You can probably count on two hands the number of La Jolla businesses that have been in continuous operation for more than 70 years. Add to that operating from the same location and it’s a very small club. That’s the story of La Jolla Veterinary Hospital — La Jolla’s oldest and largest — with four full-time veterinarians and 18 to 20 support staff members.
Founded in 1947 by Dr. Rex Puterbaugh, the hospital is currently owned by Dr. Julie Breher, DVM. Dr. Breher is a La Jolla native who graduated from The Bishop’s School before heading off to UC Davis to study veterinary medicine. After many years tending to dairy cows, she said she returned to her home town in 2009 and joined LJVH, purchasing the practice in 2010.
“It took me 10 years to convince my husband to move to Southern California,” she laughed.
You see the devotion LJVH has to quality care and personal attention as you walk in the front door with its mission statement and core values posted at the entrance. Dr. Breher said. “Practicing best medicine is our top core value. When specialists get a case referred by us, they know everything’s been done right. We have been told we’re their No. 1 or 2 hospital, in terms of referrals. The element we provide — apart from all we offer logistically — is our hospitality factor, a concierge experience. We are in tune with not just the patient, but the client. We understand they can be very worried and we are sympathetic to that.”
Stephanie Coolidge started working at LJVH in 2006 and has been the hospital director since 2010. She points to the hospital’s close community ties as another of its core values. “We don’t see ourselves as just a vet hospital,” she explained, “We look at The Village and think, what does The Village need for animals? We are also the leader in La Jolla for raising money for animal welfare.”
Dr. Breher added: “Many employees stay here a long time because they know they’re making a difference here.”
Coolidge created the annual “Paws and Pints” charity fundraiser held every June at The LOT. “It’s the largest animal charity event in the history of La Jolla,” she said. Last year, the event reached the fundraising goal of $100,000 since the event was founded seven years ago.
“Though Paws and Pints is a red carpet, black-tie event, the black tie is not for the humans. It’s for the animals. The bulldogs look great in tuxes!”
One of the key benefactors of Paws and Pints is the Foundation for Animal Care and Education (FACE). Coolidge is on the advisory committee. FACE’s mission is to reduce what’s called “economic euthanasia,” by providing the funds to medically treat pets whose families can’t afford the expense. Without it, many of these pets would need to be euthanized.
Another unique service of the LJVH is its extended weekday hours until 9 p.m. It’s the only La Jolla veterinary hospital open weeknights and Sundays.
“It’s very convenient for people who work until 5 p.m.,” Dr. Breher noted. “Someone told me, ‘Oh, you have urgent care hours.’ I said, ‘No, we’re just open until 9. Most of the cases we see are the same we see at 10 a.m. But we’re also just as equipped to handle an emergency at 9 p.m. as we are at 10 a.m.’ ”
This month, LJVH adds treatment of exotic companion animals (anything other than a dog or cat) to its services. That idea came from Dr. Allyn Meyer when she joined the staff. Also a La Jolla native and La Jolla High graduate, Dr. Meyer was a technician at LJVH and returned after finishing college with specialized training in exotic animals.
It’s been said, “Animal lovers are a special breed of humans, generous of spirit, full of empathy, perhaps a little prone to sentimentality, and with hearts as big as a cloudless sky.” The La Jolla Veterinary Hospital has been compassionately caring for the animals and the people who care for them, for more than 70 years.
— La Jolla Veterinary Hospital, 7520 Fay Ave. (just north of Pearl Street) in La Jolla. Hours: 7:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday. (858) 454-6155. lajollavet.com
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