Hawthorne Animal Hospital marks milestone

GLEN CARBON – Hawthorne Animal Hospital marks a milestone worth barking for.

On Sunday afternoon, Hawthorne celebrated his 65th birthday with an open house at the Dog House, 24 Kettle River Drive in Glen Carbon.

“There are a small number (of veterinary hospitals) that have been around this long and it shows that we take good care of patients and customers,” said Dr. Paul Myer, who is the current owner of Hawthorne.

Dr. Merrill Ottwein opened Hawthorne in 1956, treating both companion animals at his Edwardsville veterinary clinic and large animals on farm calls throughout the county. Over the next 65 years, Hawthorne grew into the largest 24-hour regional veterinary hospital in the Eastern Metropolitan area.

Staying at the forefront of veterinary medicine, Hawthorne provides state-of-the-art care, including advanced surgeries, chemotherapy and rehabilitation. The hospital expanded its range of services in 2016 by opening The Dog House grooming and training center.

Hawthorne’s main location is at 5 Cougar Drive in Glen Carbon, just around the corner from the Doghouse. Another location at 1516 Alarth Drive in Troy is temporarily closed.

On Sunday, Myer was joined by Ottwein and former owners Dr Joe Helms and Dr Art Lippoldt, as well as Jane McKinney, wife of Dr Phil McKinney, who died in 2017.

Myer, a New Jersey native, has been a resident of Edwardsville since his senior year of Edwardsville High School, where he graduated in 1979.

He earned a bachelor’s degree in biology from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville in 1983 and earned his bachelor’s degree in veterinary science from the University of Illinois in 1984. He later earned a doctorate in veterinary medicine from Illinois in 1986.

During his college years, Myer worked at Hawthorne until graduation. The four years after graduation took him to Freeport, Illinois and the University of Washington for various job opportunities. He returned home to Hawthorne in 1989.

“I was going to the University of Washington, but I worked part-time on weekends at the animal hospital and worked at Wash U. during the week,” said Myer, whose special interests include orthopedic surgery. and wildlife rehabilitation.

“When I moved here for my senior year of high school, I was introduced to Dr. Helms by a guidance counselor at EHS and he became my mentor. It was then that I discovered that taking care of animals was what I wanted to do. I started working for him in the afternoons after school and it took off from there.

In more than 30 years as a full-time veterinarian at Hawthorne, Myer has seen many changes in the field, many of which are technology-related.

“There are things you never thought you could do, like ultrasounds, in-house lab work, and digital x-rays,” Myer said. “A lot of these things didn’t even exist when I was in vet school, but they’re great tools to help with animal health.”

But Hawthorne’s connection with its patients and customers is what has helped the hospital thrive over the past six decades.

“The human-animal bond has become a major part of that, and we’ve also built a loyal customer base,” Myer said. “We talk about our old building where the (Glen Carbon) Lowe’s is now, and we have a lot of people who were with us at the time.

“We moved to our current location in 2003 and it was a step forward. We went from a 7,000 square foot building to a 12,000 square foot building. I never thought we would surpass it, but we did.

In addition to its other services, through its Angel Fund Foundation, Hawthorne is committed to improving the quality of life for animals throughout the region by providing free cradle-to-grave care to K9 officers at eight animal services. law enforcement and treating injured wildlife brought to the hospital by Treehouse Wildlife Center in Dow, Illinois.

“We wanted to give back to the community and we wanted to give K9 officers and their dogs the care they needed,” Myer said. “We are open 24/7 and they also work 24/7. Dogs don’t always get injured on weekdays; sometimes it’s at night or on weekends.

“We are equipped to take care of them and have built a relationship with them over the years. Our ultimate goal was to prevent what we call economic euthanasia, where animals don’t receive care because people can’t afford it.

Hawthorne is accredited by the American Animal Hospital Association (AAAH), a designation that only 12-17% of veterinary clinics in the United States currently hold.

“It’s a lot of work, and you have to go through inspections from time to time to make sure you have the protocols, the equipment, and the record keeping,” Myer said. “There are different categories that you have to check off. It’s a little more effort, but we’re pretty proud of it.

After returning to Hawthorne in 1989, Myer worked as an associate veterinarian. He became a partner in McKinney and Lippoldt when Helms retired in 1997 and Lippoldt retired about two years later. Myer and McKinney were partners until McKinney’s death in 2017.

“I never intended to own a practice — I just wanted a place where I could get my opinion and do the kind of medicine I wanted to do,” Myer said.

Hawthorne currently has 86 employees, about half of whom are full-time.

It is made up of a team of renowned veterinarians with 124 years of combined experience in all areas of medical care.

“Our staff is just amazing, especially with the demands, the pace at which we work and the hours we work,” Myer said. “They could go somewhere else with easier hours, but they have a passion and they’ve bought into the concept that pets deserve 24/7 care. It takes a special person to do that.

The COVID-19 pandemic presented a particular challenge for Myer and his staff, but they responded to it in impressive fashion.

“Not just for our industry, but for everyone, it seemed like the way you’ve done things for the past 30 years was thrown out the window,” Myer said. “It was trial and error trying to find something that worked.

“Our staff stuck together through the process and our customers were also supportive and we found ways to stay open and care for patients.”

For Myer, one of the highlights of Sunday’s open house was reminiscing about Ottwein, Helms, Lippoldt and Jane McKinney.

“These doctors have all been mentors to me and someone you can reach out to when you need help or suggestions,” Myer said. “They may have retired, but they haven’t left, and they still come and check things out. Part of this (celebration) is a tribute to them because we kept their dream alive and made it grow.

“Also with COVID and so many things shut down and all the other things going on, we wanted to do something positive. We have decided to celebrate our 65th birthday.

For more information on Hawthorne, visit www.hawthorneanimals.org or call 618-288-3971.

Benjamin M. Yerger