"Not just a vet's office, an ER for puppies"

"It's raining cats and dogs and Nick Nelson and his colleagues are wondering how to deal with the flow.Not that the downpour is a bad thing. Nelson and his colleagues want to see cats and dogs and take care of them at the Animal Hospital of Central Kitsap. Nelson and his colleagues are veterinarians.Good veterinarians. Veterinary Economics magazine recognized the Animal Hospital of Central Kitsap as one of the best in the nation with their Practice of Excellence award. The Central Valley Road practice was one of only 11 recipients nationwide and the first veterinary office in the state of Washington to win it.It's great to see the fruits of your hard labor, Nelson said. It's a little area and it shows that we are playing at the highest level.The hospital has 24 full- and part-time staff, a pet park and a surgical unit. It also can transmit x-rays all over the nation, a capability that Harrison Memorial Hospital does not even have. We have a commitment to text book medicine, said John Sleasman, a doctor a the hospital. It's not what we feel a patient needs. It's what we know a patient needs.The hospital is the culmination of a vision started by doctors Doug O'Donnell and Sleasman in 1980, who came from a practice in Bremerton. By encompassing the text book medicine approach, Sleasman and O'Donnell were able to gain clients who wanted the latest in veterinary care based on university research and practice. Since then, the practice has built a list of more than 12,000 active clients. They used to handle large animals, but have restricted their practice to cats and dogs only, which still leaves plenty of customers.Because of the care we provide, we can only see so many, O'Donnell said. We treat fewer per day and fewer per doctor. Few have walked away unsatisfied. The doctors are suffering what they collectively refer to as the pain of their success. Since they have offered premier service for so long, more and more clients are coming back wanting the same service.It's like going to a restaurant and loving the service and then going back and seeing the restaurant filled up, Sleasman said. All of the sudden, you might not get as much time as you did before.To help cope with the flow, the practice plans to expand from six to eight doctors. They also plan to expand the building.Sleasman believes their convenience is also big draw for the hospital. The hospital is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Since animals tend to get sick whenever they feel like it, medical attention that is available day or night is perfect for the busy families who want the best care for pets.People love their pets, Sleasman said. They have what we call the human-animal bond.It's a strong bond, especially for the staff. When Nelson observed a small dachshund that came in shivering, he held the dog close after staring into its eyes and coddling it. You have to understand, Nelson said. I have a fondness for these dogs."

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