Sonoma Valley Pet Clinic – a new life leash

Once in a while, when a curious child wanders around the Sonoma Valley Veterinary Clinic, Dr. Adrienne Wood lets them put on her stethoscope and listen to their pet’s heartbeat.

They remind her of herself, when she was a child growing up in the Valley. Wood took her animals to local vets when they needed care, and by the age of 10 she knew that one day she would be the one to treat people’s pets on those tall metal tables. Unlike most kids, when Wood said she wanted to be a veterinarian, she stuck to her proclamation.

In February, Wood and her business partner, Dr. Peter Dowell, purchased the clinic from BethAnn Palermo, who had purchased the Arnold Drive business from Dr. John Switzer in 2009.

The small building, measuring just 900 square feet, has been the Sonoma Valley Pet Clinic for decades, though its lease has changed hands several times. Internally, it remains largely the same. When Wood and Dowell took over, they purchased all the equipment, the client list, and retained a few employees, one of whom has worked at the clinic since Switzer owned the practice.

“It’s been kind of a staple in Sonoma for veterinary clinics for many years,” Wood said.

Aesthetically, a few improvements have already been implemented: the building has been repainted from its bluish gray and red door to a fresh black and white with a lime green door, an accent that Wood particularly likes.

Wood has also improved some equipment, such as new lab testing materials, that will allow same-day results to come back for sick dogs, faster than before.

For Wood and Dowell, the timing of their purchase was perfect.

Wood had been going to hospitals in Santa Rosa and Marin for years and wanted to work closer to home so she could spend more time with her 6-year-old son.

Dowell owns a practice in Mill Valley, Alto Tiburon Hospital, which he continues to run alongside the new local business. He will divide his time between the two operations.

Wood and Dowell met through a vet tech who worked with both of them over the years. When the tech learned that Wood might need a partner to take over a practice in Sonoma, she made the connection.

Wood spent years as chief staff veterinarian at Banfield Pet Hospital in Santa Rosa. She liked the responsibility of being in charge, but being an owner didn’t appeal to her at first.

“I think I’m used to being a director and a leader in a hospital,” Wood said. “But I’m proud that it’s mine.”

Dowell owned a handful of his own clinics and had the expertise Wood needed in a partner, as well as a similar mindset when it came to veterinary care.

When Wood and Dowell began making arrangements to purchase the Palermo business after his retirement, it was in early 2022. To strengthen their business relationship, Wood began working at the Dowell Clinic in Mill Valley until that the Sonoma clinic is ready.

Like all new business owners, she was nervous and worried that the business would not thrive under new management. But those fears were allayed in his first few weeks.

“It’s hard to get to a place where the previous owner is so beloved, but it’s going well,” Wood said.

The clinic, like most others in the United States right now, has been busy, after many people adopted pets during the pandemic. The fact that the Sonoma Valley Pet Clinic is currently accepting new patients is rare, as Wood expected a busy schedule each day.

Even though the crisis appears to have peaked during the pandemic, many clinics are still booked weeks in advance. Julie Dowell, Peter’s wife, was instrumental in the administration.

But Wood is used to watching several animals at once.

Growing up, she lived on a small farm with her family in Schellville, where she cared for chickens, goats, and horses. She rode horses throughout high school and had decided to specialize in equines. After getting her undergraduate degree from UCLA, she went to Ireland for six months to help a horse farm during the breeding season.

She then returned to Sonoma and worked at the Arroyo Animal Clinic for a time before heading to UC Davis to complete her veterinary education. It was only two years after obtaining her doctorate that she decided to devote herself to caring for small animals, which is now her main activity.

“The best days are when we really feel like we’ve helped the pets,” Wood said. “For example, there are days when we can literally say, ‘We saved that dog’s life.’”

Although she has turned to small animals, she still has big dreams of what this practice can become.

According to Wood, the plan is to expand in a few years by building a larger structure on the property, which could potentially be used to house a physiotherapy clinic for animals that have just had surgery or are suffering from an illness. inoperable injury. . Sarah Farnum, a licensed vet tech who has worked for Wood for years, is interested in the field and could get certified if the plan pans out.

In the meantime, the clinic is looking to expand internally with new staff. The owners are currently looking for a receptionist and another veterinary technician. Interested people don’t need a lot of experience to apply, just enthusiasm and reliability, Wood said.

You can reach editor Rebecca Wolff at On Twitter @bexwolff.


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