Tinkerbell Hanson’s Life Story, Remembering

We recently said our goodbyes to a dear patient of ours, Tinkerbell. Here is her story, written by her wonderful human, Diana:

Tinkerbell Hanson’s Life Story

To Dr. Wang, Suzanne and the Staff at East Bay Veterinary Hospital,
I wanted to share with you Tinkerbell’s story

I was driving home June 2nd 2017, a Friday night around 5:00 after work, and I usually go over the Altamont pass and take the back roads home through Byron because of Vasco Road traffic. When I got near the bottom of the off ramp (click the link https://www.google.com/maps/@37.7402525,-121.5857948,467m/data=!3m1!1e3 to see how isolated this area is) in the middle of nowhere I saw a gray tabby in the dry grass just about 10 feet from the road. She was sticking her head up, looking for someone, but then ducked back down. I put my window down and called to her. Cars were coming up behind me so I had to pull away. I felt terrible and thought about the kitty throughout the evening.

The next morning, I woke early and went to visit my dad who had dementia, as I did every morning, who was in a memory care residence in Pleasanton. I left my dad’s around 9:45 am and headed home. I was going to take Vasco home since there is not much traffic on the weekends. At the very last second I remembered the kitty and got back on the freeway and went over the Altamont Pass knowing that it was impossible for that cat to still be at the off ramp. Yes, as you probably guessed she was in the exact same spot! I pulled as much to the side of the off ramp as I could and got out of the car. I went into the dry grass probably filled with snakes! The kitty ran from me a bit but I was eventually able to catch her! Then she got scared and started trying to get out of my grip and I didn’t have anything to put her in to secure her for the drive home. It breaks my heart to say I had to let her go. I knew I would go home and recruit help. I didn’t feel safe being alone there in the snaky grass in the middle of nowhere.

I got home and started asking for help. My sister has a friend in walnut creek that fosters kitties and has rescued many cats. She now has the feral cats living safely in her yard and they are cared for beautifully. My sister calls it a sanctuary and she is right! My sister and the gal named Cricket were at a swim meet for the kids and couldn’t help me at the time I called, but Cricket said she would take the kitty if we caught her.

I messaged my best friend Lori in Dublin and she and her husband Mike dropped everything and met me there at the off ramp. No kitty! Mike went a few feet away from where I had seen the cat and there was a flattened cardboard box. He lifted the box and the cat ran out. Lori ran interference and made sure the cat didn’t come down to the lower road. Together Mike and I tried to catch the cat and the cat ran up the hill to the freeway! The cat was about 6 feet from the traffic zooming by. I closed my eyes and prayed. She then ran under the overpass in the dirt section that runs under it. She was at the top and it was a challenge to get up the hill. Mike was climbing up the grassy, snaky hill under the overpass. Mike managed to carefully get close to the cat and got a hold of her after a few minutes. The kitty seemed to trust him right away. Once he had a hold of her he was petting her and she seemed ok. So I came up the hill with the carrier and finally made my way to them and a motorcycle came by which scared the cat as we were trying to get her in the carrier. She scratched Mike. Thankfully he is ok. We did get the cat inside the carrier.

I loaded her in the car and took her to Cricket in Walnut Creek after picking up my sister Sue. Cricket was so lovely and caring and made a safe and secure spot for the kitty to get settled after a traumatic few days at least. Cricket’s family was so sweet and welcoming about helping this kitty. Cricket said the kitty was dehydrated. I am not surprised by that since it was hot and there is nothing for many miles out in that area.

My sister gave me an update from Cricket that night. This is what Cricket had said, “I just hung out with her in the bathroom and she rubbed up against me and I petted her. She is totally tame.” She also said, “she would start eating then stop and come over to be pet because she was so happy to have attention.” I think that this is the first time in days that the kitty felt safe.

They named her Diana Prince Wonder Woman! Cricket asked me to take the kitty since she had so many feral cats at her house and this kitty was very tame. I had not planned on getting a cat since my cat that I had for over 18 years had passed away not that long before.

My dad with his dementia was my focus. Every morning at 5am I would leave home with coffee and toast with dad’s favorite jelly and get to his facility by 6 am to spend an hour with him before I went to work. It was an important routine since he still responded to me during those visits. I didn’t feel like I could manage having a new cat while my focus was my dad.
But…. I guess it was meant to be.

The journey began. I picked up Tinkerbell in Walnut Creek and renamed her Piper because the way I go home at night takes me by the Byron airport and Piper is a kind of airplane.

I never regretted the choice I made to adopt her.

Shortly after spending time with her I realized that by the way she runs everywhere with a wonderful bounce that she is Tinkerbell!
She adjusted to her new home easily and was affectionate and sweet every moment. She loved every one that she met. When the doorbell rang (most cat owners know that cats hide when the doorbell rings) Tink ran to the front door to greet whoever was visiting. She expected and got attention from the visitors and made herself at home on their lap.

After a few months Tinkerbell had an episode that brought us to East Bay Vet for the first of many times. She was anemic. We met the wonderful Dr. Priest. She was so kind to us (my sister and I) and took us through what was happening and how they were going to help Tinkerbell. I spoke to doctors on each of the shifts and felt so good about the care Tinkerbell was receiving and how well they knew sweet Tinkerbell and each had stories about her. We have had a few evening visits that brought us back to Dr. Priest and each time she was so supportive. The first time was a scary few days. Little did we know then that it was going to be a journey. Tinkerbell has probably seen every doctor (and loved all of them) at the hospital at one time and many specialists across the country know about this mystery kitty.

The evening and overnight Doctor’s, techs and staff played a significant role in this story as well. They are not forgotten by me as I know they spent many evenings and nights with Tinkerbell and caring for her. I knew that she was in great hands and probably loved all the attention she got from them.

I have heard more times than I can count that Tinkerbell had no idea how sick she was and that she had more lives than any cat because of her strong will and love for people.

Over the past several months I heard stories every time Tinkerbell and I came to Encina of the sweet encounters staff had with Tinkerbell, from Tink always being held, meowing at staff as they walked by her cage to give her attention, purring so loud they couldn’t hear her heartbeat and the sweet nicknames that staff had for her. Brianna, during one of Tinkerbell’s overnight stays, went in the back to get Tinkerbell so I could say goodnight before I left. She said that when she went in the back asking for Tinkerbell that Tinkerbell answered her from her cage.  Like, oh that’s me, I am right here.

Even with the many visits we made to Encina there were staff I didn’t recognize but as soon as they saw Tinkerbell they would say, “I know Tinkerbell” or if they saw us in a room would ask if they could say hello to Tinkerbell.
The staff from the front to the back have made me and Tinkerbell feel special over the past year.

Suzanne was always there for us and nothing was ever too much to ask. She was our link to Encina and made sure whatever we needed or asked for we received without hesitation. She greeted us warmly and said nice things to Tinkerbell. She brought Tinkerbell food and water in the room when we were there for appointments because she knew that Tinkerbell was hungry after an hour drive there and hour in the back having tests. Tinkerbell loved to have a snack before we got on the road to head home.

The Hero:
It was Dr. Wang who lead the charge to figure out what was happening to Tinkerbell. She was so patient as we tested, retested, tried this medication and that medication to first try to diagnose the cause of her trouble and try to cure her and then just to keep her stable. It was a balancing act for sure. Dr. Wang called on every resource she had to help Tinkerbell. We had many successes in her treatment and many setbacks but Dr. Wang never gave up trying.

It was a long journey. I can’t express enough how much I appreciate Dr. Wang and everything she did for Tinkerbell. She never gave up or asked me to give up.

But we both knew that one day, as Dr. Wang said, we would not be able to turn things around.

She said that one day it may be “time” and I knew that she would guide me to when that “time” was.

We faced that on Wednesday. A heartbreaking day for me and I am sure for Dr. Wang and the staff at Encina. I could not face being there but I knew that during this time there was no place on earth with as many people who loved Tinkerbell than at Encina. Dr. Wang was so sweet and called me that evening to check on how I was doing. She gave me comfort by telling me that Tinkerbell was held as she passed and that it was peaceful.

My heart was broken and still is over losing Tinkerbell.

She has been such a treasure. I have never, ever met a cat with as much love and charm as Tinkerbell. Thank you for helping me have the past year with Tinkerbell.


Welcome Dr. Nadia Rifat to Encina Veterinary Hospital!

This month we welcome back Dr. Nadia Rifat to Encina Veterinary Hospital in Walnut Creek, as another general practice doctor!

Nadia Rifat, DVM
Doctor of Veterinary Medicine

Education: Bachelor of Science from Purdue University 2007, Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine from University of California, Davis 2011

Professional Interests: preventative care, geriatric care, pain management

Personal Interests: anything and everything outdoors, including trail running, backpacking, skiing, and rock climbing; always including her rescue pup, Josie, if possible.

Professional Organizations: AVMA, CVMA, and CAVMRC (California Veterinary Medical Reserve Corps).

“Growing up, I was surrounded by a family of medical doctors and nurses, so it was not surprising that I would gravitate towards a career in medicine. My innate love of animals, and learning about the impact of the human animal bond, were what lead me towards a career in veterinary medicine rather than human medicine, a field in which I felt I could help animals and people alike.”

January – February 2018: Save 25% on Comprehensive Lab Panel with Wellness Exam at Encina Veterinary Hospital

Dear Clients of Encina Veterinary Hospital,

Encina Veterinary Hospital prides ourselves on providing the best possible care for our patients, and part of this includes the recommendation that each of our patients have regular wellness examinations, which allows us to detect medical conditions in the early stages. When we detect medical conditions in earlier stages it is more likely to be treated and resolved with less expense, less difficulty, and better success. It is all too often that we diagnose medical conditions in the late stages when our patients are very sick and need more intense treatment.

A wellness evaluation consists of your veterinarian taking a detailed history about your pet, performing a physical examination, and possibly performing diagnostic tests to evaluate for conditions not detected on a physical examination, such as kidney disease. If kidney disease is diagnosed in the early stage it can sometimes be treated by simply changing your pet’s diet. Whereas, if kidney disease is diagnosed in the late stages then treatment might consist of hospitalization with intravenous fluids and other supportive care measures before being discharged on multiple medications and often times a short survival time. This is one example of the value of wellness exams.

As a way of promoting the value of wellness exams we are excited to announce that we are making January and February our Wellness months. During these months (01/01/2018 – 02/28/2018) we are offering our clients a 25% discount on comprehensive laboratory panels that we perform on any of your pets. All that we require is that you have a wellness examination for your pet in the month of January or February and present the wellness laboratory panel coupon at that appointment. You can find the coupon at the bottom of this letter and you are able to either print the email or present the coupon to your doctor’s assistant on your smart phone.

We look forward to seeing you soon with your pets to start the new year thinking about the health and wellness of your furry family members.

Wishing you the best in 2018,
Dr. Peter Nurre
Medical Director


Max was surrendered to us in late 2014 when his humans could no longer care for him. He’s a gorgeous tabby, 2008 model, neutered and about 11lbs. Max came to us with a urethral obstruction which means he needs to be on a special diet (wet food). Max is loving, sweet, gentle, kind, and LOVES humans. He doesn’t have the same feelings for animals, but we feel that if he were to be slowly integrated into a household, he would do well with others in the long run. Max is a gentle and shy soul and unfortunately the noises and smells here at EVH can be a bit overwhelming.

Max’s ideal home would be a quiet place, with no other pets. We think he would do great with someone enjoying their golden years and looking for a low maintenance furry friend.

If you are interested in meeting and possibly giving Max a happy life full of belly rubs and cuddles, please email ACSUTU@ENCINAVET.COM

thank you to Barbara of Share the Joy Photography (FACEBOOK / WEBSITE) for volunteering her time for Max

Meet Dr. Susan Trujillo!

As you may know, Dr. Liz Milauskas will be taking the summer off to spend time with her newborn baby. In her place, we are happy to welcome Dr. Susan Trujillo! Dr. Trujillo has been with Encina Veterinary Hospital on and off for over 7 years.

Dr. Trujillo was born and raised in Castro Valley. She earned her doctorate of veterinary medicine from Colorado State University in 1992. After graduating, Dr. Trujillo returned to the Bay Area and began her career – she has yet to practice elsewhere! For 23 years, Dr. Trujillo has been proudly caring for the pets of the Bay Area with a special interest in dentistry and dermatology. During her time away from the hospital, Dr. Trujillo enjoys showing dogs in agility, conformation, rally and obedience; she also enjoys hiking and skiing in the mountains.

While we’re missing Dr. Liz, we’re happy to feature a familiar face around here in her absence – welcome back to Encina Veterinary Hospital, Dr. Trujillo.


JT (Patient Care Team)
Nearly 3 years ago, Jen “JT” Tsutsui joined the patient Care team here at Encina Veterinary Hospital. At the time she was looking to expand her horizons and saw Encina as a fit for her.

As a veterinary technician on the patient care team, JT spends most of her time assisting and caring for our patients. Blood draws, sedations, radiographs, chemotherapy, assisting with managing the lab equipment and outpatient services are just a few of the things you can catch her doing day-to-day.

JT says she loves working here because “every day I get to do different things”. She attributes her success to liking the people she works with: “I enjoy working with the doctors and staff”.
She admits her greatest challenge here is also one of things she loves the most – “Keeping up with the busy days can be crazy”.

When she heard she had won this month’s EOM, she says she was “very ecstatic, I was surprised”.

Outside of Encina, you can catch her spending time with her family, especially her two little ones or on the softball fields.
“Let it Go” from the Frozen soundtrack is her go-to song to sing-a-long to.

Should she have the luxury of inviting whomever she wants to a dinner party she says, “All my grandparents who have passed away – a grandparent reunion!”

Employee of the Month for August 2014: Melanie!

Nearly 4 years ago, Melanie Grajeda joined the Doctor’s Assistant team here at Encina Veterinary Hospital. Since then, she’s been non-stop – “filling prescriptions, calculating doses, rooming patients, creating and reviewing estimates and client communication” – are just a few things she manages each and every day.

Before Encina Melanie says, “I hated my job because I was working in a small general practice hospital and after working in emergency for 3 years, I needed something busier!” Well she got her wish! “I LOVE how busy it is, how much I learn every day, all the different cases we see and I really like my coworkers”.

She attributes her success here to her beloved ability to “thrive in a chaotic environment” because she “loves to learn and I am more efficient when it’s busy than when it’s slow because I am just the right amount of crazy”.

Although she loves it here, she does admit there is a challenge: “I am super controlling and neurotic and a little bit obsessive compulsive so I have trouble sharing tasks and knowing when to say ‘enough is enough’”.

Outside of Encina, Melanie admits to being a lady of leisure, to an extent. “I have another job outside of Encina but when I’m free from both, I like to go to A’s games, hang out with friends and explore the city of Oakland.”

If you’re dreaming of a serenade from Melanie, be sure to turn on “Don’t Stop Believing” by Journey or anything by Queen as she can’t help but sing along to either.

For her dinner party dreams, Melanie hopes to invite Freddy Mercury, Johnny Cash and her living grandfather.

“I was very surprised!” she says of winning this month’s EOM. “I’m very appreciative and excited about my parking spot!!”

Employee of the Month for June 2014: Krista!

As a Doctor’s Assistant on the Client Care Team, every day for Krista is filled to the max! “rooming patients, putting together estimates and invoices, dispensing medications, answering questions and client concerns, setting up appointments and scheduling surgeries, AND whatever else my doctor needs!” are just some of the tasks she does day in and day out since joining our team in July of 2011.

Nearly 2 years ago when Krista joined us, she says that Allison recruited her, “and I wanted to broaden my experiences in the veterinary field”. She attributes her success here to her “very supportive team” and “team leaders are very encouraging and help whenever needed.”

Although public speaking is hard for her she admits, she appreciates the ability to “learn something new every day” which she says is her favorite part of the job.

“I was surprised!” says Krista about her employee of the month for June. “My efforts don’t go unnoticed and I feel like my contributions are actually appreciated … Everything I have been through recently, everyone here is so helpful, everyone just wants me back to 100%.

Hanging out with friends, family; concerts and baseball games are a few of her favorite things to do when she isn’t here but lately she’s been building and fixing her fence that BB, her dog, continues to break through. “It’s so frustrating!”

Although she has only seen the movie once, she says the Snowman song from Frozen is the catchiest tune around right now that she can’t help but sing along too.

Given the opportunity to host a dinner party she immediately says she would invite Usher, along with Jay Sean and her grandfather who has passed away – “it would be very interesting!” she says with her classic laugh.

Employee of the Month: May 2014

Danielle Quintero, RVT
Patient Care Team

Over 6 years ago, Danielle (aka DQ)walked into Encina Veterinary Hospital and became a crucial part of our team. Her role as a Registered Veterinary Technician plays such an important part in our hospital – both to patients and to collegues.

Each day, DQ tends to our emergency patients as well as those in-patients who need around the clock care in our ICU unit. Inbetween ICU patients and emergency patients, DQ monitors anesthesia and vitals of our patients in surgery.

DQ decided to join the team at Encina 6 years ago for some very practical reasons: close to home, featured emergency and critical veterinary care and of course, we were hiring! She continues to stay and grow with us because she likes the “fast paced, multi tasking team based environment, the way we manage cases and the high quality veterinary medicine we provide.”

She admits the job isn’t always easy, as she can’t “save them all,” but she says her strong work ethic keeps her focused and successful. “I was honored, very shocked,” says DQ when she was told that she had won our Employee of the Month for May.

When DQ is not here at the hospital, she stays busy thanks to her 3 year old son AJ and trips to Monterey Bay’s beach. At home, you can catch her gardening (she’s got some roses she is particularly proud of), home improvement projects and Netflixing her new guilty pleasure Revenge.

DQ says the song that will never fail to make her sing along to is Gloria Gaynor’s, I Will Survive. Should she have a dinner party with 3 people dead or alive, her picks are: her father, Etta James and Chuck Berry – a party focused on her love for music.

Welcome Dr. Liz Milauskas!

We are very excited to announce the return of Dr. Liz Milauskas to Encina Veterinary Hospital as she will join our team of doctors as a full-time general practitioner starting NOW!

Dr. Milauskas was raised in southern California. Unsurprisingly to her friends and family, Dr. Milauskas pursued a career as a veterinarian after completing her undergraduate degree in Biological Sciences in 1994 from UC Davis. Following graduation, she moved to Dublin, Ireland where she attended veterinary school at University College, Dublin Ireland Upon graduating with a degree in veterinary medicine in 2000 she returned to the United States and began practicing veterinary medicine in Oregon for the next 8 years.

In 2008 to 2009, Dr. Milauskas returned to California and completed an internship at Encina Veterinary Hospital. In addition to completing the internship, Dr. Milauskas studied alternative therapies, such as acupuncture, and has integrated them with traditional veterinary medicine. Since completing a veterinarian acupuncture course at Colorado State University she has become a certified veterinary acupuncturist.

Dr. Milauskas is also certified in Penn Hip, which is a multi-faceted radiographic screening method for canine hip evaluation. This is the ideal way to radiographically evaluate canine hips for dysplasia and there are only a small percentage of veterinarians that are certified to perform this diagnostic test.

Dr. Milauskas is a member of the American Veterinary Medical Association, the California Veterinary Medical Association, the Oregon Veterinary Medical Association, and the International Veterinary Acupuncture Society.

On her days away from veterinary medicine she enjoys running, hiking, traveling, and spending time with her husband, their two Labradors (Kiely and Lily) and their French Bulldog (Max).