Business

Vet finds fellow animal lovers in Fall City

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FALL CITY - Last Friday, the staff of the Snoqualmie Valley Animal Hospital in Fall City took a moment to sing "Happy Birthday" to a special member of the staff - Boone the dog.

"We didn't want this to be like other medical offices," said Dr. Teri Weronko, DVM, who opened the animal hospital with her husband, office manager Eric Greene. "We wanted it to be more familial."

Boone is part of the family at the hospital, which has steadily increased its patient list since opening in 2000. The couple said people in the Valley take extra care of their pets, something that influenced them to stop in Fall City after traveling all over the nation.

"I'm quite happy here," Greene said.

Weronko had wanted to be a veterinarian since she was a child. At an early age while growing up in New York City, she witnessed a dog getting hit by a car. After that experience she dreamed of helping animals and ended up attending the University of Tennessee to earn her degree in veterinary medicine.

Just before going to Tennessee, however, she spent time in Alaska and met Greene while they were both working at a salmon hatchery. A kindred animal lover, Greene accompanied Weronko back to Tennessee where he finished up his degree in zoology. The couple moved to Atlanta, where Weronko worked in an emergency veterinary clinic. After more moving around, the couple moved to Corvallis, Ore., so Greene could get his graduate degree in wildlife biology at Oregon State University. Later, the couple moved to Snohomish County and Weronko again worked in emergency veterinary medicine. The two had often thought of opening up their own clinic, but had doubts of ever getting out on their own.

"We had all but given up on the idea [of opening our own clinic]," Weronko said. "Then we drove through Fall City."

Fall City had exactly what the couple was looking for, a small community that took care of its pets. A veterinarian named Bob Hogan was just closing up his practice in Fall City, so Weronko and Greene met with him to see if the community was a good place to start a new business. Hogan said the community was great (he was retiring because he needed the rest) and encouraged the couple to move. Weronko and Greene found an old farm house just west of town and turned it into a clinic, a renovation they thought would take a matter of weeks but became a matter of years. Although the first customers came through a door that was literally a hole in the wall, the clinic officially opened in the spring of 2000 and has been growing ever since.

"It has been great," Weronko said. "We get people from all over the Valley."

Animal medicine is taken seriously in the Valley, a part of life here that attracted Weronko and Greene. After seeing a man in Tennessee take his dog home in the trunk of his car, Greene said it was refreshing to come to a community where pets are a part of the family. Pets are getting more and more care and people are willing to do more to keep them healthy. In some areas, the couple said, pet owners will put an animal to sleep before spending much money on it. Here, pets get similar procedures to human care. February is "Dental Health Month" at the hospital and the operating tables have been full of dogs and cats getting dental work done.

A fact of pet life, however, can be their untimely death. The hospital deals with a lot of animal injuries that Weronko and Greene said could be avoided with some simple training or equipment. Invisible fences, long thought of as just for dogs, can keep cats close to home, as well. A microchip that can identify a pet can be inserted under the pet's skin for around $40.

Dogs and cats are the most common kinds of patients at the hospital, but the hospital will treat others, such as goats. Weronko also volunteers at the Cougar Mountain Zoo in Issaquah, where she has helped treat everything from a cougar to a reindeer.

Weronko would like to get another doctor to help out eventually, but there is no rush to expand the business. The two want to get more involved in the community they have come to love. For two pet lovers, being surrounded by other pet lovers is the good life.

"Our life is pretty sweet," Weronko said.

* The Snoqualmie Valley Animal Hospital is located at 32020 S.E. 40th St. in Fall City. For information, call (425) 222-7220 or visit the clinic's Web site at www.svah.com.

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