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'Animal ER Live' takes family-friendly look at pet hospitals; it airs at 6 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays on Nat Geo Wild

COURTESY PHOTO - DoveLewis Veterinary Emergency & Specialty Hospital is featured on 'Animal ER Live.'Dealing with a hurting pet can be traumatic — not only for the animal, but for the human companion — and it's a topic that producers tread lightly around in the new reality show "Animal ER Live," which features Portland's DoveLewis Veterinary Emergency & Specialty Hospital.

The show, which debuted last weekend and continues through April on the Nat Geo Wild network, shows what happens behind the scenes in animal hospitals. But it won't ever be too difficult for people to watch, says Ron Morgan, DoveLewis president and chief executive officer.

"We're here to take care of them and get them back to their families," he says. "The network wants a family-friendly show. Even though it's live, there's a slight delay, and we can make sure what is seen and happening.

"In most cases, we'll have good endings. We won't show anything on live TV that will traumatize anybody. It's difficult to see animals in trauma and stress. We're trying to show what high-quality emergency speciality medicine looks like. ... As I've told some people, I wouldn't be afraid to have children sit down and watch the show. Even in emergency care, we'll be careful."

DoveLewis, 1945 N.W. Pettygrove St., has a national reputation as the only 24-hour nonprofit animal hospital in the Northwest, Morgan says with pride. It's been in business for 45 years.

Big Fish Entertainment, which excels in unscripted reality/lifestyle/documentary shows, produces "Animal ER Live." It also puts on "Live PD." Crews have spent the past month at DoveLewis preparing background stories, and then the show debuted Saturday and Sunday, March 30-31.

It airs at 6 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays; there are seven hospitals from around the country involved in the two-hour show, and there'll be live updates from hospitals when something significant happens. Mark Steines hosts from a New York City studio.

"We're not getting paid for this, and it's a lot of work. But we're a teaching hospital, and it's a chance to pull back the curtain and see what happens," Morgan says. "Hopefully, it's good publicity for DoveLewis. As a nonprofit, that's important."

Dr. Shana O'Marra, DoveLewis chief medical officer, has been helping arrange all the logistics with veterinarians and care providers.

"They're really looking for feel-good kinds of stories," O'Marra says. "What we do is treat patients who are in pain or discomfort, and our first priority is to relieve pain and give them comfort."

O'Marra says DoveLewis routinely sees a variety of animals for medical care.

There are dogs and cats, obviously, as well as rabbits, snakes, birds, backyard poultry (that actually are pets), gerbils, hamsters, guinea pigs, geckos, bearded dragons and hedgehogs. About 10 percent of the caseload is not dogs or cats, O'Marra says.

"We can see anything from a dog who is limping a little bit to another dog who has been hit by a car and has severe trauma," she says. "The severity can be immediately life-threatening, where we do emergency transfusions and CPR ... to something as simple as a torn toenail."

Caregivers also have to deal with human companions and emotions. O'Marra says caregivers are "there to help people on what is often the worst days of their lives."

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