Vail Valley: Pets at all hours
EAGLE-VAIL – Charlie Meynier came to Colorado’s Vail Valley three years ago, but it didn’t take him long to see a need.
Meynier bought the Eagle-Vail Animal Hospital in 2007. As he and his family settled in and got to know the valley and the other vets in town, it soon became clear that the valley needed consistent emergency service for animals. Many local vets are on call nights and weekends, and there have been past attempts to create a kind of rotation in which one clinic would be on call every few weekends.
“It was a good theory, but it didn’t really work in practice,” Meynier said.
So about a year after taking over the practice, Meynier made the leap, spent the money and started a 24-hour emergency clinic, meaning there’s a vet at the office 24 hours a day.
That explains why Meynier has a very comfortable sofa in his office.
“I’ve put a lot of nights on that sofa myself,” he said.
The decision to start an emergency clinic was fairly easy, Meynier said. But actually doing it was tough. Meynier had to round up vets willing to put in overnight and weekend hours. He also had to make a good-sized investment in cash.
Over the course of a couple of years, though, that investment has paid off.
“We started being profitable about six month into it,” Meynier said.
Beyond being self-sustaining, though, a late-night veterinary clinic can get some interesting patients.
There are plenty of quiet nights, to be sure, but there are also nights when the hospital is as busy as it is during business hours.
Lots of the patients coming in are dogs that have been hit by vehicles. Other common cases are pets that have eaten something they shouldn’t.
“We’ve had a lot of marijuana toxicity lately,” Meynier said.
And business has been picking up as spring has settled in. Meynier said there’s been at least one animal in surgery every weekend for the last six weeks or so.
Besides house pets, people bring in wildlife, too. The clinic has patched up a great horned owl and a pregnant porcupine, then released them back into the wild.
People bring in exotic pets, too, including sugar gliders, a sort of flying squirrel native to Australia and other Pacific islands.
“It’s fun to see those animals along with the others,” Meynier said.
Char Quinn of the Eagle Valley Humane Society said Meynier’s clinic is the only one in the Vail Valley that provides all-hours emergency service.
“We’ve taken Humane Society animals there,” Quin said. “It’s nice there’s a place to go that you know somebody’s going to be there.”
And, Meynier said, the charge for an after-hours visit is the same as it is for a trip to the clinic during office hours – between $95 and $100.
And, if an animal comes in that’s another vet’s patient, Meynier’s clinic will notify that vet, and get the animal to its home clinic as soon as it’s stable.
While the clinic sees its share of just-happened emergencies, Meynier said his place is starting to see some of the same effects that clinics for humans are in this down economy.
“What we’ve seen is people putting off routine stuff for their pets,” Meynier said. “People will ‘just watch’ their pets if they have an issue, and then it turns into an emergency.”
That often means a pet coming in is much sicker than it would be if its owner had brought it in earlier.
Meynier’s a believer in health insurance for pets. But he also started the Megan Counselman Fund, a no-profit fund that helps people pay for emergency medical treatment for their animals.
Payments from the fund are authorized by a volunteer board, and Quinn said tax-deductible donations can be made at just about every local veterinarian’s office, at the Wags ‘n Whiskers pet store in Edwards, and, of course, at the Eagle Valley Humane Society.
“That’s been a good thing,” Quinn said. “We’ve been able to help a few people because of it.”
While the economy has been hard on pet owners, Meynier said he has big plans for the clinic. He’s started a program to bring visiting specialists to the Eagle-Vail Animal Hospital, and there are tentative plans to expand the clinic and its services.
“There’s a big pet community here,” Meynier said. “We’re happy to be part of it.”