An East Coast Native With A Passion For Client Care…


Walter observing a surgical procedure as part of the training at ACCESS Specialty Animal Hospitals.

Walter is one of our many great Client Care Representatives at ACCESS Specialty Animal Hospital – Los Angeles. Clients will recognize Walter’s cheerful demeanor, helpful tendencies, and immense friendliness; but there’s much more to this superstar Client Care Representative!

We just had to learn more about Walter, so we chatted with him to learn about his experiences and more!

Why veterinary medicine?
Walter was interested in veterinary medicine since childhood. He’s happy to be able to be in a place where he can learn more about the field and is “fascinated by all of the specialties offered for pets.”

Why Client Care?
Walter has years of experience in customer service and enjoys being able to utilize those skills by helping clients and supporting them during their time with us.

What brought Walter to California?
This Long Island, NY native couldn’t resist the relaxed environment and picture perfect weather that SoCal had to offer! Walter made the big move from New York to California about three years ago and has fallen absolutely in love with his new home. Although he liked the hustle and bustle and misses his family, he is happy in the golden state.

Where is his favorite place to visit?
Walter loves any location with a beach, which is why he is very fond of Miami and recently went to St. Croix. He loves to travel and hopes to see more of what the world has to offer.

What is Walter’s favorite animal?
He loves birds—African Grey Parrots to be exact! Walter finds the African Grey to be “pretty and majestic” and is intrigued by their long lifespan.

What is his favorite meal?
Although Walter absolutely loves seafood, his favorites being lobster and shrimp, his true favorite food is a homemade bread. A West Indian dish with a secret family recipe that has been handed down from his grandmother to his mother, “bake” is a sweet bread that Walter recalls lovingly. “We had it with breakfast, lunch, or dinner, and around the holidays” says Walter. Even though this East Coast native has found a home in sunny California, he truly misses his mother’s cooking, especially her bake.

What is the best thing that Walter cooks?
“Cereal. I’m not a very good cook” laughs Walter.

Does he collect anything?
Walter has a small collection of Game Boy games.

What is Walter’s advice for pet owners?
“Find a primary veterinarian. Many issues can be addressed with your primary veterinarian before they become an emergency. Plus, you’re able to build a relationship with that doctor as opposed to seeing someone on an emergency basis.” Walter also says to use caution when treating your pet at home, as any treatment without the direction of a veterinarian has the potential to cause harm to an animal.

What is the most challenging case he’s ever had?
Many people don’t know that each and every member of our staff is touched by each patient that comes through our doors. Walter was especially moved by the story of a young female Terrier, who had been abused and neglected by her owners. The young dog had been dragged by a bicycle and the fur on the top of her paws had been rubbed off. Walter was so worried about what was going to happen to the little pup, but luckily, the person relinquished ownership and gave her to a very responsible animal lover. Walter was relieved to see such a sweet animal find a good home. Walter also gets attached to many of the pets and families that come to ACCESS. He enjoys keeping up with them during their visits, over the phone, and even writing personal notes in the cards that are sent to the pet owners.

What is Walter’s favorite treatment or procedure?
Walter had the opportunity to gown up and observe a fracture repair done by one of our board-certified surgeons, Dr. Kim Carey! Walter said it was “awesome. Dr. Carey was so meticulous.” It was a great experience and Walter was able to see the patient through the whole process—from check in to procedure to check out.

What is his greatest achievement?
When Walter moved from the East Coast to Southern California, he didn’t know anyone and didn’t have a job or apartment set up. Since then, he’s been able to find a job he is passionate about, an apartment he loves, and has made friendships that will last a life time. Walter is proud for the chances he’s taken and the success that he has found.

We are so lucky to have such an incredible person on our team and we are thankful for Walter’s passion, persistence, and optimism.


From left to right: Dr. Kim Carey, Walter, and Ariana, Walter’s Client Care coworker.


We love Good Samaritans!


Without the Good Samaritans who see an injured or ill animal and ask for help, so many pets wouldn’t get the care and treatment they need. Unfortunately, ACCESS Specialty Animal Hospitals are simply not equipped with the space or staff to care for the volume of homeless animals in the area.

Additionally, we have an obligation that requires the person presenting the pet to take responsibility for it. This means that the person has to pay for services, but more importantly, they must make medical decisions for the pet. Obviously, this is an emotional challenge for many individuals, so we ask that you help us by routing those in need to the proper direction.

We encourage all Good Samaritans to take any found animals to the appropriate facility for their species so that they receive medical attention and have the chance to be put in front of thousands of families who are looking to adopt a new pet!

If you have found an animal in need of medical care, please consult the following locations who are able to accept animals.

For Wildlife
California Wildlife Center—
“If you have found a wild animal that appears to be sick, injured, abandoned or in danger, please call our emergency hotline number. 310.458.WILD [9453]”

Culver City Animal Services: (310) 253-6143
San Pedro International Bird Rescue: (310) 514-2573

For Dogs and Cats
City of Los Angeles—
“Individuals may bring an animal to the nearest shelter, or contact the shelter and field personnel will respond. Veterinary medical staff will examine the animal, provide treatment if appropriate and make the animal available for adoption if it is not claimed by its owner. If an animal is critically ill or injured, does not respond to treatment, it will be humanely euthanized.

Shelters are open Sundays 11:00AM to 5:00PM and closed Mondays and Holidays but are open for receiving animals 24 hours daily. (888) 452-7381”

Didn’t find an animal but still want to help? In addition to financial contributions, you can donate food, blankets, bedding, toys, treats, and more to your local rescue or shelter. Many shelters and rescues will accept those items for a variety species!

To Find A Lost Pet
Check out and as well as Los Angeles Animal Services.



Introducing the ACCESS CARES Initiative

We understand the importance of caring and going above and beyond the confines of our hospitals for both humans and animals, which is why we have begun the ACCESS CARES Initiative. Through this, we will be reaching out to those in our community for education and in-hospital experiences, as well as turning inward and connecting with our coworkers.

Because we believe in taking care of yourself mentally, emotionally, and physically, we have begun ACCESS CARES: Compassion Fatigue Training Program, exclusively for ACCESS Employees, provided by board-certified psychologist, Dr. Kathleen Ayl. We are certain that providing support and training for our staff will result in healthier, happier caregivers.

Each department will spend one hour learning about how to recognize, treat, and recover from Compassion Fatigue, as well as how to help their coworkers, family members, and pet parents who may be struggling as well. Additionally, each employee will have the opportunity to have a private, confidential session with Dr. Ayl to talk about anything that may be on their mind.

We’re excited to launch this program this month and look forward to having our second set of sessions around the holidays. From there, we’ll have this training every six months to support and guide those we work with.

Although these sessions are specifically tailored for veterinary team members, Dr. Ayl’s services are open to anyone. Please call the ACCESS Hospital nearest you for more information on counseling.

Shannon Brown
Marketing Coordinator | ACCESS Specialty Animal Hospitals


Lance: A Southern Gent in SoCal…


Lance is one of our many sweet, insightful, and talented ER team members. We work with him every day and wanted to know more about who is he and what brought him from Houston, Texas to Southern California.

Why Veterinary Medicine?
“It found me” says Lance. After high school, Lance attended the University of Texas and soon returned to his roots in Houston. He has always loved animals and attended a job fair where he found a career as a veterinary assistant. He was able to do some on the job training and eventually earned his Certified Veterinary Assistant certification, or CVA. It’s been all animals, all the time ever since!

What does Lance like about emergency medicine?
Lance actually prefers the ICU, where our most delicate and critical patients are. He finds that he is able to remain calm under pressure and fits in with a fast paced environment. Lance is “comfortable in the hustle and bustle and likes having the ability to save a life.”

Where is his favorite place to visit?
Lance loved visiting Germany and Europe! Ever the traveler, he also enjoys Mexico, the Caribbean, and seeing places with rich history and culture.

What is Lance’s favorite animal?
Big cats! Lance has loved cheetahs ever since he was little—their speed caught his attention, as they’re the fastest land animal! Lance also loves domestic cats since he “finds their personalities intriguing. They’re sensitive, so you have to treat them gently. One cat may not like having his back feet touched, another might love to be petted. Veterinary medicine is all about figuring out the pieces of the puzzle to make it work.”

What would he be doing if he weren’t at ACCESS?
Lance could see himself working at a pharmaceutical company, following his passion for science and problem solving.

What is Lance’s favorite dish?
Pizza and barbecue, of course!

Does Lance collect anything?
He used to collect baseball cards and had over 5,000! Now, Lance is working on his collections of gold and silver pieces, family heirlooms, and old books. His favorites? Shakespearean books from the 1800s.

What are his tips for pet owners?
Please understand that the animal emergency process is similar to that of the human side—the most critical patients come first.“We get emotional too.” Lance adds. From the front desk staff to the technicians and assistants, to the doctors, we all want the best for the little guys and are just as emotional as the pet owners.

What is the most challenging case Lance has ever had?
Lance will never forget a sweet little cat from his very first year in the veterinary world. The cat had been severely burned in a house fire and he still vividly remembers that night as the most emotionally trying night of his career.

Lance does enjoy a good challenge though, which is why he enjoys emergencies. He helped in a save a Weimaraner with a twisted lung. Lance sat with the pup all night long to make sure he was comfortable and receiving all of the treatments he needed to survive the night before his emergency surgery. The pup lived, and Lance continues on in the field that stole his heart.

What does he consider his greatest achievement?
“Helping take care of my niece and nephew in Texas.” Lance is close with his family and found fulfillment in guiding his young relatives and watching them grow up and become good people.

When he’s not working, you can find Lance hanging out with friends, enjoying a good barbecue meal, or keeping up on the latest advancements in veterinary medicine. Lance brings a positive attitude, humble know-how, and a heaping helping of manners to each and every day he works. Lance is one of Lead Technicians for the emergency room, which means he is the go-to guy on his shifts and he recently took over scheduling for all of our technicians! We are lucky to have Lance on our team and hope that you say hi to him the next time you visit us!



Life as an RVT: Puppy Anesthesia Challenges..

By Rhianna Depew, RVT…


Dr. Steven Cole, our board-certified cardiologist, approached me and asked a very delicate question. “How do you feel about doing anesthesia on a two-week-old, tiny puppy?”

“Puppy” as she was aptly called, since she hadn’t acquired a name yet, was a cute and cuddly, and very fragile Burmese Mountain Dog neonate that was already having cardiac issues at her young age. She had patent ductus arteriosus, or PDA, which is a congenital vascular communication between the aorta and pulmonary artery. This is normal for humans and animals in the womb, however in some cases, this vessel fails to close normally at the time of birth.

If left untreated, a PDA can cause severe cardiac enlargement, and eventual congestive heart failure (fluid in the lungs), or pulmonary hypertension (high blood pressure in the lungs).
In fact, most dogs with an untreated PDA do not survive the first few years of life. Because of how tiny she was, she wasn’t a good candidate for the typical, minimally invasive technique with catheters. Instead, Puppy needed open chest surgery in order to accomplish the PDA ligation; but that also meant a lot of risk, and a whole host of potential complications.

Dr. Cole knew I loved challenges, and was always up for our most difficult cases, but this one was different—a suckling neonate under general anesthesia is extremely high risk. But we were determined to do everything we could to help this puppy, so I started planning ahead. I thought about this small, delicate puppy every day leading up to the procedure, as well as the night before. She kept me awake, going over every detail and making mental checklists of everything I needed to get her safely through her risky life-saving surgery.

That morning I woke up early and wanted to make sure I arrived at the hospital ahead of schedule to start planning and preparing. This was the smallest heart surgery I had ever assisted with. She would need the tiniest versions of all the equipment we normally used. Tiny catheters, tiny endotracheal tube, tiny, tiny doses of medication and anesthetic drugs. I calculated all the “what if” emergency medications ahead of time and went over and over again everything we needed. I went over to Puppy’s cage and scooped her up. She fit into the palm of my hand and had the typical clumsy movements of a newborn. She was incredibly soft, and made the cutest little squeaky puppy sounds.

She fit into the palm of my hand and had the typical clumsy movements of a newborn. She was incredibly soft, and made the cutest little squeaky puppy sounds.
I gave her a kiss and held her up to my cheek and told her that she was going to do great, and that there would be plenty of days of running through grassy parks, toys, and treats in her future. Then I placed her back in her bed of cozy blankets so she could get some rest before her big procedure, and so that I could go triple check that everything was in place.

When it came time for surgery, we prepped the puppy before we put her under anesthesia and had every warming device at our disposal to keep her temperature up. I gave her micro doses of anesthetic to get her sleepy, placed ET tube in her trachea to control her breathing, hooked her up to the anesthesia machine and patient monitor, listened to her little heart beating on the monitor, and gave her some tiny breaths.

Then, I remembered to breathe, as I was holding my breath with each step taken to prepare Puppy for her big procedure. We were on our way.

Our board-certified surgeon Dr. Jana Norris, along with Dr. Cole, arrived into the OR, and we wasted no time getting right to it. The room was silent. We were all hyper focused in our tasks at hand: to accomplish this procedure and get this puppy out quickly and safely. Dr. Norris’ skilled hands were each the size of the entire patient, and they worked precisely and efficiently around the puppy’s tiny heart and lungs. I continuously watched between my monitor, the patient and the doctors, monitor, patient, doctors, monitor, patient, doctors—trying to stay a step ahead at all times. You could cut the tension with a knife, and I don’t think any of us had taken a full breath, then….

Dr. Norris assured everyone in the room with a confident “I got it.”

Puppy was doing great under anesthesia, and knowing the mission was accomplished, I could feel some nervous tears welling up. We finished the surgery and gave each other well deserved verbal high fives. I brought our tiny patient into recovery and stayed by her side until she fully woke up. Within a couple of hours she was back to being her cute and wiggly self, and wanting to be bottle fed.

Puppy was able to go home a few days later and recently came in for a recheck with her beloved cardiologist. She’s doing very well and is expected to grow fully to her Burmese Mountain Dog size and live a long, happy life. Puppy will be a constant reminder that preparation, precision, dedication, and team work, are all crucial to saving an animal’s life. For now, Puppy will continue to steal our hearts and bring joy to the hospital with each and every visit.


From Left to right: Dr. Jana Norris, Dr. Steve Cole, and Registered Veterinary Technician, Rhianna Depew.


Kiki’s Nephrolithotomy: Big Word, Little Dog.

Surgically Assisted Nephrolithotomy

What to do with complicated kidney stones in dogs? Laser them out!

Kiki is a beautiful four-year-old female spayed Japanese Chin who was kindly rescued with pre-existing kidney issues and an abnormal eye. Kiki repeatedly saw Dr. Erinne Branter, head of our interventional radiology department, for kidney stones and kidney disease. The kidney stones were not able to be medically dissolved and as a result, Kiki kept having painful urinary tract infections.


Often, kidney stones can be left alone if they are not causing any issues, but Kiki had developed stones causing obstructions to her kidneys by blocking the ureter, the tube that brings urine to the bladder from the kidney.

Dr. Branter discussed options to remove the kidney stone with Kiki’s owners—shockwave lithotripsy from outside the body, lasering the stone in the kidney in a minimally invasive way, or a surgery where the kidney is cut open to remove the stone.


Kiki’s owners opted to remove the stone with a nephrolithotomy, a minimally-invasive procedure to remove stones from the kidney by using a small catheter through a small incision, and then place a ureteral stent. This made sure the kidney had very little damage and that all the stones were able to be removed. We used a combination of minimally invasive approaches to the kidney to reduce damage to kidney tissue. We then used an endoscope and a laser to break up the stone and make stone fragments that were small enough to be removed without damaging the kidneys.


This entire process is called a nephrolithotomy (kidney stone removal) and is the standard of care for humans with complicated kidney stones. Although few have been done in veterinary medicine, Kiki was able to go through the procedure without any issues and is recovering very well with no negative changes in her kidney values or function. We are thrilled to report that little Kiki is now stone free! Many pet owners do not know that their pets can suffer from many of the same illnesses that humans do. Unfortunately, pets suffering from illness can also experience the same pain and discomfort as we do, though they may be better at hiding it.

If you suspect your pet is experiencing urinary issues, contact your primary veterinarian right away.

Key words for pet owners:

  • Kidney stones- A hard mass formed in the kidneys
  • Lithotripsy- A treatment, typically using ultrasound shock waves, by which a kidney stone or other calculus is broken into small particles that can be passed out by the body
  • Nephrolithotomy- A minimally-invasive procedure to remove stones from the kidney by a small puncture wound (up to about 1 cm) through the skin
  • Stone retrieval- A process in which a doctor retrieves and removes stones from within the body
  • Ureteral stent- A thin, flexible tube threaded into the ureter
  • Ureteral stones- Stones that form within the ureter
  • Urinary obstruction- An obstruction that occurs within the urinary tract. Obstructions in the urinary tract cause distension of the walls of the bladder, ureter, or renal pelvis, depending on the location of the obstruction
  • Urinary stones- Stones that form within the urinary tract
  • Urinary tract infection- An infection in any part of the urinary system, the kidneys, bladder, or urethra