The Coastal Star

Paws Up for Pets: Good vets like good word of mouth

The late Ken Simmons' love of animals made it easy for him to put pets at ease. Coastal Star 2013 file photo

By Arden Moore

I confess. I do have health insurance, but do not have a personal physician. I know, I know. I need to get a physical exam once a year.

But I do have a strong connection with the “physician” for my four-legged family members. In fact, Bujeau, Mikey, Kona, Casey,

Cleo and Mort regularly go to the veterinary clinic for wellness exams, vaccinations, flea and tick preventives and the occasional illness or injury. My pets range in age from 4 to 17 years old.

I am betting I am not alone in booking more appointments for my pets in a calendar year than for myself. Agree?

Because our pets can’t talk to tell veterinarians what’s bothering them medically or emotionally, it is up to us as pet parents to do our homework and find a veterinarian and staff to whom we can relate and feel comfortable that our pets are receiving the best possible care.

I bring this up because when I lived in the Lantana and Lake Worth area for nine years, my go-to veterinarian was the remarkable Ken Simmons, who owned and operated Simmons Veterinary Hospital in Greenacres.

Tragically, he and his wife, Alice, and their golden retrievers, Lily and Bailey, were aboard the private plane he piloted that crashed into the Atlantic Ocean on Feb. 1. Despite intense search efforts, the plane had yet to be found nearly a month later. (See the tribute to Ken and Alice Simmons on Page 1.)

Even though I am barely 5-foot-2 and Dr. Simmons towered over me at 6-foot-8, I never felt intimidated or overwhelmed by him. He patiently addressed my questions, educated me on what was happening to my then cats, Callie, Little Guy and Murphy, and always seemed to find a way to make them purr and feel comfortable during their examinations.

I felt lucky to have found a great veterinarian in him.

Today, my veterinarian answers to the name of Debora Charles. Like Simmons, she has a way of explaining medical terms easily and putting my pets at ease. And, as a bonus, whenever I walk into the front door of the Casa Linda Animal Clinic, even her staffers at the front door greet me and my pets by name.

Now, there are oodles of designated days, weeks and months to salute various people and causes, such as National Beer Day, Polar Bear Plunge Day, Fruitcake Toss Day, Clean Off Your Desk Day and even Wear Pajamas to Work Day.

But until recently, there were no nationally known days to honor veterinarians. Patricia McConnell, a renowned expert in animal behavior and an adjunct associate professor in zoology, simply declared Thank Your Veterinarian Day on April 9, 2018. I sincerely hope this holiday gains attention.

Marty Becker, DVM, best known as America’s Family Veterinarian, applauds her efforts. He is a best-selling author who helped launch the fast-growing Fear Free Pet movement designed to give veterinarians, other pet professionals and pet parents the skills and knowledge to handle pets in ways to reduce fear, anxiety and stress. (Learn more at fearfreepets.com.)

“Veterinarians are pet lovers just like you,” says Becker, who personally has cats, dogs and horses at his home in Bonners Ferry, Idaho. “Veterinary medicine is an extremely challenging profession, and we certainly do not choose this medical profession for the money. The hours are long, the pay is low, the stress is high. Most MDs now focus on one organ, whereas veterinarians must know internal medicine, surgery, radiology, pharmacy, behavior and pediatrics to geriatrics.”

McConnell and Becker offer these ideas to officially thank your veterinarian:

• Send money to a veterinary clinic to be used for a client who cannot afford to pay for a procedure.

• Bring in cookies to the veterinary staff about 3 p.m. in the middle of the week.

• Write a positive review of your experience online.

• Write and mail a greeting card to the veterinary staff when your dog aced his wellness exam or your cat remained calm while getting vaccinations.

• Refer the veterinarian to your friends and colleagues who have pets, using face-to-face conversations. Word-of-mouth referrals are still powerful in this age of tweets and Facebook posts. Rob Martin, DVM, who practices at the Colonial Animal Hospital in Boynton Beach, is a fan of the final idea listed. He has been a veterinarian for three decades and at the end of the workday, he enjoys coming home to what he describes playfully as “an army of dogs and cats.”

“The most important way to find a veterinarian is to find a referral from someone you trust,” says Martin. “A lot of reviews on Yelp or Google are hurtful or not accurate. Seek referrals from people who have a good relationship of say four or five years or more with a veterinarian. A veterinarian they believe does right for them and for your pets.”

I am thinking about getting a T-shirt or bumper sticker that reads: Paws up to veterinarians!

Arden Moore, founder of FourLeggedLife.com, is an animal behavior consultant, author, speaker and master certified pet first-aid instructor. She hosts the Oh Behave! show on PetLifeRadio.com. Learn more by visiting ardenmoore.com.

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