Nurturing Pet Families

“Our animals are our family,” said Jennifer Fitscher, DVM, Chief of Staff at Champlain Valley Veterinary Services. “I make time to talk to people. The medicine is important, but the best care is very much about building a bond. I try to educate the pet owner to make sure that, when they leave here, they understand the diagnosis and all the options available for their pet. ere are a million shades of gray about how to make an informed decision about patient care. With the internet, there’s so much information out there. I encourage people to go home and research it, but I also want to know that they have reliable information to fall back on.”

Since its inception by Dr. Sheldon Hagar in 1961, Champlain Valley Veterinary Service has recognized the emotional bonds and acknowledged the responsibility people feel for their pets. For over 50 years, they have combined that empathy with the science and practice of veterinary medicine to honor and support the richness of the human relationship with cats and dogs.

Growing up Jennifer Fitscher always had cats and dogs and she brought them to Champlain Valley Veterinary Services. In high school, she shadowed at the practice. After earning her Bachelor of Science degree at SUNY Oswego, she worked in a (human) research lab at Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo, NY until “the eight-year-old in me woke up and said, ‘What are you doing?’” After earning her DVM from Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, she worked for Aurora Pet Hospital in East Aurora, NY, then decided to return home to the North Country with her husband and two-year-old son.

“To return to this practice is what I envisioned,” Fitscher disclosed. “What brought me here was building that human-animal bond. One of the most rewarding things for me is caring for an animal from puppy or kitten to senior.”

Purchased by VetCor in 2010, Champlain Valley Veterinary Services currently employs eight: two veterinarians, three technicians, two veterinary assistants, and a receptionist. It stays current with the latest veterinary practices and technology so it can offer a full range of preventative, surgical and emergency medical services for domestic dogs and cats. By using ultrasonography (safe and non-invasive imaging that uses sound waves rather than radiation to see details on internal organs) and digital radiology to save captured images on a computer screen (where they can be enhanced and shared) rather than on film, the veterinarians and technicians can effectively diagnose and treat sick and injured patients with minimal discomfort. They can also easily and quickly get second opinions from specialists when necessary. Laser surgery and dental radiology, cleansing and procedures are also available as an important part of patient care to improve and lengthen a pet’s life span.

Overseeing the collaboration between clients, patients, veterinarians, and technicians, is Heather Miller, Head Veterinary Technician and Hospital Manager. “I grew up in Churubusco, and was always the one to sneak into the barn before school. My father was in the New York State Police Mounted Patrol. Since we housed his horse, I learned the care and training of horses early on. My dad taught me how to ride. It took off from there.” Later Miller was inspired by Dr. Hagar when she brought her sick dog to him.

“I had a dog with Cushing’s Disease [a growth on the pituitary or adrenal gland], but my vet misdiagnosed it. My dog was getting worse and I started doing some research. I had been working on my degree as a veterinary technician at SUNY Canton, and suspected a problem with the treatment plan. I brought my dog to Dr. Hagar and he recognized Cushing’s immediately. I felt so relieved and comfortable with the way he explained how to manage my dog’s condition. It taught me a lesson on how to work with people worried about a sick animal. When I graduated in 1995, I came right here. I’m very lucky that I got to work with Dr. Hagar before he retired.”

Over the last 21 years, Miller has been instrumental in the growth and changes in the practice. Recently she oversaw an extensive renovation project, and the reception area now has a self-service scale for dogs, a gorgeous fish tank, natural wood paneling, and a coffee bar. Assuming the additional role of hospital manager in January 2015, she continued her commitment to the practice and has ambitious plans for the future. “I want us to be recognized for how much we care about our pet families. I always try to make our patients and ‘pet parents’ feel welcome. As soon as someone arrives with their dog or cat, we go to the front to pet the animal who is often scared. We are always sharing pictures of our animals on our phones.”

So they can provide the highest level of service, all technicians, assistants and the receptionists are cross trained. Everyone is able to answer the phone, book appointments, and process payments. In addition to providing medical care, Champlain Valley Veterinary Services also boards pets. Clients can get prescriptions at their pharmacy, and request refills via their web site. The practice partners with Focus on Ferals, a non-profit agency in Malone and Plattsburgh, that works to care for, rehabilitate, and adopt out stray, abandoned and feral cats. In the future, they hope to expand community outreach by hosting adoption events, vaccine clinics and more education.

Rounding out the team of veterinarians is Dr. Cathy Parent, who joined the Champlain Valley Veterinary Services team in October 2015. Another Churubusco native, she attended SUNY Canton and the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) for undergraduate studies before earning a DVM degree from the University of Tennessee.

The attention, intelligence and empathy Champlain Valley Veterinary Services offers their pet families is a tribute to the rich connection between humans and their beloved pets.