named Sarah, the clinic is “the best she has ever been to.” With 2,896 square feet of space, the clinic “provides services and facilities that are designed to assist in preventative care for pets”. Its main focuses are in early detection and treatment of disease, and complete medical, dental, and surgical care (Bethany Family Pet Clinic). The goal of the clinic is “to practice the highest quality of medicine and surgery with compassion and an emphasis on client education” (Bethany Family Pet Clinic).
The Bethany Family Pet Clinic is located right in the middle of Bethany, a large suburban area near Beaverton. The entire area is one of those common shopping plazas, filled with many grocery stores, a dance club, a Taekwondo gym, a library, and even an athletic club. The pet clinic is a corner building, with a concrete and brick exterior lined with glass panels. The front of the building reads “Bethany Family Pet Clinic” in red lights with a small graphic of a dog right beside it. At seven o’clock on a Monday morning, I walked to the pet clinic, except this time, without my dog. There were many cars parked in the parking lot, with many dog owners unloading their dogs. I could see golden retrievers, Labrador retrievers, and even a poodle.
The interior of the pet clinic was quite spacious. Four wooden waiting benches lined the front wall, with owners sitting on them, and their dogs anxiously waiting. The floor consisted of tiles, and the walls were full of animal artwork. On the right hand side of the reception area, there were many bags of dog food, cat food, dog treats, dog toys, and dog supplements. A show about dogs was running on a small TV in the top left corner of the room. A weighing scale lay on the ground, long and wide in order to fit dogs of all sizes. Workers wearing grey scrubs were walking back and forth between the front desk and several of the back rooms. The whole building was full of action. A ginger-colored cat sat on the front desk, curiously watching all of the different dogs walking through the front door with their owners. Some dogs were so excited that they couldn’t manage to keep themselves still. In front of me was a black lab that kept slipping on the floor and moving side to side impatiently. When Dr. Mark Norman came to the waiting area, the black lab eagerly wagged his tail, and it took him what seemed like an eternity to reach the veterinarian because of his constant slipping.
Dr. Norman is around five feet eight inches tall, has brown hair neither too short nor too long, and has a square face, always with a wide smile. “Mondays are my busiest days. It’s the first day of the week, and since we’re closed on Sundays, many people bring their dogs first thing in the morning before they go off to work. Things can get quite hectic here!” (Interview with Norman). Dr. Norman graduated from a small high school in Keokuk, Iowa. He went on to the US Naval Academy, graduated in 1980, and served in the Navy for 11 years. In 1990, towards the end of the Cold War, he decided to attend graduate school at the Iowa State University College of Veterinary Medicine, and graduated in 1996. According to Dr. Norman, he made this decision simply because of his love for animals. As a child, he grew up on his family’s farm and regularly took care of cows, pigs, horses, dogs, and many other animals. After graduating, he moved to Portland and initially worked at a 24 hour emergency veterinary clinic as a veterinarian, before starting the Bethany Family Pet Clinic with the intent of providing service to a community lacking veterinary care. At the time, Bethany was a rapidly growing suburban area, and the nearest family pet clinic was in Beaverton. “It’s a really good location for us. It’s right in the center of a relatively new and large suburban area,” said Norman. Dr. Norman has to deal with many surgeries and appointments throughout the week; Saturdays and Sundays are the only days when he has free time. “Just a moment, please. It seems I spend half the day on the phone. That’s why I got one of these headsets so I can talk and work at the same time!” (Interview with Norman).
Outside of being a practicing veterinarian, Dr. Norman is an avid racquetball player and a bicyclist. He loves to spend time with his family as well. He has two daughters attending college and one son in middle school. Norman owns four pets, all of mixed breeds. He also takes care of several abandoned dogs. He is an active member of the American Veterinary Dental Society, the Portland Veterinary Medical Association (VMA), the Oregon VMA, the American VMA, and the American Animal Hospital Association. Dr. Norman is also the president of the Dove Lewis Emergency Animal Hospital, and is a board member of and veterinary advisor to Indigo Rescue, a non-profit organization whose mission is to end animal abandonment and pet overpopulation in our community. “The downward turn of our economy had a tremendous impact on the number of dogs that were being abandoned. Many people just ended up leaving their pets in their homes. It just saddens me to see so many companions left behind in their homes without anyone to care for them” (Interview with Norman).
While waiting for Dr. Norman to finish up an important phone call, Julie, one of the front desk workers, gave me a tour of the building. Julie has been working at the Bethany Family Pet Clinic for over four years (Interview with Julie G.). The busiest days at the Bethany Family Pet Clinic in terms of the number of people that come by are Mondays, Fridays, and Saturdays. Around 15 to 20 clients come on any given day. Her schedule varies based on the day of the week. On Mondays and Tuesdays, she works around eight to ten hours and sometimes more on other days. Julie’s job involves answering phone calls, scheduling appointments, taking messages for doctors, checking patients in, answering questions, and helping technicians with holding and carrying pets to the back room where testing and surgery is performed. She also owns a Blackmouth Cur, a mid-sized hunting and cattle dog known for its distinctive black colored mouth region. “I really love animals and the outdoors. Some weekends my husband and I take our dog for hiking. We always have an awesome time!” When I asked her why she likes her job, she stated that “any day where cute little puppies and kittens come in is a great day for me!”
The Bethany Family Pet Clinic has three exam rooms, one slightly bigger than the rest; a lab area for blood work and other analysis, with two compound light microscopes and glass slides. The clinic also has a pharmacy room with medications, a break area in a small corner, a laundry room, a paper records area, and an isolation room. Behind the surgery room, there is a kennel room to keep pets overnight, and a small doctor’s office with computers, calendars, and books on veterinary medicine. The clinic appears to be quite large, but in reality, there’s barely enough room; everything is squeezed in.
After the tour, Julie took me to the surgery room. Three dogs were restrained by leash and were tied to small loop holes protruding from a beam. I recognized the breed of one of the dogs pretty quickly. The dog had a dark brown coat mixed with light brown hair, certainly a Doberman Pinscher. Technical staff and veterinarians filled the room, walking back and forth and preparing for upcoming surgeries. Julie brought in another dog, a German shepherd, who was wearing an Elizabethan collar to prevent it from licking a region where surgery had been performed. Two parakeets were chirping in a cage kept in the corner of the room. One of the workers took the temperature of a border collie named Max at his rear end. Dr. Norman had finished talking to one of his clients, and he came through the doors into the surgery room, and began to explain to me what surgeries were planned for the day and how much preparation was needed for each surgery.
Max was to have a dental cleaning, followed by a mass removal. Norman told me that generally, when it comes to dogs, the smaller the dog is, the worse its dental issues are. Prior to the surgery, a worker drew blood from Max and began to analyze it. Another worker prepared the correct amount of anesthesia, and administered it to Max. While waiting for the anesthesia to kick in, I asked Dr. Norman about how long surgeries take in general. He said cat neuters can take as little as one minute, while knee and hip surgeries can take up to three or four hours (Interview with Norman). Once the anesthetic kicked in, Julie lifted Max onto a platform, and an assistant gave him a tracheal tube in order to provide needed oxygen. The technician also gave the dog some gas anesthesia, isoflurane, to ensure that the dog wouldn’t wake up in the middle of the dental cleaning. The assistant also monitored his blood pressure, heart rate, temperature and oxygenation levels in a display screen right above the end of the operating platform. The technician opened Max’s mouth, and his sharp yellow lines of teeth were now exposed. Another technician used water and a specialized brush to get between the dog’s teeth. As the dental cleaning neared its end, I began to see a difference in the dog’s teeth; they were becoming less and less yellow, and some substance was rubbing off of his teeth. After the dental cleaning was done, an x-ray was taken in order to inspect Max’s teeth. The cleaning procedure was no different from procedures done on humans.
Max was then taken to the surgery room, where he was to undergo a mass removal procedure. A large spherical mass protruded from Max’s chest. Another technician brought tweezers and scissors, and he gradually cut away the tumor. It took nearly 30 minutes, as he had to be as delicate as possible, not to touch any area other than the tumor. According to Dr. Norman, the tumors are either cremated or are taken to IDEXX laboratories in Portland for further testing (Interview with Norman).
“I perform surgeries on Mondays and Wednesdays, but there are always emergency situations where pets require unexpected surgeries. In general, around 3 to 5 surgeries are performed daily.” When I asked Dr. Norman what kinds of surgery interested him, he responded “any procedure that goes well interests me. As long as it’s successful, it really doesn’t matter to me how complicated it is, so I have no particular preference. From a business standpoint, surgery needs to be as cost-efficient as possible. There’s no point in giving a dog a surgery if it isn’t going to work in the first place” (Interview with Norman). Surgeries are always serious business, and they can be quite scary too. In the end, it comes down to the owner deciding what’s best for his companion.
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Historians are not sure when humans first started keeping animals as pets. Dogs were almost certainly among the first pets kept by humans. Dogs are essentially domesticated wolves initially used to aid with hunting. Although wolves in the real world are quite dangerous, through consistent interaction, cooperation, and sharing of food, humans and wolves slowly became great companions (Pet-History). As time went on, dogs were not only regarded for their hunting prowess, but also for their friendly and soothing nature that they can bring to families (Swabe). Slowly, as humans shifted from hunter-gatherer societies and began settling in villages and towns, dogs began to be used increasingly less for hunting.
During the middle ages, dog breeding became very popular in Europe. They were bred mainly for herding, guarding, hunting, and also appeal (Dunlop). Pets were generally limited to upper classes of society during this time. Many noble families kept dogs as “prized possessions as a means of differentiating themselves from the common people”. Dogs slowly made their way to the New World, when colonists brought them along in the long ship rides across the Atlantic Ocean. However, life was hard in the colonies, and it was hard to keep pets, as resources were scarce. Keeping dogs for pleasure rather than for food or work was possible only for the people who were well off and had the resources to keep them (Pets-History). A famous pet in the early 19th century was Seamen, owned by Meriwether Lewis. Seamen went along with Lewis and Clark on their expedition to the West Coast of the United States. As the US began to expand westward, and as large cities began to spring up, pets became very popular, especially with the rise of the middle class in the mid-1800s. The first pet food was introduced in England around 1860 (Pets-History). This was the first time in the US where people had the time and money to keep animals solely for companionship and pleasure.
Following World War I, canned dog food was introduced in the US. Pets slowly became commonplace; they became a part of daily life. They became popular especially after World War II, when suburban areas were created to house the families of men who served in the war. Dogs soon began to have an ever increasing effect on society. More and more families began having pets simply because of their kind, gentle, and soothing qualities. This change in lifestyle led to the usual activities of walking the dog, giving the dog a bath, and even going for a jog with the dog. Dogs now have many different duties, ranging from hunting and herding, protection, assisting police, transportation, companionship, and aiding handicapped individuals. One of the most famous guide dogs is a Labrador retriever named Roselle, who helped her blind master escape from the World Trade Center during the 9/11 terrorist attacks (Hingson). According to the Humane Society, approximately 39% of US households own at least one dog, with the total dog population numbering 78.2 million in 2011 (US Pet Ownership Statistics).
As a result of living in various climates, conditions, and different evolutionary paths, dogs can be found in all shapes, sizes, and colors. According to the American Kennel Club, there are a total of 175 distinct breeds that it recognizes, with Labrador retrievers being the most popular of all breeds (Dog Breeds). Each breed has its own characteristics and roles in our world. Huskies, for example, are known for pulling sleds in northern regions; they are working dogs. On the other hand, poodles are show dogs, and are mainly used in contests for their looks and appeal. Each breed also has its own set of medical issues and problems. For example, Labrador retrievers are known to grow obese if they aren’t given enough exercise, and are known to experience hip and leg problems.
As soon as animals and humans began interacting regularly, humans began helping and caring for animals (Whole Dog Journal). Ancient Egyptians and Indians cared for dogs, horses, and elephants. The first book about veterinary medicine was written in Latin in 500 AD. Cornell University was the first university to have a veterinary medicine program in the US, with Dr. Charles Law, who was trained in Scotland, as the first veterinary medicine professor (History of Veterinary Medicine). Gradually as pets became more and more common, neighborhood pet clinics became common as well. According to Dr. Norman, animal care has become almost as important as human care (Interview with Norman).
Animal care nowadays is very similar to the medical care that we receive. Weight, temperature, and many other measurements are recorded and tracked in dogs. They receive medication for seizures, eye infections, ear infections, and many other diseases such as arthritis. Dogs also have surgeries and therapies quite regularly (Canine Surgery).
Many of the surgical procedures that dogs receive range from removing tumors to Cranial Cruciate Ligament (CCL) surgery. New techniques for treating common diseases come up all the time. Most of the advancements in human surgery can be applied in dog surgery. CCL surgery is relatively new in dogs, and is quite successful. Recently, companies have started proposing stem cell therapy for dogs. Adult stem cells are harvested and can be used for treating liver disease, regular wounds, bone healing, and tendon repair (Pet Surgery Topics). However, a lot of drugs are not licensed for use in animals. Animal drugs go through rigorous studies, and must be approved by the FDA before they can be used commercially. A patent lasts for 17 years, and they are quite expensive, and the majority of drugs don’t make it to the market.
When we think about dogs, we usually see them as being animals that require medical attention and constant care. On the contrary, however, dogs have been shown to have a positive impact on their human masters. These dogs, called therapy dogs, are renowned for the comfort that they provide for those who are frightened and are in unpleasant conditions (Bogle). One dog named Bo regularly visited the wards of AIDS and cardiac care patients. Many of the patients, who were quite stressed out, were delighted to see Bo. In fact, some therapy dogs have actually managed to help patients, who were only given weeks to live, to hold out longer than predicted. The love that pets provide to humans is nearly unmatchable.
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Dr. Norman plans to continue being a practicing veterinarian. “I just love working with animals,” said Dr. Norman, “There’s nothing else I would be doing right now. I can see myself working for a good 15 more years!” The Bethany Family Pet Clinic is also in a stage of transition. “We are currently in the process of building a brand new clinic across the street, because the current one simply doesn’t have enough space anymore.” Pet clinics are also beginning to make the change to start keeping digital records, instead of paper records (Hottman). “Not a day has gone by in my career where I have not had an exciting experience. I just like helping people and their pets through difficult times. I’d say the worst moments are when I have to euthanize someone’s companion. My work can sometimes get tiring, but I am always seeing new faces and pets….each day brings a brand new challenge to solve! That’s why I love doing what I do! I don’t really mind the fact that my job can often times be difficult. In the end, I just want to take care of pets” (Interview with Norman).
My time at the Bethany Family Pet Clinic was very memorable and was beyond anything I had imagined. When I went in, I thought I would be at a typical quiet and boring clinic. To my surprise, I found much more. The pet clinic was a tightly knit community. It wasn’t all about the work – many of the workers were very good friends, all having their love for animals in common. I also found out about how much work and discipline it takes to be a veterinarian. Dr. Norman was not only knowledgeable; he also had a great personality. The work he does is inspiring – he has saved countless animals, and he helps take care of abandoned animals as well. He’s been running the clinic for nearly 14 years now, and he’s done a lot for the Bethany community.
I find it amazing that in just a few thousand years, wolves, some of the most ferocious and dangerous animals on our planet, evolved into the kind and caring dogs of the present. My black Labrador retriever, Vito, is one of the gentlest animals I’ve ever seen. Whenever I come home, I find myself being licked and jumped on. I don’t think there’s anything as kind and innocent as a dog – they are some of the most amazing creatures our world has to offer. A dog, without a doubt, will always be man’s best friend.
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