By Ashley Watson
On a sunny Thursday morning, several staff members at River Cove Animal Hospital are hovered around a large Bouvier mix lying on a table in the back. The dog is waking up from anesthesia after having an oral mass removed. There are three more unoccupied exam tables around the technicians who focus their attention on the patient. They are carefully monitoring the dog while providing some post-op love as he gains consciousness.
That level of attention and care from the veterinary staff at River Cove is one of the many reasons that we picked this practice based in Williston, VT as our clinic of the month. Conveniently located just down the road from us here at Vetri-Science, we had the opportunity to spend a few hours with the staff and their patients.
River Cove is a full service veterinary hospital that provides medical and surgical services for dogs, cats, ferrets and other small mammals. Many customers have been bringing their pets here since it started over 30 years ago. Over the years, customer loyalty has spread through word of mouth and their reputation for offering consistent care and quality pet products.
The Vetri-Science marketing team members who accompanied me during the interview both have close ties to River Cove. Interactive Media Coordinator, Adrienne Bombard, brings her Huskies, Achilles and Hadley, to the same clinic where her parents have taken the family pets since she was a child. Graphic Designer, Sean Cater takes his Greyhound, Mel (aka Sharkface), to River Cove for all of her check-ups and vaccinations. His parents have also been loyal customers for over 25 years, and Sean’s mother, Robin, worked at River Cove as vet tech there for 15 years.
Adrienne and Sean caught up with Joshua Lincoln, V.M.D and Joel English, D.V.M. in between exams as I watched the staff work. I was particularly impressed with their professionalism and efficiency as they moved a variety of patients in and out of the procedure room where we met Opal, a dehydrated tabby who was a little shy at first. She was given fluids as they prepped another table for Jack—a yellow lab who was there because of a cracked tooth and to get his teeth cleaned.
Opal was not the only dehydrated cat that day. A gray tiger mix named Ariel was also dehydrated and a little grumpy, as he reluctantly let Amanda hold him while he waited for his exam. At the next table, Dr. English was trying to figure out why Emma, a small Chihuahua, was losing weight. While some pets lose their appetite when the weather gets warmer, there are many potential reasons that a dog or cat is not eating or drinking enough water. This is why it is recommended that you bring your pet in for a check-up in case something else is going on.
In fact, Michelle Kapusta brought in her Siberian Huskie earlier that day for a routine visit, but when Julie Jennings, D.V.M. felt a mass inside his abdomen, an X-ray was in order. Luckily, Dr. Jennings and Dr. English concluded that there was nothing alarming after examining several images. Major was returned to the waiting room, where he greeted Michelle with excitement.
River Cove sees up to 40 animals in one day, and there were 24 appointments just on the morning of our visit. Business at the clinic tends to pick up in the summer months. “People are buying puppies and kittens for their kids once school is out for summer vacation, so we see a lot of new pets for their vaccinations,” one technician told us. Flea and tick season also drives more business in the spring and summer, along with pets who have pollen allergies.
There were definitely more dogs than cats at the clinic that day, which is not uncommon at a vet’s office. Many cat owners don’t bring in cats for regular exams, especially indoor cats. One theory is that people think cats are independent and don’t need as much care as dogs. Or they think indoor cats don’t need vaccinations because they are not in contact with stray cats. But it is just as important for indoor and outdoor cats to get regular veterinary care.
Dr. English emphasized the importance of scheduling routine check-ups for cats. “We try to educate pet owners about the importance of immunizations and annual exams for cats, and we send out reminders to customers,” he told us as he prepped for the next exam. He also mentioned that cats hide illness very well, so that’s another reason it is important to bring in cats once a year, or when it’s time for their shots.
We sat in on a yearly exam with Dr. Lincoln and an 8-year old Yorkie named Buttercup. Malcom and Jean Hayward drive all the way from East Montpelier to bring Buttercup to River Cove. When Buttercup first arrived at the Hayward’s home, a friend who also drives from Montpelier to bring his pet to River Cove told them that they “better not take her anywhere else.” Buttercup seemed more than happy to allow Dr. Lincoln give her a thorough exam and trim her nails as he chatted with the Haywards and their granddaughter.
The interaction between Dr. Lincoln and the Haywards is an example of something Adrienne mentioned to me as I was finishing this article. One of the qualities she appreciates most about River Cove is the personal connection that the staff has with customers. “The staff knows my dogs, and whenever I run into Dr. Lincoln out at the mall or the grocery store, he always says hello and asks about my dogs or what’s going on with me.” Adrienne believes that this is what makes River Cove unique and one of the reasons so many people trust them with their pets.
Everyone on staff at River Cove Animal Hospital was extremely friendly and helpful, and I would also like to take this opportunity to thank River Cove for taking the time to open up their doors and give us a chance to get behind the scenes of their practice. We wish you the best as you continue to grow!