They treat patients big and small

After giving a cat some medications to prepare for surgery, Dr. Jaime Clark holds the animal while Dr. Emily Wood prepares to place an IV catheter so they can give IV fluids during the procedure.

Northwood Vet Service is the epitome of a one-stop shop for animal care — from farm animals including goats and alpacas — to the usual menagerie of dogs, cats, guinea pigs and even lizards.

Northwood Vet Service touts itself as a hometown veterinary clinic, catering to the Black River Falls community and a radius around it. The clinic has been at N6630 County Rd A, Black River Falls, since a move to the facility about three years ago.

Prior to that, the practice that Emily Wood, a doctor of veterinary medicine (DVM), bought in 2013 (joined by Jaime Clark, DVM, in 2015) was bursting at the seams of its former location down the road. The former motorcycle shop on five acres in Adams Township was retrofitted to serve the practice’s two-legged and four-legged patients.

The journey hasn’t been without its hurdles, starting with the shift into its existing location. The duo, co-owners since Clark bought into the clinic in 2018, knew the new location required a new layout. Patients didn’t stop needing care even as they moved into the new facility, so they saw animals even though everything wasn’t located exactly where it needed to be.

There was also a hiccup with the flooring, so everything was placed in one-half of the building while the flooring was installed in the other half.

“We had to get the X-ray machine up and running right away because an animal was hit by a car. Then, on day three of being there, we had a furnace fire,” Wood said. “COVID helped us at that point because we were doing curbside care and had staff bring the animals in and out. We made it work and we never closed a day because of any of it.”

The veterinarians and their staff, which now number 18, are known for their tenacity, expertise and genuine care for their patients.

“At least five of those employees have only been added in the past two years,” Clark said. “Some of it is the result of the move as we now have five exam rooms versus the two we had in the past. Our old building was really small.”

What isn’t small is the client base, which is why Wood was happy Clark was able to join the practice. The two of them first met at Iowa State and even worked at another veterinarian practice together after veterinarian school. Both had an inkling early on in life that they were destined for animal care — Wood grew up on a dairy farm and knew she wanted to do something with animals. Clark recalls neighbors bringing baby bunnies to her for care even when she was a child.

“We’re both from small towns in Wisconsin, and we love that we can bring good medicine to a rural area,” Wood said. “We can bring opportunities for young people in the area interested in the veterinary field. I know that when I was in high school looking for options, there wasn’t a lot available in this area, and I wondered if I would be able to come back and work near home.”

Fortunately, the opportunity presented itself, and today, the business continues to be fast-paced and growing. Wood performs a lot of the large animal care, traveling to farms throughout the area. A lot of this care is scheduled care, as many of the operations are larger and manage their animals’ care well.

“It’s changed over the years, Wood said. “We do have a large Amish population, and I care for not just beef cattle but dairy and some sheep and goats. Not everyone wants to work on them, but I am willing to. I also take care of pigs and chickens and alpacas as well. I try to stay within 30 minutes of the clinic but seem to go farther all the time.”

Clark tends to cater to the small animal care alongside another associate, Caitlyn Dierks, DVM. That area of the practice has continued to grow significantly, especially as clients seek after-hour care for emergencies.

“Many emergency clinics are so full they have to turn people away,” Clark said. “They call us, and if we can, we try to see them.”

The veterinarians and team also see a number of animals owned by people who have moved away from the area but make a point of visiting the area and making appointments at Northwood Vet Service when they’re home.

They credit the level of personalized care as one of several reasons for that.“We really care, and try to take a little extra time to explain things,” Wood said. “We work really hard to have a welcoming staff, and we try to come up with different tiers of care if they can’t afford the first option, making a plan and including the owner in the care plan so we meet their needs and their budget as well.”

These days, the composition of business is about 75 percent small animal care and 25 percent large animal care. Days start with a schedule, but Clark is the first to say that things get added and changed on the schedule all day long.

“Sometimes, our husbands see us at 6 p.m. but other times, it’s 11 at night,” she said. “The days can get so busy, and sometimes we have to catch up on administrative stuff just like any business.”

Typical days this time of year include seeing a lot of dogs for vomiting and diarrhea as well as performing a lot of preventative care including vaccines and routine surgeries. They leave room on the schedule for urgent care (things that can wait to be seen within two to three days, such as allergies or limping) as well as several spots for emergencies (such as seizures or an animal eating a toy and becoming really sick). The clientele runs the gamut with an increasing number of rabbits, chickens, quail, guinea pigs and even lizards.

“We will look at exotics and see if we can figure something out,” Wood said. “Referring them on to an exotic specialist is quite expensive.”

The staff’s goal at the end of each day is to do their best and head home knowing they have given their all to their patients.

“If there’s something we can’t fix, we want to provide a peaceful passing so animals and their families aren’t struggling,” Clark said. “A good end of day is one in which staff feels they are meeting their goals and are content, things are stocked, charting is done, bills are paid and animals are tucked in.”

Being recognized recently as a Business of the Year by the Black River Area Chamber of Commerce was a bonus to the team.

“For me, it was reinforcement that the extra time and energy are worth it and appreciated,” Wood said.