Going to the dogs, and occasional cat

Dogs don’t chase after this ambulance. They ride inside.

What’s up with that?

It’s the pet ambulance.

Veterinarians Dr. Eric Patrin and Dr. Rob Jung use the 2007 Nissan Xterra to make housecalls. They figured, why not primp it up?

The SUV’s vinyl wrap has orange stripes with “Pet Ambulance” in big letters and blue medical emblems covering the side rear windows. It is parked at the ready in front of their South Whidbey Animal Clinic on State Highway 525 across from Ken’s Korner shopping plaza in Clinton.

Now for the letdown …

“It’s just a normal car,” Jung said.

No cardiac monitors, oxygen tanks and IV equipment.

Inside is a pet bed and chew toy. And dog hair.

When duty calls, the vets grab a medical bag, and off they go. The kit has items such as syringes, medicine, stethoscope and a blood pressure cup made for skinny, hairy legs.

“A lot of the equipment is similar to human quality stuff,” Patrin said.

Jung has a special interest in exotic pets such as reptiles and small mammals. Mostly, though, the docs fetch dogs and an occasional cat that needs a ride to their office for routine care.

“For those who don’t have transport or maybe live alone and have a 90-pound German shepherd that they can’t get in the car,” Patrin said.

The Nissan is used to deliver medication, food and sleep products to pet owners who can’t get to the clinic. Yes, our lounge-on-the-couch-all-day pets have sleep disorders, just like us.

The doctors also do in-home euthanasia, so the pet’s final moments can be spent in a familiar place.

Judi Witt and her husband, Mike, had the pet ambulance come to their Clinton home earlier this year when the time had come to say goodbye to Leyla. The ailing 13-year-old Weimaraner who’d been with them since a pup was too ill to stand.

Leyla took her last breath with her head in Mike’s lap.

“Very slowly she closed her eyes,” Judi said.

Patrin and an assistant wrapped Leyla in her favorite blanket and gently carried her on a stretcher into the pet ambulance. The Witts have Leyla’s ashes in a special keepsake box.

The couple recently adopted two puppies.

“They’re such good companions,” Judi said. “They need you and we need them just as much. Right now, we especially need them.”

The pandemic’s stay-home order has sparked a new breed of pet seekers.

Former South Whidbey Record and current Herald reporter Ben Watanabe, 33 and footloose, is the posterboy of the bachelor millennial dude. His last commitment to any sentient being was Francis, a betta fish he had in college.

Recently, Watanabe shocked coworkers with talk about wanting a cat in his life.

This prompted Langley Mayor Tim Callison — who endured Ben’s journalism prior to him joining the Herald — to remark, “Big step, Ben.”

Ben was catless at this writing. He’s still looking for Ms. Purrfect at shelters and rescues, not bars.

The vets have seen an uptick in new pet checkups.

“A lot of puppy exams,” Patrin said. “People are home and have time to house train and socialize.”

Pets are happier with their people at home.

“I know my dogs are,” Patrin said. “There is some family bonding luxury that a lot of us haven’t had before.”

Wellness company RestoraPet recently sent an email to the newspaper with tips to prepare our furry friends when we have to go back to work.

“It’s never too early to get your pets ready for the anxiety that comes with an empty house,” the company said. “Pets act out by destroying furniture, crying/barking.”

So will a lot of humans when they have to start interacting with their own kind again.

Andrea Brown is a feature reporter for The Herald in Everett.

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