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Summer Nights

Summer nights: Veterinary hospital burns candle at both ends for animals in need

  • From left: Certified veterinary technicians Angela LaFave of Concord and Ellen Taylor of Sanbornton administer an IV to an unnamed stray dog in the Capital Area Veterinary Emergency Service in Concord on Thursday night, July 18, 2013. The dog was brought to the center after being hit by a car. <br/><br/>(TAEHOON KIM / monitor staff)

    From left: Certified veterinary technicians Angela LaFave of Concord and Ellen Taylor of Sanbornton administer an IV to an unnamed stray dog in the Capital Area Veterinary Emergency Service in Concord on Thursday night, July 18, 2013. The dog was brought to the center after being hit by a car.

    (TAEHOON KIM / monitor staff)

  • Jerry and Anne Eaton, of Concord, cry and hold each other after saying goodbye to their cat, Gizmo, in the grieving room of the Capital Area Veterinary Emergency Service in Concord on Thursday night, July 18, 2013. The Eatons brought Gizmo to the center because of the cat's chronic kidney issues. Although the couple was hopeful they would be able to take Gizmo home that night, the staff determined it would be too difficult to medicate the cat to prolong its life. As Gizmo was taken away to be euthanized, the Eatons called the cat "a retriever" who liked to retrieve pens as a game. <br/><br/>(TAEHOON KIM / monitor staff)

    Jerry and Anne Eaton, of Concord, cry and hold each other after saying goodbye to their cat, Gizmo, in the grieving room of the Capital Area Veterinary Emergency Service in Concord on Thursday night, July 18, 2013. The Eatons brought Gizmo to the center because of the cat's chronic kidney issues. Although the couple was hopeful they would be able to take Gizmo home that night, the staff determined it would be too difficult to medicate the cat to prolong its life. As Gizmo was taken away to be euthanized, the Eatons called the cat "a retriever" who liked to retrieve pens as a game.

    (TAEHOON KIM / monitor staff)

  • Certified veterinary technician Ellen Taylor, of Sanbornton, whispers and calms Gizmo as the cat is prepared to be euthanized at the Capital Area Veterinary Service in Concord on Thursday night, July 18, 2013. Gizmo, cat of Jerry and Anne Eaton of Concord, was brought in due to chronic kidney issues. The technicians placed a muzzle over Gizmo's face to prevent bites. Taylor has been a technician for 14 years. "I always cry at euthanizations," she said. <br/><br/>(TAEHOON KIM / monitor staff)

    Certified veterinary technician Ellen Taylor, of Sanbornton, whispers and calms Gizmo as the cat is prepared to be euthanized at the Capital Area Veterinary Service in Concord on Thursday night, July 18, 2013. Gizmo, cat of Jerry and Anne Eaton of Concord, was brought in due to chronic kidney issues. The technicians placed a muzzle over Gizmo's face to prevent bites. Taylor has been a technician for 14 years. "I always cry at euthanizations," she said.

    (TAEHOON KIM / monitor staff)

  • Certified veterinary technicians Ellen Taylor (left) of Sanbornton and Angela LaFave of Concord perform an X-ray on Gizmo the cat at the Capital Area Veterinary Service in Concord on Thursday night, July 18, 2013. Gizmo, cat of Jerry and Anne Eaton of Concord, was brought in due to chronic kidney issues and was euthanized later in the night.  <br/><br/>(TAEHOON KIM / monitor staff)

    Certified veterinary technicians Ellen Taylor (left) of Sanbornton and Angela LaFave of Concord perform an X-ray on Gizmo the cat at the Capital Area Veterinary Service in Concord on Thursday night, July 18, 2013. Gizmo, cat of Jerry and Anne Eaton of Concord, was brought in due to chronic kidney issues and was euthanized later in the night.

    (TAEHOON KIM / monitor staff)

  • Tugboat the cat peeks over a computer in the Capital Area Veterinary Emergency Service in Concord on Thursday night, July 18, 2013. Stray cats, after being treated, roam the center until they find a new home. <br/><br/>(TAEHOON KIM / monitor staff)

    Tugboat the cat peeks over a computer in the Capital Area Veterinary Emergency Service in Concord on Thursday night, July 18, 2013. Stray cats, after being treated, roam the center until they find a new home.

    (TAEHOON KIM / monitor staff)

  • From left: Certified veterinary technicians Angela LaFave of Concord and Ellen Taylor of Sanbornton administer an IV to an unnamed stray dog in the Capital Area Veterinary Emergency Service in Concord on Thursday night, July 18, 2013. The dog was brought to the center after being hit by a car. <br/><br/>(TAEHOON KIM / monitor staff)
  • Jerry and Anne Eaton, of Concord, cry and hold each other after saying goodbye to their cat, Gizmo, in the grieving room of the Capital Area Veterinary Emergency Service in Concord on Thursday night, July 18, 2013. The Eatons brought Gizmo to the center because of the cat's chronic kidney issues. Although the couple was hopeful they would be able to take Gizmo home that night, the staff determined it would be too difficult to medicate the cat to prolong its life. As Gizmo was taken away to be euthanized, the Eatons called the cat "a retriever" who liked to retrieve pens as a game. <br/><br/>(TAEHOON KIM / monitor staff)
  • Certified veterinary technician Ellen Taylor, of Sanbornton, whispers and calms Gizmo as the cat is prepared to be euthanized at the Capital Area Veterinary Service in Concord on Thursday night, July 18, 2013. Gizmo, cat of Jerry and Anne Eaton of Concord, was brought in due to chronic kidney issues. The technicians placed a muzzle over Gizmo's face to prevent bites. Taylor has been a technician for 14 years. "I always cry at euthanizations," she said. <br/><br/>(TAEHOON KIM / monitor staff)
  • Certified veterinary technicians Ellen Taylor (left) of Sanbornton and Angela LaFave of Concord perform an X-ray on Gizmo the cat at the Capital Area Veterinary Service in Concord on Thursday night, July 18, 2013. Gizmo, cat of Jerry and Anne Eaton of Concord, was brought in due to chronic kidney issues and was euthanized later in the night.  <br/><br/>(TAEHOON KIM / monitor staff)
  • Tugboat the cat peeks over a computer in the Capital Area Veterinary Emergency Service in Concord on Thursday night, July 18, 2013. Stray cats, after being treated, roam the center until they find a new home. <br/><br/>(TAEHOON KIM / monitor staff)

At 10:30 p.m., most pets and their owners are settling in for the night. But for those working at Capital Area Veterinary Emergency Service, their night has just begun.

At that hour last Monday, the phone rang at the 24-hour vet hospital. Megan Myers, a veterinary technician assistant from Auburn, answered. It was a dog owner with a vomiting golden retriever.

As Myers asked the owner whether the retriever’s diet had changed recently, a pump delivering fluids to one of the six animal patients began to beep. Monique LaPointe, a certified veterinary technician, looked around the cages in the room, trying to determine which machine was the culprit.

“Any sort of beeping going on means there’s something wrong with the pump,” said LaPointe, who lives in Franklin and has been working at the hospital for two years.

After she took care of the beeping, another phone rang. This time the caller’s dog had a swollen muzzle. Soon both LaPointe and Myers were offering advice to pet owners who did not want to bring their animals to the hospital at such a late hour.

“Generally we try to get them to come in because it can be a big liability for us to give advice over the phone,” LaPointe said. “But when I asked ‘Can you bring him in?’ They asked if there was anything they could try at home. So I said try Benadryl, and if that doesn’t work we’re here all night.”

The night shift at the vet hospital in Concord typically consists of one veterinary doctor and between one and three vet technicians. The vet techs administer rounds of treatments to the animals checked into the hospital, and the doctor examines the patients who come in and performs emergency surgeries.

There were no major emergencies during the late night and early morning hours at the hospital last Monday. But the night crew still had plenty to do.

There was Pippin, an Australian shepherd suffering from hypernatremia, or high sodium levels in the blood. LaPointe and Myers took the lethargic dog for a walk around the hospital’s fenced-in yard about 10:45 p.m., using a sling to keep his weak hind legs up.

“Come on handsome,” coaxed Myers as the pair led Pippin slowly around the yard. “Good boy, you can do it.”

There was Tommy, a cat with chronic renal

failure who had been at the hospital for nearly a week. His treatments were complicated by his extreme aversion to anyone besides his owner.

“His mother turns him into a little angel, and I walk into the room and get the evil eyes,” LaPointe said.

And there were two dogs who had recently been hit by cars, a boxer named Thor and a stray puggle brought to the hospital by the Tilton Police Department. Thor had a displaced bladder and dislocated hind leg, and the puggle was suffering from spinal and head injuries.

But on their breaks from administering medicine and monitoring heart rates, the workers found ways to enjoy themselves.

One upside to their occupation is permission to bring their own animals to work. As veterinary technician Kristen Warren was preparing to leave after midnight, she brought her German shepherd, Sir, out of his cage to meet Myers’s blue tick coonhound, Louis. The dogs sniffed around and playfully punched each other’s muzzles.

“Go on, punch him Louis, punch him,” Warren said as her own Sir became more aggressive.

“Well, if Mommy says it’s okay,” Myers responded, nudging Louis toward the German shepherd.

Alison Darby, the veterinarian doctor on duty for Monday’s night shift, watched the animals playing, wishing her own dog, Maddie, was at the hospital that night instead of home in Webster.

Darby has been working at Capital Area Veterinary Emergency Services since the day it opened in 2002. Originally a vet tech, she has been a veterinarian for four years and works the night shift once a week in Concord and three times a week in Littleton, at the organization’s smaller satellite hospital.

Darby prefers the night shift. “Being able to work nights, we have longer shifts, so we have more days off,” she said. “It works for some people’s schedules depending on personal-life-type things.”

Working at a veterinary hospital means Darby deals with serious cases regularly. The animals they see are “the sick of the sick.”

For animals in critical condition that arrive during Darby’s shifts, she often needs to decide whether to perform surgery. Some pets can be stabilized and wait for surgery until a specialist arrives the next day. But if the situation requires immediate attention, Darby steps in.

“I’ll do pretty much any of the more routine emergency surgeries,” she said, “all the abdominal, intestinal ones or animals bleeding.”

A little after 1 a.m., a cairn terrier who was unable to move her hind legs arrived at the hospital. Certified vet technician Ellen Taylor, who arrived at midnight from Sanbornton, measured her temperature and weight and asked the owners for a brief medical history.

As Darby checked the terrier’s reflexes, Myers looked over the treatment plans for the in-house patients.

“After Dr. Darby does her exam, she’ll draw up a treatment plan and go over it with the owners,” Myers said. “I know a big thing usually is money concerns, so we’ll have to offer some estimates.”

Expenses at a veterinary hospital can add up quickly, especially for patients staying in the doctor’s care. Hospitalization, medication, fluid pumps and syringe feeding all cost pet owners, often for days at a time.

“That’s why a lot of us work here, we couldn’t afford our pets otherwise,” Taylor said, half-joking. “It’s kind of a double-edged sword actually. If you work here, you acquire them, but you have to work here to keep them healthy.”

Myers, who owns five cats, four dogs, four parrots, one horse and 15 ducks and chickens, agreed.

After her examination, Darby left the patient’s room with a tentative prognosis.

“She probably has a back injury from jumping off a bed,” she said. “She’s getting pain medications for a back strain basically like a person would get. She’ll get anti-inflammatory meds and muscle relaxers.”

As 2 a.m. approached, Darby began filling out paperwork for the cairn terrier’s prescription. Taylor tidied the cages, and Myers started administering the next round of treatments for the hospital’s patients.

Tugboat, a grey cat kept on hand as a blood donor, was the only one off duty. Under the still-bright lights, he settled down for a nap between two computer screens that hummed with activity as yet another machine began to beep.

(Mel Flanagan can be reached at 369-3321 or mflanagan
@cmonitor.com.)

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