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Recent remodel of Northwest Pettygrove animal hospital building offers more elbow room for emergency, specialty medicine services

PMG PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Dr. Barbara Davis, left, a veterinarian specializing in internal medicine, gives a checkup to MacGyver at DoveLewis.On a recent November morning, a golden retriever named MacGyver sat and stayed like a good boy while waiting for Dr. Barb Davis, a veterinarian specializing in internal medicine, to check him over in an examination room on the recently renovated second floor of DoveLewis.

MacGyver is one of more than 25,000 "patients" — a group that includes both pets and rescued wildlife — that the 24-hour emergency and specialty veterinary hospital expects to treat this year from its two-story building at 1945 N.W. Pettygrove St.

Between opening in 1973, as the first round-the-clock veterinary emergency hospital in the U.S., and 2014, the numbers of animals DoveLewis treated grew steadily by 5% to 8% per year. In the past three years, however, the annual figures have jumped between 22% and 23%, going from just under 14,000 patients served in 2015 to more than 23,000 in 2018.

"Portland has a growing population, so we've seen a growth in the demand for emergency services (for animals)," Ron Morgan, president and chief executive officer of DoveLewis, told the Business Tribune. "The way we want health care for ourselves now extends to how we want health care for our pets."

The $3.5 million renovation at DoveLewis completely reconfigured the second floor of the hospital and included ground-floor upgrades. The work has resulted in a first-class facility now expected to help continue the recruitment and retention of top talent for the hospital while allowing it to remain competitive in a landscape dominated by corporate-run veterinary hospitals.

PMG PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Julie Corbett keeps an eye on a monitor in the Intensive Care Unit at DoveLewis animal hospital as she takes care of Rufus, a patient that was admitted after ingesting rat poison.

Those goals are secondary, however, to what Morgan and his staff see as the main benefit of the project, a purpose captured in a newly developed mission statement painted on a wall of the lobby on the remodeled second-floor: "We envision a world where every animal receives the care they deserve."

Beginnings

Before there was a DoveLewis animal hospital, there was a Portland-area woman named Dove Lewis, a dog groomer, trainer and breeder with a soft spot for stray animals. When she passed away, her husband, A.B. Lewis, decided to do something to honor his wife and her commitment to the four-legged community.

At the time, veterinarians often worked around the clock, handling general care during their main working hours and then answering emergency calls during nights and weekends.

After talking with a local group of veterinarians led by Richard Werner and learning about the strain veterinarians worked under, Lewis decided to help Werner open DoveLewis as a nonprofit operation offering emergency care for animals. Werner became the first head of DoveLewis and now serves on the nonprofit's board. DoveLewis eventually added specialty medicine to the roster of services it provided.

The status of DoveLewis as a nonprofit makes it a rarity in a world of for-profit animal hospitals. It also allows DoveLewis to offer a unique roster of services and programs.

PMG PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Ron Morgan, president and chief executive officer of DoveLewis, talks about improvements at the pet hospital.

While about 85% of people who bring their pets to DoveLewis for care can pay for services provided, the hospital budgets $35,000 each month for financial assistance for people who can't afford to cover their pets' health care costs. The hospital also spends about $35,000 each month to care for injured wildlife — mostly birds and squirrels, but also the occasional bald eagle, blue heron or snake — that people find and bring in.

The willingness to help any animal in need meant that as time went on, DoveLewis began outgrowing its space. By 2003, when Morgan joined the nonprofit, board members told him they had needed a new building for about 10 years, but hadn't been able to pull together the money or a plan to move forward.

Under Morgan's guidance, the nonprofit was able to embark on a successful capital campaign for the construction of a new facility. In 2005, DoveLewis moved from a building on the corner of Pettygrove and Northwest 20th Avenue into its current location. At the time, the new building was expected to meet the nonprofit's immediate needs while also offering room to grow.

"We thought we would be able to easily be here for 20 years in a capacity perspective," Morgan said.

About three years ago, however, it became apparent that wasn't going to be the case. The second floor of the building, at the time, was filled with offices for the administrative portion of DoveLewis. The ground floor, meanwhile, was being used for both emergency room cases and by-appointment specialty medical services such as cardiology, radiology, internal medicine, and surgery. The lobby area often turned into a cramped, noisy space, and patients there for by-appointment specialty medicine services often were side-by-side with patients with life-threatening injuries that required immediate care.

PMG PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Morgan Hamilton, left, and Barbara Long wait for their vet appointment at Dove Lewis  to begin with their litter of Bullmastiff puppies.

With little space, teams in specialties such as cardiac care and internal medicine were forced to squeeze into undersized rooms. Exam rooms were always busy, often resulting in long wait times and frustration for medical staff and clients. The situation meant that some Portland-area general-practice veterinarians were hesitant to recommend their clients use DoveLewis' specialty medical services, Morgan said.

DoveLewis administrators also worried that the lack of space might end up affecting the hospital's ability to recruit and retain top talent — despite being the only animal hospital in Oregon to hold a coveted level-one rating from the Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care Society. According to Morgan, reports show, the country's animal health care industry has about 2,000 more open positions than veterinarians available to fill them.

"There's a hiring crisis going on for veterinarians and certified technicians," he said.

Morgan and his administrative team also were concerned that the cramped conditions were hurting the hospital's ability to be competitive. Most animal hospitals now are owned by large corporations. In addition to being a candy company, Mars Inc., for example, owns a string of pet hospitals and emergency operations, including Banfield Pet Hospital. The company entered the animal health care market as a result of also being involved in the pet food industry and its pet-related businesses now produce more revenue than the candy division, according to Morgan.

Tapping a team

When most nonprofits look at renovating their buildings, they usually drum up money and then start the project. But Morgan and the board didn't want to wait to conduct a full fund-raising effort before starting the project.

PMG PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Blue recovers from surgery in the ICU Auxillary area of Dove Lewis.

The nonprofit did start a capital campaign, which raised an initial $1.6 million that was boosted with a $1.2 million construction loan and in-house money to build a pot to start the renovation. The capital campaign is still underway, incidentally, and will be used to pay back the loan and replenish the money the nonprofit pitched in, Morgan said.

DoveLewis started the project with in-house planning about how to best reconfigure and move services. In the past few years, the nonprofit moved away from a reliance on paper. Medical staff works on tablets rather than using paper records for patients, and all of the hospital's data is stored in the cloud. That allowed the nonprofit to move its administrative offices to a leased space in the Albers Mill Building on Northwest Naito Parkway in September of last year.

Moving the offices then opened up the second floor for cardiac care, radiology and internal medicine to move in. It also allowed veterinarians like cardiologist Dr. Caryn Reynolds to custom-design spaces in ways that best fit the needs of their patients and their teams.

PMG PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - The new DoveLewis logo hovers over the upstairs greeting area of the Northwest Portland pet hospital.

When it came to interior design details for the reconfigured spaces and the actual renovation work, DoveLewis turned to a known commodity. When the nonprofit built its current building from the ground up, it tapped the architectural services of the firm now known as Mackenzie. This time around, Mackenzie came in and worked with DoveLewis to pick materials, colors and graphic details that would create a comfortable environment and have a calming effect. DoveLewis also tapped R&H Construction, the contractor who originally constructed the building, to handle the physical remodel.

"We felt having the same team ... would allow us to more effectively design and build the (project)," Morgan said.

The remodel resulted in the creation of a new seating area along one wall in the main floor lobby area. A wall was removed to open space in the reception area to create stand-up counter areas separated by frosted glass partitions that allow for some privacy when clients need to talk about paying for services.

The main stairwell was opened up, and a second elevator was installed that can be used exclusively to move animals between emergency, intensive care, and surgical areas on the main floor and radiation, cardiology and other specialty areas on the second floor.

Even though DoveLewis is still putting finishing touches on its renovated space — a wall is still waiting for the placement of a large digital monitor screen donated by Planar, for example — the new, roomier layout already is making a difference.

General-practice veterinarians are feeling more comfortable recommending DoveLewis' specialty services. With more room that's been customized to fit their needs, it's also making it easier for the DoveLewis medical staff to do their best work.

"(Our new space) is really great," Davis, MacGyver's veterinarian, said as she prepared to give the golden retriever a final check before sending him on his way. "I went down (to the first floor) and looked at our old space. I can't believe how small it feels now.

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