Care when you need it
Salinas pet hospital operates 8 a.m. to midnight
Veterinarian James Ponder explains how an oxygen tent for pets works at Romie Lane Pet Hospital in Salinas. Ponder designed the portable device. / Tom Leyde/For The Salinas Californian
For The Salinas Californian
Dr. James Ponder, assisted by technician Jessica Ramirez, examines Ziggy, a Chihuahua, at Romie Lane Pet Hospital in Salinas. The hospital is the only extended-hour pet hospital in Salinas. It is open until midnight seven days a week. / Tom Leyde/For The Salinas Californian
If a family member becomes seriously ill at night, you have several options for emergency care in the Salinas area, such as hospital emergency rooms and urgent care centers. But if a pet gets sick after animal hospital hours, your options are limited.
There are just two 24-hour pet emergency clinics in Monterey County, both on the Monterey Peninsula. In Salinas there is just one after-hours clinic. That is Romie Lane Pet Hospital, which is open until midnight seven days a week.
A year ago, veterinarian Dr. James Ponder and his wife, Mary Ann Ponder, decided to offer extended hours because their clients were concerned that there were no late-night veterinary clinics in Salinas.
“I looked at her (his wife) and said, ‘Why don’t we do that?’ ” Ponder said.
They did just that, but it was a decision they didn’t take lightly for it meant some extremely long hours for Ponder, who is the only full-time veterinarian at the hospital. It sometimes means he pulls 11 to 12 shifts during a seven-day work week, or as many as 85 hours.
“I’m not moving concrete blocks all day,” Ponder said of his long week. And he has a motor home behind the hospital where he can rest between after-hour calls. Still, it’s a grueling schedule. The couple, however, are happy to offer the service and clients are relieved to know it is available.
“People have come from Hollister and King City and Morgan Hill and Gilroy,” Ponder said.
“We have a good relationship with other 24-hour clinics,” said Mary Ann Ponder, who manages Romie Lane Pet Hospital. “They’ve been very good about transferring clients (from Romie Lane to around-the-clock clinics). They’ve been very positive about the whole thing.”
Mary Ann said the hospital staff is enthusiastic about the extended hours, and Ponder said their goal is to offer 24-hour care.
Romie Lane Pet Hospital, 755 E. Romie Lane, is open from 8 a.m. to midnight Monday-Saturday and from 6 p.m. to midnight Sundays. If Ponder is not able to staff all the shifts, an answering machine connects callers directly to him or refers callers to a 24-hour clinic.
Some of the kinds of after-hour cases Ponder sees include dog fights, animals hit by cars and poisonings, including ingestion of mushrooms, chocolate and marijuana.
While marijuana ingestion is not usually fatal to pets, “It can make them very sick,” Ponder said.
Recently a man in Gonzales brought in one of his two dogs which was injured in a fight between the two canines at night. Ponder treated the dog’s injuries and asked about the owner’s other dog. After returning to Gonzales, the man checked the other dog and it had also been injured, so he drove that dog back to the hospital.
“He was thrilled that we were here,” Ponder said.
A Monterey County native, Ponder graduated from the U.C. Davis School of Veterinary Medicine. He and his wife, who has a degree in animal science from U.C. Davis, moved back to Monterey County in 1986. Ponder began working for the former owner of Romie Lane Pet Hospital. Mary Ann became practice manager in 1994, the year the Ponders purchased the hospital. The couple, who live in Aromas, have two grown sons.
They are pet owners themselves and formerly bred thoroughbred horses on their property.
“I feel that I can relate to the doctors’ positions as well as understand the needs of my staff,” Mary Ann said. “In addition, as a pet owner, I can empathize with our clients and their concerns about the health of their pets who they consider members of their family.”
While small compared to some other pet hospitals in Salinas, Romie Lane Pet Hospital is equipped with the latest diagnostic equipment, including laser treatment and equipment to quickly determine what has poisoned an animal. Ponder even designed an oxygen tent for pets.
“It’s hard to do influxation with animals,” said Ponder, who was the first veterinarian in Salinas to qualify as a pet acupuncture practitioner. Without an oxygen tent, the oxygen tubes have to be stitched into the animal. The tent is portable and is placed in a kennel cage with a special door.
“It’s designed to be put together quickly in an emergency,” he said.
Ponder also has a keen interest in pain management for pets and lameness surgery.
Besides the Ponders, Romie Lane Pet Hospital, employes 15 staff members, and two retired veterinarians alternate their services part-time on surgery days.
The hospital doesn’t limit its services to cats and dogs. Recently Ponder treated an exotic miniature pig that had been attacked by a dog. Rabbits are occasional clients, and he has also treated a kangaroo and a baboon from Wild Things exotic animal park on River Road.
As far as health prevention for pets, Ponder urges pet owners to have their dogs vaccinated against canine parvovirus, a potentially fatal disease that is transmitted by direct or indirect exposure to the feces of infected dogs.
“I’ve seen more parvo cases recently,” he said.
Dogs can be protected through a series of vaccinations, so “Don’t start scrimping on the parvo vaccines,” Ponder said.
The Romie Lane Pet Hospital is located at 755 E. Romie Lane, Salinas. It’s open from 8 a.m. to midnight Monday to Saturday and from 6 p.m. to midnight Sunday. The phone number is 831-424-0863.
Tom Leyde is a former staff member of The Californian and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.