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Treating odd creatures at all hours

Lodi veterinarian Richard Turner has opened a new emergency clinic that refuses to turn away even the strangest of animals. Snakes, birds, dogs, cats — even goats and the occasional ferret — can all find care during a normal clinic’s off hours

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Posted: Thursday, July 3, 2014 12:00 pm

With a blue fabric cone strapped around her neck, 11-week-old Zoie was having a bad day. The German shepherd puppy was all alone in a big metal cage, without food, water or her favorite person in the world. Her big brown eyes were sad as she let out a small whine.

But the veterinarian treating the dog for parvovirus had a different outlook.

“She’s doing so well! It’s night and day from when she came in,” Lisa Boyer said. The pup came in the night before with a mild case. After a few hours of antibiotics, fluids and a careful watch, Zoie was eager for some real food and itching to go home.

This happy ending was made possible by All Creatures Veterinary Emergency Clinic in Stockton. The clinic opened in April and has seen hundreds of animals from as far north as the Sacramento area and into the Bay Area. The regional marvel is the brainchild of veterinarian Richard Turner, who runs Arbor Pet Clinic in Lodi.

“I wanted to make a place where any animal could be treated with care, and that would fill in the gaps left by regular vet clinics,” he said. “We’re even on call for wildlife. When I say all creatures, I literally mean all creatures.”

Turner earned his degree in veterinary medicine in 1976 at the University of California, Davis, and focused his study on birds. Since then, he’s worked in Palm Springs, for various zoos, and opened Arbor Pet Clinic on Sacramento Street. Even at Arbor, Turner is willing to see any animal, but All Creatures has the technology for emergency tests, as well as hours that Turner can’t offer at his home clinic.

“The biggest challenge is in finding vets with open minds,” he said. “Things happen, and all animals need care.”

Each of the seven veterinarians on staff were hand-picked by Turner. One of them is Renee Case, who has known Turner for years.

“We want to be support for the other vets,” she said. “All the clinics in this area, there is nobody there all night who can then be there the next morning to run the place.”

Case has worked as an emergency veterinarian for more than 20 years, and is grateful to call on Turner’s knowledge whenever a more unusual case comes through the door.

“What’s nice for us is he is always available to coach us through,” Case said. “If we are ever in a quandary, we have him to back us up.”

Goats attacked by dogs. Snakes with prolapsed organs. Young dogs with symptoms of parvovirus and cats who refuse to eat. Turner’s clinic will treat all of them, at any hour of the night.

The Stockton City Council voted last fall to change the zoning for the West Lane lot to allow animals on the premises. It’s very unusual to have a veterinary clinic so close to a human hospital (Kaiser Permanente Hospital) and Turner suspects he is among fewer than five vets in the nation who have managed the feat.

The space was previously a dentist office before it became a sleep testing center for Kaiser Permanente. Three bedrooms have been converted into exam rooms, while one retains a simple bed and

nightstand for vets working the long overnight shifts. A washer and dryer are tucked into a former bedroom’s closet, and another room is now the vet’s prep area for scrubbing clean before a surgery. Office-grade carpeting was upgraded to bright linoleum.

The clinic is equipped with high-end technology meant to serve animals better and faster.

An advanced animal X-ray can render complete images in under a minute. A Hot Dog brand heating pad for animals keeps them warm under anesthesia. A surgery room is set up with monitoring equipment sophisticated enough for human use: Temperature, EKG, respiration and noninvasive blood pressure. A miniature stretcher is suited for injured dogs, to get them in from the car.

A special consideration is emergency treatment for exotic pets. More and more people have birds, snakes, turtles, small mammals and other creatures that many vets don’t have the experience or the equipment to treat. Turner has a heart for these more unusual animals, and is willing to treat any animal that can fit in the door.

One weekend in early May, the clinic got a call from a goat rancher in Brentwood. The herd was attacked by dogs, and three goats had vicious wounds. The only clinic open at 11 p.m. on a Saturday that would treat goats was All Creatures.

Most often, patients at the clinic need observation.

Take Lucky, an 8-year-old dachshund mix, for example. The dog had seizures on a Saturday morning, and his owners rushed him to his normal vet. There, he was treated and stabilized, but needed overnight observation by a vet, so his owners took him to All Creatures. That way, the vets could perform regular urine and blood tests, and make sure any new seizures weren’t too severe.

The clinic’s central location was about to make one puppy’s day much brighter.

Kortney Crawford of Lodi, stepped into the clinic with a bowl of cooked chicken breast and some steamed rice for her sick puppy.

“The vet recommended something cooked to be easy on her stomach,” Crawford said. “Anything to get her better.”

Crawford was grateful to find All Creatures, as it allowed her to avoid driving an hour north to the emergency clinic in Davis. After donning a disposable blue shirt and gloves, Crawford opened Zoie’s cage and gave the puppy some well-deserved scratches behind her ears.

As the dog devoured mouthfuls of the chicken and rice, Crawford grinned.

“She’s so much better. I can’t wait to take her home,” she said.

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