Unlike most vet clinics, the Willamette Veterinary Clinic never closes its doors. It stays open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and the vets on staff are prepared to care for animals in any emergency at any time. With such a demanding job that makes life or death differences in the lives of pets (and people for that matter), the life of an emergency veterinarian is an intriguing one. Tagging along with Dr. Daniel Lewer, D.V.M. during part of his night shift at the clinic helped to illuminate exactly what goes into such a demanding and important job.
Having received his undergraduate degree in Marine Biology, Dr. Lewer began his career by studying whales in remote locations, including the Bering Sea and the Sea of Cortez. He started vet school in 2004 and graduated with his DVM in 2008, getting his first gig as a vet in Newport, where he worked with not only both large and small animals, but marine mammals, birds and fish at the Oregon Coast Aquarium. In 2013 he relocated to Corvallis, and began working as an emergency vet.
When I first met Dr. Lewer, he was working on some paperwork for a patient that he had seen during his previous shift. The clinic itself is a very welcoming and professional environment. Walking through the doors, one is met by the smiles of staff members who are genuinely eager to help. A tour of the facility revealed it to be far from your ordinary vet clinic; one example being the two apartments for the overnight workers to stay in while they are on long shifts. The domiciles come complete with beds, a chair and a television, plus a mini fridge (who doesn’t love those?). Upstairs is a fitness area, conference room, kitchen, and even a small balcony for those much needed moments of rest. The clinic also has a large shared office where the staff can work on paperwork or communicate with other veterinarians.
In the treatment area one can witness first hand the team operating on patients whose injuries are all over the spectrum. A dog whose foot has not healed properly from surgery, a cat recovering from getting hit by a car, and another dog that ate sugar free gum. Normally one wouldn’t bring their dog in for an extreme case of fresh breath, but the gum has a compound in it which causes a severe drop in blood sugar in animals. And these are only a small sampling of the diverse set of cases an emergency vet will see.
“An ER vet has to be ready to go into one room where a kitty has a broken toenail, to the very next room with a Great Dane dying of a twisted stomach… and you have to head into surgery within five minutes. Or do multiple blood transfusions because a dog comes in hit by a car and has lost a lot of blood. Significantly different than when I was a day practitioner, where you had chances to work through cases and things like that. Now you have to be ready to go at a moment’s notice,” says Dr. Lewer about the hectic nature of the job.
But this diversity is not always a bad thing; in fact it’s something he has come to love about the job.
“What I love is that you always have to be on your toes, there’s no monotony to it. The other day I had a hamster, then a pug with proptosis, I had to do a blood transfusion on a dog that had been hit by a car. And then I walk into the very next room and have an ear infection that I have to treat… I like that diversity,” he elaborates.
The life of an emergency vet is never boring; they’re always kept busy. If one stands in the entrance, the emergencies just keep piling up in front of you. Watching the thorough work they do at a breakneck pace is nothing short of inspiring. Speed and quality aren’t often the best of partners, but the staff here pull it off on a daily (and nightly) basis.
One can tell that the employees really care about the animals they work on. Listening to them reassure the animals and watching them interact with each other really brings home how much they must love their job to be this efficient and successful at it. Love of the job is one of the things, aside from making crucial decisions in a flash, that Dr. Lewer has absolutely no hesitance about. It may be hard and often thankless work, but that doesn’t make the professionals at Willamette Veterinary Clinic blink.
The next time your dog or cat, bird, reptile, or duck-billed platypus needs some TLC in the middle of the night, it’s great to know that experts are ready and waiting to make your furry, feathered, or scaly friend feel much better.
by Kyra Young