DoveLewis: 40 years of community commitment and service

Photo credit: Gary Lewis

Photo credit: Gary Lewis

Given the wealth of animal services in the Portland area it may seem hard to believe that emergency services for animals is relatively young.  In 1973, local veterinarians typically handled their own emergency cases or spelled one another in times of need, but a void existed, especially in extreme cases.  Enter A.B. Lewis, who honored his late, animal-loving wife, Dove, by donating funds to open Portland’s first emergency veterinary clinic.  Members of the Portland Veterinary Medical Association formed a board of directors, and the nonprofit DoveLewis Emergency Animal Hospital was born.  

In August 2013, DoveLewis celebrated its 40th anniversary of providing emergency and critical care services to animals.  Over the last four decades the hospital has also pioneered community services such as the Pet Loss Support Group, Blood Bank, and Velvet Assistance Fund.  From state-of-the-art medical care to free educational and therapeutic workshops, DoveLewis has a hand in almost every aspect of animal services. 

“We talk about DoveLewis as being an octopus,” says Marketing and Communication Manager Marin Aultom.  “There are so many different tentacles to us and ways in which we support our community.”  Aultom says it’s not uncommon for people to know only one or two aspects of DoveLewis’s reach.  “Sometimes people know us as a hospital or pet loss support program, but we’re so much more, and I think that contributes to our longevity.” 

CEO Ron Morgan, who has been with DoveLewis in that capacity for 10 years, says that in looking back over DoveLewis’s legacy he’s been impressed with how many people have contributed to the organization’s success.  “I’ve read board minutes from the ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s, and I see these familiar names, many of whom are still around.  It really shows that so many people put time into the complexity of making DoveLewis.”  

Along with medical staff and volunteers, Morgan points to the vital importance of the DoveLewis’s donor base.  “I’ve met some amazing people over the last 10 years whose hearts are just in the right place and they want to do the right thing — it’s phenomenal.  Dove is a little unique I think, in that 98 percent of our donors have had hands-on experience with what  it’s like here, what the staff is like, and how they get treated — and they want to support that.” 

Another much-unknown aspect of DoveLewis, Morgan feels, is the breadth of knowledge of its veterinary staff.  He says many people don’t know that Dove is a teaching hospital, drawing medical professionals from across the country and the world, to learn from its medical staff.  

DoveLewis's critical care is one of the best in the country.

DoveLewis's critical care is one of the best in the country.

“DoveLewis is very well known in emergency circles,” says Morgan.  “Our ICU, and critical care medicine, outside of the university setting, is probably in the top five in the country.”  But that’s not all that draws top docs to Dove.  Morgan says, “A lot of our staff is attracted to our nonprofit mission and the programs we offer.  They can help people with financial needs, they can help strays and injured wildlife, and they can get people involved in the pet loss program.  They like that our mission is focused on the human-animal bond and not on driving profit.” 

Morgan is particularly proud of the recently launched Portland Area Canine Therapy Teams (PACTT) program.  DoveLewis has partnered with Guide Dogs for the Blind, giving new opportunities to retired or career-change guide dogs.  “We are taking these wonderful, highly trained dogs who love being in service and taking them into senior centers and hospitals.  We’re really excited about it.” 

Another new program expanding upon the hospital’s educational efforts is an on-demand, online training tool, “On The Floor at Dove,” which offers veterinary professionals — including doctors, vet technicians, practice managers and even front desk personnel — educational videos on procedures and management practices.  

“We saw a real niche in our industry,” says Morgan.  “There are many people working in places where there’s no access to good education, and if there is, it’s just a PowerPoint presentation or webinar that’s never on their time.  This [DoveLewis’s program] is on-demand and easy to access.”  The high-quality videos are shot at DoveLewis, and range from how-to’s on placing an IV catheter to advanced surgical procedures to managing cage aggression.  The program has been a hit with the medical community, which accesses the service by subscription.  Nearly 500 clinics around the country are currently participating, and subscribers are growing in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Great Britain and Europe.  “Our goal is to help improve the level of veterinary medicine, and when the program becomes profitable, that money will come back to Portland and help us grow our programs locally.” 

A DoveLewis Blood Bank Superhero

A DoveLewis Blood Bank Superhero

Expanding programs and finding ways to further its mission are at the forefront of DoveLewis’s vision for the future.  “We’re spending a lot of time now looking forward, not just on what got us here, but what’s going to keep us here and thriving,” says Morgan. 

For Aultom, this anniversary has also been a time to reflect on the importance of the entirety of DoveLewis’s community.  “The donors and volunteers are a huge part of our support, as well as our referring vet partners who trust us with their patients for emergency care when they’re closed.  We’re so excited to celebrate our 40th anniversary and have the community’s support, because without the community, there really isn’t a DoveLewis.” 

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Nikki Jardin is a Portland-based freelance writer who loves to write about people dedicated to making the world a better place for all beings.