I wrote earlier this week about two new animal emergency rooms in west Bradenton. Veterinary Emergency Center and Bradenton Veterinary Emergency join Animal ER of University Park in offering emergency care for pet families.
If you've ever had a pet suffer a sudden illness or injury and had to rely on your vet's after-hours answering service, you realize how vital these services are to the community.
Five years ago this past Wednesday, my hound Jethro got bloat. He had been sick for three weeks and wasn't eating, and I had resorted to hand-feeding him ground chicken and rice mixed with baby food to get some nutrition in him while his doctor ran tests to find out what was wrong.
About a half-hour after he ate his scant half-cup of food that night, he was in distress. I knew what it was, but was astounded because he had not overeaten or drank too much water, and he was hardly doing acrobatics in the yard that would have caused his stomach to "flip."
I called my vet's office, and Dr. Jim Beamer (bless him) called me right back. He told me to get Jethro to the Animal ER as soon as possible because it was staffed and equipped to handle this life-threatening condition.
Somehow, I managed to get my old hound in the car and make the trip to Interstate 75 and University Parkway. And yes, I broke the speed limit to get there, but not enough to get us both killed in an accident.
Along the way, I called the Animal ER. I had their number in my cell phone, even though I had never needed to call them ... until then. I told them Dr. Beamer was sending us and advised them of Jethro's condition.
I felt almost like an EMT calling in from the field: "I have a hound, almost 15 years old. He's about 38 pounds, and he has bloat. We're about 20 minutes out."
They were ready for us when we got there and whisked Jethro back to the treatment area. The prognosis was grim, as I knew it would be. He would need surgery, and he probably would not survive it at his age.
I left the ER that night with his collar, tags and leash; tangible reminders of a well-loved dog. I left with memories of a handsome, loyal, sweet,
stubborn hound. I left with trepidation, wondering how Reba was going to handle not having her big brother around after 10 1/2 years.
But I also left with much more than those things.
I left knowing that I had done the best I could for him. I left knowing that he had gotten the best care available at that particular time.
I left with a feeling of gratitude to the folks at Animal ER, especially Dr. McGuinness, for being there when we needed them and for treating us with such compassion and respect.
The ride home was somber (and slower). The 30-minute drive there had been hectic, and the drive home seemed to be in slow motion.
It won't be that way from now on. If I ever need an animal ER again, Veterinary Emergency Center on Cortez Road is three minutes from my house (four if I have to stop at the light by the Shell station).
We are lucky, indeed, to have not one, but two new animal ERs in Manatee County. Is this community big enough to support three animal ERs? I believe it is.
Animal ER serves the communities of east Manatee and is a stone's throw from I-75.
Veterinary Emergency Center on Cortez Road is there for pet families in south county, Cortez and south Anna Maria Island.
Bradenton Veterinary Emergency is closer for folks in Palmetto, northwest Bradenton and north Anna Maria Island.
So far, both the new ER directors advise it has been going well. They've been open only four weeks and three months, respectively, and have yet to survive a season without snowbirds.
But in listening to them, I could hear the passion in their voices for helping people and their pets.
Dr. Ilonka Ambros at Veterinary Emergency Center has worked in animal ERs before and designed her clinic for one purpose only: emergency care. She has invested in state-of-the-art equipment and has designed VEC to be welcoming and comfortable for her clients and their pets.
We sat and talked in the "comfort room," a space designed for those times when your pet won't ever be going home with you. It has low lighting and a comfortable couch, an ideal place to sit and hold him while skilled hands help him on his way to the Rainbow Bridge.
Dr. Ashley Kanzler was full of energy and optimism when we spoke on the phone. Her clinic, Bradenton Veterinary Emergency, works in partnership with Sarasota Veterinary Clinic, which serves south Sarasota County from its position on South Tamiami Trail.
She decided to start small by renting space at De Soto Animal Clinic, but is confident enough in BVE's success that she's ordered a new sign for Manatee Avenue so folks can find her clinic more easily.
You might be wondering: Aren't these two clinics in competition with each other?
The answer would be, "Technically, yes." But both directors expressed that their first priority is people's pets and they are not above referring people to the closest ER. If either one of them got a call from Lakewood Ranch, I would bet Reba and Ella's bag of kibble that they would not hesitate for a second to send that caller to the Animal ER.
And you might be wondering: Isn't an animal ER expensive?
And the answer to that would be, "Technically, yes." But when you consider you are paying for the doctor's expertise, for state-of-the-art equipment, and for peace of mind knowing you are doing the absolute best you can do for your pet when they need you the most, my answer would be, "Technically, no. It's worth every nickel."
Here's wishing both Dr. Ambros and Dr. Kanzler much success in their endeavors. Manatee County needs you both, and I for one am really grateful you are here.