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Couple cares for animals and people (Article in the AV Press)

By: Amber Hoffman

Rosamond- It’s not all about the animals at veterinarians Debbie Spencer and Chris Biggerstaff’s joint practice – the couple have a passion for people, too.

“Sometimes you’re helping the people more than the animals,” Spencer said. “Helping people through their animals can be extremely rewarding. Both of us have really grown to appreciate helping people.”

Married 21 years, the couple have owned Southern Kern Veterinary Services in Rosamond for more than 20 years and Quartz Hill Veterinary Clinic since 2006. Together they have more than 46 years of experience in veterinary medicine.

“If you ever read the veterinary oath it says our commitment is to society,” Biggerstaff said. “Our practice philosophy is to help people through their animals; that’s the real goal.”

Every student who graduates from veterinary school takes a pledge to use his or her knowledge and skills “for the benefit of society through the protection of animal health…”

Biggerstaff said they sometimes help owners come to terms with the death of a pet or ease the worry of an elderly person with a sick companion animal.

“We have learned a lot of counseling,” Spencer said. “Helping people no matter the outcome is very rewarding.”

Raised on a farm in Missouri, Spencer said even at an early age she wanted to be a veterinarian.

“Since I was born I knew that was what I wanted to do,” she said. “I grew up in a rural setting, and my parents encourage me to stick with it. I’ve been around beef cattle, horses, dogs and cats. My grandmother had a farm with goats and pigs. I was always around all different kinds of animals and enjoyed interacting with them.”

For Biggerstaff it was more than just a love of living creatures that led him to become a veterinarian – it was enthusiasm for repairing things.

“I had a passion for the animals and I liked fixing things,” he said. “It’s really rewarding when you can fix something and make it better for somebody.”

Biggerstaff said his desire to fix things led him to a special interest in orthopedic surgery.

The couple met while at the University of Missouri’s Columbia College of Veterinary Medicine. Spencer and Biggerstaff graduated together in 1988 and moved to Rosamond to start their careers.

“I followed him here,” Spencer said. “It was a shock – desert compared to rolling green hills in Missouri. I had never seen mountain valleys like that before.”

Biggerstaff, who grew up in Alturas in far northeastern California, said they picked Rosamond because the Antelope Valley was experiencing a population boom and his beloved grandmother, Dolly Buck, lived in Rosamond.

“I spent all my holidays and vacations with my grandma in Rosamond,” Biggerstaff said. “It was Christmas 1984 and I mailed my application to the University of Missouri from the Rosamond post office. It was meant to be.”

The couple opened Southern Kern Veterinary Services in April 1990 as a part-time business while each worked at different veterinary clinics. Within a year, Biggerstaff was working at the Rosamond clinic full time.

“We were able to do it slowly; we both had other jobs, too,” Spencer said.

Although veterinary school didn’t prepare the couple for the business side of being veterinarians, the couple credit their parents for instilling an old-fashioned work ethic, common sense, compassion for people, financial understanding and good communication skills. The couple said they also turned to Buck, who passed away in 1995, for advice when they opened their first business.

“I asked her what she thought-if I should venture out on my own. She said absolutely,” Biggerstaff said.

Spencer and Biggerstaff took over the Quartz Hill clinic in 2004 when another veterinary husband-and-wife team, Dave Fly and Bonnie Snyder, wanted to move out of state and were looking to sell their practice. Fly and Snyder invited Spencer and Biggerstaff to lunch and asked them if they were interested in purchasing the business.

“We signed the contract on a napkin,”Spencer said, adding they still have the napkin.

The Quartz Hill and Rosamond clinic provide vaccinations, dental exams, microchipping, orthopedic exams, surgery, spaying and neutering, pet insurance, emergency services, pest prevention and more. The Rosamond clinic also boards animals.

When the couple purchased the Quartz Hill business, Spencer joined her husband. Previously she had worked 16 years at another clinic.

The couple said working together has been a blessing.

“We each have our own niche,” Spencer said. “He does the surgeries, and I would rather be in the exam room and managing. It’s awesome to have an immediate second opinion.”

The couple’s two children, 16-year-old Ray and 13-year-old Katie, help their parents at the clinics. Ray helps with supply shopping and Katie helps with maintaining the website and cleaning.

Biggerstaff said his goal is to expand the orthopedic surgical unit.

“I would like to grow the surgical part of the business,” Biggerstaff said. “A lot of people get referred to Los Angeles, from their regular veterinarians, we can take care of the more challenging cases. We can take care of them in-house, no need for a pet owner to have to drive to Los Angeles.”

Despite the troubled economy, Biggerstaff said one thing people don’t skimp on is their pets.

“Pets are a priority for a lot of people,” he said. “People sacrifice a vacation or other things for the love of their pets.”

Southern Kern Veterinary Services is open 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday and is closed on Sunday. For details, call (661) 256-8121.

Quartz Hill Veterinary Clinic is open 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday and closed on Sunday. For details, call (661) 943-7896.

 

January 27, 2011 Posted by | AV Best Veterinary, Lancaster Veterinary, Palmdale Veterinary, Quartz Hill Veterinary, Rosamond Veterinary | , , , , | Leave a comment

Know what to expect, a Dogs care for life.

Life Expectancy:Dogs lifespans vary by breed.  In general the larger the dog, the shorter their natural lifespan.  A Chihuahua can easily life 15 years and more while a Great Dane may not live beyond 8 years.

Budget:  Initial investment: $200-$400, depending on size; annual upkeep: $500-$1500.

Additional Costs to Consider:  Routine Veterinary Care;  $100-$500  Spay/Neuter: $50-$250.  Grooming: $25 – $500.  Training: $40 – $300.

Housing:  Puppies will need to be contained when no one is around,  a crate is excellent for keeping the little ones out of trouble.   If an adult dog doesn’t have a crate, provide a soft bed in a warm, quiet spot.  All dogs and puppies need plenty of exercise every day.

Cleanup:  Dogs need to  be walked several times during the day.  During bathroom breaks in public spaces all dogs poop needs to be picked up.  Most dogs shed so you will need a good vacuum.

Diet:  Puppies will eat several times a day; an adult dog can eat just once a day.  Foods vary widely from store-bought to homemade.  Visit your Veterinarian soon after welcoming home your new dog to discuss feeding, nutritional  needs and vaccination schedules.

Kids:  Most dogs love to play with children, though play should be supervised.  Even the gentlest pup can snap if a child is too rough or abrupt.  A young child should never be left alone with a dog.

January 19, 2011 Posted by | AV Best Veterinary, Lancaster Veterinary, Palmdale Veterinary, Quartz Hill Veterinary, Rosamond Veterinary | , , , , | Leave a comment

Lost and Found; A personal experience

Hazel’s Story

Katie and Hazel

 

Families go through many trials together. Losing a pet can be one of the most challenging trials to handle.
This is what happened to our family when Hazel, our 9 month old German Shorthair pointer decided that there was something outside the block wall and iron gates that she had to see. It happened on Labor Day and before we knew it she was spending her first night alone in the desert. We drove around in the desert, rode horses out in the desert and
informed everyone we could think of that she was missing. We tried not to panic but we did not sleep much. Day after day searches yielded no results. Then I started researching and educating myself on what to do when you lose or find a pet. The following information is what I found.

Animals usually run into the wind. Hazel did. Check sheds and garages of yours and your neighbors. I once found my cat in a neighbor’s shed because I heard him vocalizing. The neighbor had no idea he was there. Make lost pet fliers that include a recent photo, breed, sex, color, age, weight, personality characteristics, location and date last seen and phone numbers to reach you. Offer a reward but do not state an amount. If your pet has amicrochip, you can make the flier up on the microchip company website or many other websites. Distribute the fliers to as many individuals and locations as you can: dog parks, pet supply stores, feed stores, pet grooming stores, veterinary offices, grocery stores, gas stations and around schools. Children are often more observant than adults, especially with animals. Withhold an identifying mark or characteristic of your pet to verify the identity of your pet. Replace fliers regularly as they fade or are destroyed by weather. When you find your pet make sure you take down all your old fliers.

Notify the microchip company if your pet has a microchip. They will send out notices to veterinary hospitals, animal control, etc. Advertise. The penny saver and Craig’s list are free. Found ads are free in the Antelope Valley Press and lost ads require a nominal fee. Look through the found ads regularly. Talk with the postal workers, garbage crews
and anyone else you can think of. Give them fliers. Notify rescue groups. Animal forums and message boards on the internet are also good way of getting the word out. Networking does improve your chances. I found people to be very compassionate and helpful. Animals do tend to bring out the best in all of us!

Put a piece of your clothing or blanket at the spot where your pet was last seen. He may come back to that area.  Research reported that certain breeds are more likely to do this than others.  Utilize your county Animal control facility or Humane Society. Personally speak to as many officers as you can and look in all the areas. Visit the facility in person and visit regularly.  Leave fliers regularly. Check the dead animal list and check the web site regularly.  The individuals at our local Animal control facility were amazing to me in my quest for Hazel.  They have a very tough job and I am very thankful for them.

Be careful of scams. I was taken for $120 when a nice older gentleman from a company he called  Petfinderalert.com called me and said they would call homes within a 10 mile radius to spread the news about Hazel.  After research, I discovered that it was a scam. Unfortunately, there are many individuals who prey on anothers troubles
so be careful.  I did find a legitimate company entitled Find Toto.com who did call people in the area to notify them of the loss.

To prevent loss of your pet, the most important tool you have is the microchip.  Microchips can be easily inserted into your pet at Animal Control or any veterinary hospital.  Make sure that you have your current address and phone number registered with the microchip company. I have one client who was able to get her pet back after 1 year because of the microchip. Countless success stories arise because of microchips. Good collars that fit well with tags are helpful.  Pet proof your yard regularly.  Train your dog and spend time with your dog.  A well exercised dog is less likely to run off.  There are also many outstanding tools for boundary training available. Spayed and neutered pets are less likely to wander. Research the breed prior to getting a pet so you know what you are getting into and keep a current photo of your pet. Prevention is the best key and saves a lot of heartache. Finding your dog is great but not losing your dog is even better.

Don’t just wait and see. Don’t focus on the wrong theories. Dogs are rarely stolen for research labs.  This kind of thinking will only drive you crazy. Our family persevered through the power of positive thinking.  As a mom, I had to not be a lunatic for my 12 year old daughter (Hazel’s owner).   Showing her a good example of problem solving was
important to me.

Rescuers can determine the fate of the animal. If you rescue a dog, Please keep in mind that this may be someone’s pet.  Please be responsible and compassionate. Animals can quickly begin to look rough if they have been out- but don‘t just assume that they are mistreated or not well taken care of. Many dogs can become frightened, hungry, etc and may not act themselves.  DO NOT JUST ASSUME THAT AN ANIMAL HAS BEEN DUMPED RATHER THAN  LOST.   You can take the pet to any Animal Control facility or veterinary office to check for a microchip.  There is NO cost for checking for a microchip. It is a quick, easy procedure and yields a high percentage of positive results.

Finally, if I may quote Winston Churchill- Never, Never, Never, Never give up. Once you lose hope, you reduce your chances of finding your dog. The power of positive thinking does work in life. Hazel is home after 3 months and our family received the best Christmas present ever.

Debbie Spencer, DVM

Southern Kern Veterinary Hospital

Quartz Hill Veterinary Hospital

 

 

December 20, 2010 Posted by | AV Best Veterinary, Lancaster Veterinary, Palmdale Veterinary, Quartz Hill Veterinary, Rosamond Veterinary | , , , , | Leave a comment

Jingle Bell Jog Announcement Dec 18th.

Attention runners, joggers and exercise fanatics the annual 5K fun run “Jingle Bell Jog” is scheduled for Saturday Dec 18th at Marie Kerr Park.This year Quartz Hill Veterinary and Southern Kern Veterinary are sponsoring a 1k run for runners and their dogs. Christmas costumes are strongly encouraged, prizes for best costumes. Pre-registration at www.highdesertrunners.org ; Registration begins at 7:30 AM until 9:00 AM. The 5k run begins at 9:00 AM and the kids 1k along with the dog trot/puppy promenade begins at 9:15 AM. All proceeds are donated to the Los Angeles County Sheriffs Department Search and Rescue and Grace Resources.

December 10, 2010 Posted by | Lancaster Veterinary, Palmdale Veterinary, Quartz Hill Veterinary, Rosamond Veterinary, Southern Kern Veterinary | , , , , | Leave a comment