Dr. Shawn Thomas cradles an English bulldog puppy in one hand and reaches out to greet his visitor with the other. No worries, he assures: the puppy isn’t in need of treatment. He belongs to the doc and has been visiting along with his littermate. The puppy is handed off to a vet tech and the energetic doctor takes his guest on a tour through the building, pointing out recovery rooms, a surgical center and hi-tech diagnostic tools — including a state-of-the-art X-ray machine. “This one is just two weeks old,” he says. The equipment testifies to how well things are going at Tanasbourne Veterinary Emergency, Thomas’s practice that is celebrating its first anniversary.
Indeed, the practice is growing. “It’s definitely gotten better,” says the doctor. So much better that Thomas hired a second vet last fall and is hoping to add a third by summer. He attributes the success to the hard work of his staff, who he considers family, and “picking a good place; knowing there was a need for emergency medicine in this area.”
Located just off of NW Cornell Road in Beaverton, Thomas says his is the only emergency service in a 12-16-mile radius. And, unlike conventional vets, TVE is open 5pm to 8am weekdays, and round the clock on weekends.
It is weekends when staff sees the most patients, with the most common concerns being upset stomachs, vomiting and diarrhea. They also see plenty of fractures, as well as more serious concerns like injuries from car accidents and issues that require surgery.
The variety is what keeps Thomas engaged and enthusiastic about his work, he says. To date he’s seen more dogs than cats and an occasional ferret or rabbit, but “no reptiles . . . yet.”
When asked how people can prevent winding up at the emergency room with their pets, Thomas says most of all, pay attention. “Trust your gut instinct. If your animal seems off, it’s off. The number-one thing that we see is people saying, ‘I wish I had brought him in two days earlier.’” The doctor says animals have a greater capacity than humans for pain or discomfort. “We are weenies compared to animals – they will go days without showing anything. If they eat half as much as they usually do, watch them and see if that becomes a trend. I’m not saying run them in if they ignore a meal, but use your gut instinct.”
Currently working an average of 80-100 hours a week, Thomas is excited to get that number down to about 60 over the next year so he can spend more time with his wife, Christina, their 4-year-old daughter, and a baby on the way. Though the hours may seem grueling, Dr. Thomas says he wouldn’t have it any other way. For this doctor, realizing the lifelong dream of being a veterinarian is something he says wouldn’t have happened without the support of his family, and one he wouldn’t trade.
This past year has also brought great appreciation for his community of colleagues with whom he regularly consults. “I’m not the type of guy who thinks he can do it all on his own,” says Thomas, once again reflecting the seriousness with which he takes his profession and his desire to provide the highest level of care for those who find their way to his open door in the middle of the night.