Riverfront Animal Hospital closes after three decades

TODD ​​HEYWOOD

For 14 years, Elvis, Tamara Hicks-Syron’s beagle, has been by her side as a constant companion, source of comfort and entertainment. But this summer, he fell very ill while she was in Calhoun County. She bundled up Elvis and rushed him to Lansing to see his doctor at Riverfront Veterinary Hospital: Dr Lisa Hassinger. Her human clients know her as Dr. Lisa.

Hicks-Syron watched as Hassinger completed the exam. A choice had to be made: She could drive a few miles east to the clinic at Michigan State University and spend a small fortune on tests and a full diagnosis — which probably wouldn’t increase quantity or quality. life of Elvis. Or, Hicks-Syron could make the decision to let go of his beloved beagle in his arms.

“I looked at Dr Lisa and asked her, ‘If it was yours, what would you do?’ Hicks-Syron explained, his voice cracking with emotion. “She looked at me and said, ‘I would let him go. “”

As Hassinger, 63, prepared for the procedure, Hicks-Syron comforted her friend as Hassinger, 63, prepared for the procedure. She mentioned to Hassinger how much she loved the beagle’s ears. Even with Elvis’ old age, they remained soft and fluffy. Hassinger then turned around, grabbed a small frame the size of an index card, cut some hair from Elvis’ ear, and placed it in the frame. She handed it to Hicks-Syron.

Hicks-Syron had brought his pet beagles and other rescues that wandered his life to Riverfront Animal Hospital in Hassinger for “at least two decades.” She called Hassinger the “Beagle Whisperer”. Beagles can be very willful and difficult to manage for pet owners unfamiliar with the breed. and so are the veterinarians who look after them.

But Hassinger, after 37 years as a licensed veterinarian in Michigan, said she plans to quit in December for a fulfilling career. She spent her first seven years working as a veterinarian at its current location on Larch Street before deciding to buy the practice 30 years ago.

It’s unclear exactly when walk-in services will stop — possibly Dec. 8 or 14, Hassinger said.

The decision to retire became crystal clear on July 5. After more than a year of COVID-19 protocols, including an outbreak linked to her clinic, she began to struggle to find staff. And it was a “tingle” felt while she was running mundane errands that set her off.

“It was the Monday after the 4th of July and most companies had that Monday off,” she said, noting that she, too, had closed her clinic for the holidays. “I was driving and I just realized, ‘Oh, so that’s how it is – not having to be anywhere. “”

For decades, Hassinger’s schedule had been dictated by family and clinical obligations. She has raised two daughters – one is a traveling ER nurse, the other a child with special needs who lives at home. She divorced and remarried during this time. She always arrived at the clinic at 9 a.m. and often did not leave until 7 p.m. or later.

What does she plan to do with her new free time?

“Live life,” she laughs. “Do work around the house, the garden. Just live.

Hassinger’s journey to becoming a veterinarian began in the same place where she ended her career. While attending Lansing Community College, she said she stopped by the clinic and asked if they would allow her to go to the vet. Instead, they offered him a job there.

She cleaned kennels and helped with office work while in college.

But his path was not always certain to end with the profession of veterinarian. At age 20, her father died suddenly and she received a rejection letter from MSU’s School of Veterinary Medicine. Rejection of a first applicant to veterinary schools is not uncommon. But Hassinger was crushed.

She considered moving into a lower level position as a veterinary technician. However, Hassinger’s friends and family encouraged her to apply again. She did and was eventually admitted.

This month, she spends her evenings and weekends handwriting medical records for every animal in her practice to help transition animals to new doctors. She does this because her clinic is a no-frills place – no computer, no blood analyzer. Records for each animal are kept on cards, with procedures, vaccinations and diagnoses handwritten. Partly because of this, she was able to reduce pet sitting costs for her client. And that fits his philosophy.

“I don’t want to run a bunch of tests because I have to pay some bills,” Hassinger said. “I want my clients to understand that if I tell you a procedure is necessary, it is because it is necessary.”

This philosophy has allowed her to follow thousands of clients over the years – a lifetime number so high that she couldn’t even provide an estimate when asked to estimate it last week.

While writing these medical records and transferring clients to new clinics and doctors, she also thinks about what to do with the practice itself and its building. She said she was exploring several options, including selling the practice to another vet or donating it to charity.

By the end of the year, however, no matter what happens with the practice, she will be done with her career – and face whatever comes with her starting mantra: “It is what it is.”

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Benjamin M. Yerger