30 YEARS OF SAVING OUR FRIENDS
It’s late and you are preparing for bed. Then you realize that your best friend, who is always at your feet while you go through your nightly bedtime ritual, is missing. You call out your friend’s name but only silence returns. A slight curiosity quickly turns into concern as you know this is not normal. Walking through the house, your voice takes on a tone of urgency as each room you check is quiet and void of your friend.
Most of us pet owners have been there. It’s late in the evening and after a frantic search, we finally hear the whimpering and subtle moans of pain coming from our furry friend who has been struck by a car, wounded by a bullet or tangled up in a vicious fight. Our hearts skip a beat as we know the animal is suffering but have no idea how serious the injuries. We don’t know how to help them or even if our friend is going to live. Helpless and worried, we begin rapidly scanning the internet for anyone who can help.
THE BEGINNINGS OF A GREAT IDEA
In 1987 a group of 20 local veterinarians decided it was time to create a place where worried pet owners could go for help when such emergencies occur. On Thanksgiving weekend of 1987, the Animal Emergency Center (AEC) opened for business.
In the beginning, AEC started with an 1100 square foot building in a strip mall on 41st Street. That location went through two expansions over the years due to its increasing growth. As success continued, a specially designed ER/Trauma facility was constructed in 2011. The AEC is located at 41st Street and HWY 169. This month marks the 30th anniversary that the hospital has aided with injured and ill pets in Tulsa and the surrounding areas.
A PURPOSE IN LIFE
Dr. Troy McNamara has served as Medical Director since 1997. He is a 1996 graduate of Oklahoma State University College of Veterinary Medicine. It would not take him long to realize that his dream of being a small town mixed animal practitioner would soon be replaced by a new and exciting dream…trauma medicine. Interestingly enough, it would be his own desire to save a personal pet that would lead him to the Animal Emergency Center in Tulsa the following year.
“I had a cat named Helen that was attacked and needed overnight care. I took her to the AEC and while there, I watched them work on animals for about a half hour and said ‘holy cow this is exciting.’“ Since then, it has posed a new and different challenge on a daily basis. “It’s not the same old thing every day. I was drawn to it, if you will, the adrenaline rush and the variety of cases,” McNamara said.
WHAT WE DO
The Animal Emergency Center operates 24/7/365 and treats emergency and trauma patients as well as acutely sick and injured animals; they do not perform routine veterinary services such as spays, neuters, and vaccines, Dr. McNamara explained. He said that the clinic’s primary focus is on injuries such as gunshot wounds, ingestion of poisons, dog and cat fight wounds and animals run over with cars. However, the staff does not consider these to be the only emergencies. There are also minor ones such as loss of appetite, vomiting, and diarrhea or something else in which the pet owner feels it may be too urgent to wait until a visit with their regular vet can be scheduled.
“I don’t want to give the wrong impression though. If the animal is sick or injured in any manner that is concerning to the pet’s owner we will treat it; that’s what we’re there for,” McNamara said.
The hospital serves pet owners from as far as Kansas, NW Arkansas, and SE Oklahoma. They have also helped numerous pets that have been on cross-country road trips. In fact, on more than one occasion, the AEC has treated pets owned by touring music celebrities performing concerts in Tulsa, McNamara said.
A PASSION FOR COMPASSION
To listen to Dr. McNamara speak about the hospital and its staff, one can gather that the entire operation encompasses compassion and a sincere love for animals. It’s not just a business where finances overshadow everything else. As a pet owner, I can attest to this level of commitment to care. Having seen them in action with a seriously wounded pet a few years ago, I must say that I felt that they knew and appreciated that my pet was part of my family. In fact, the average of staff members who have been at the hospital is over ten years with several of the staff closing in on 20 years.
“These people have dedicated their careers, not only to veterinarian medicine but specifically to emergency care. It’s phenomenal the amount of combined experience of my staff.” McNamara said.
THE HEART OF A DOG
Any dog owner knows, there is no other love like that of a dog for its master. It’s a giving and unselfish love unlike anything else on the planet. In many ways, one can equate that love to the commitment of giving to the community that the clinic offers in so many ways.
The owners and staff believe that helping in other areas of animal care is also an important part of being in a community. One of the organizations the hospital works with is Animal Aid of Tulsa. This relationship began with the hospital’s inception and continues 30 years later.
Another organization that the AEC works closely with is Oklahoma Alliance for Animals who work with sick and injured homeless animals. McNamara explained that when people find an injured animal and bring it to the hospital, Oklahoma Alliance for Animals frequently steps up to take custody of the animal, pay the bills and helps get it adopted. The hospital provides the care to those animals on a reduced fee basis in its efforts to help the organization save more animals.
In addition, the hospital stepped up during the Creek County wildfires and housed 16 animals at no charge to the owners.
“We didn’t charge them a penny for housing or medical care. We also had two animals that we did prolonged burn therapy on and then adopted those animals out to employees. We look at situations where animals are injured due to fires, tornadoes and other tragedies as life-altering crisis to the pet owners and the last thing these people need is to worry about how they are going to pay the bill. This is another way we can give back, not so much to the community but to those going through hardships,” McNamara explained. He added that they also give professional discounts to approved rescue organizations and that military and other working dogs are treated at a discount.
THE SUPPORT CONTINUES
The AEC sponsors, if not title sponsors, several rescue events every year including WoofStock – Oklahoma Alliance for Animals, Fur Ball – Oklahoma Alliance for Animals, Pits in Paradise – Amore Pit Bull Rescue, and Run Walk Wag – Rescued’n Ready. These are but just a few of the many organizations in which the hospital supports or has affiliations. One could say they have their paws in just about everything that betters the lives of pets and the people they love.