The Everyday Kennel Staffer and the Extraordinary Ordinary Work

Encina Veterinary Hospital is composed of over 70 employees among multiple teams; Doctors, Interns, Administration, Client Services, Doctor Assistants, Patient Care and Kennel Assistants. Alicia Pickard is one of the team members on the Kennel Assistant team and her wide range of skills and duties are priceless to Encina. Below you will find a piece co-written by Alicia, giving you an insider’s look into the team that is always ready to help in one way or another.

Alicia, a Kennel Assistant at Encina Veterinary Hospital in Walnut Creek, helps keep a patient calm and still during a bandage change

    As the first kennel assistant to appear each morning at Encina, I’m right on top of my game. I always like to see what’s up for the day first before I begin any task. Once I’ve looked at what the day holds for EVH, I look to the boarders (pets who stay with us for medical boarding while their human is out of town or unable to care for them at the moment) as they are usually the most enthusiastic when asking for some attention and love. First, I feed our medical boarders, supply them with fresh water, clean their kennels and give them clean fresh bedding, dispense and give them their appropriate medications , walk the dogs and spend some time snuggling each of them. Then I make my way to our in house blood donor cats (we have two cats each year who live with us to provide blood to cat patients who may need it and once that year is up, we work VERY hard to find them loving homes that will spoil them silly!). As I take care of one, the other will start talking and purring because I’m the ‘lady who feeds them’ in their eyes. It’s rewarding to be greeted so nicely, even if you know that they’re just in it for the food. Depending on the situation, some boarders may take some extra time if I have to coax or encourage them to either eat or take their medications. This takes patience, a gentle touch and dedication as some pets may be out of their comfort zone while staying with us.

    Once the boarders and blood donor kitties have been taken care of, it’s time to turn on my talents (my favorite part of the day!). For a day, I could be a chef – we make a bland diet of chicken and rice when animals have had medical issues and need to revert to eating something light and easy on the stomach. Chicken is also used to encourage patients to eat their meals and tends to work great. I could be a dog walker; dogs have their own personal needs and sometimes they just need to stretch their legs, enjoy the outdoors, sniff around and have some time to themselves. I’m the person who keeps the treatment room clean; laundry, dirty patient food bowls, tables to floors to the kennels, anything I can reach I can clean. I’m the additional hands for technicians and doctors; count on me for holding a patient during a blood draw, chemotherapy treatment, echocardiograms and ultrasounds, x-rays, nail trims and everything in between. I am also often the person who comforts a pet while getting an injection or any other type of uncomfortable procedure. When I’m not cleaning, cooking, or being an extra set of hands, I help sterilize tools and put together surgical packs for upcoming surgeries. Throughout the day, I find myself utilizing many of my talents to better serve my team and the patients.

    Each day is a little different from the last which keeps me on my toes and ready for anything that the next day brings. The role of the kennel staffer is a broad spectrum of efforts that collected together makes us a strong part of the work force at EVH. I’m happy to be able to always say “yes” when it comes to helping my team!

Meet Our 2011-2012 Interns!

Every July, we welcome 6 newly graduated veterinary doctors for a one year rotating internship in our hospital. Once someone graduates from veterinary school, they are free to practice veterinary medicine but a select few decide to continue their education; those select few are our interns.

During their one year rotating internship with us, each intern spends some time with each of our doctors; internal medicine doctors (Dr. Roger Johnson, Dr. Peter Nurre & Dr. Jenifer Wang), general practice doctors (Dr. Jill Christofferson & Dr. Blythe Jurewicz), dentist (Dr. Katrina Hall-Essoe), neurologist (Dr. Filippo Adamo), oncologist (Dr. Stephen Atwater), surgeon (Dr. Carl Koelher), emergency doctors (Dr. Gerry Martin Del Campo, Dr. Molly Priest & Dr. Dorothy Hoppe) and even get to help manage the Antioch emergency clinic (East Bay Veterinary Emergency).

Often times, veterinary students graduate and begin practicing without much “real world” experience; they receive impressive grades, excel in school work and clinics but they haven’t seen the inside of an exam room and a concerned owner. Our rotating internship not only broadens their educations and improves their techniques, but it also gives them an opportunity to ask for help, guidance and advice in their first year as doctors.

Meet our 2011-2012 interns!

Dr. Cindi Hillemeyer
I went to college at the University of Colorado in Boulder and attended veterinary school at St. George’s University in Grenada, West Indies. I grew up in Anchorage, Alaska but have called Sun Valley, Idaho home for about 15 years – I love the mountains! I wanted to be a veterinarian for many reasons, most of all because I love the job and people involved. I have a curious/medical mind and enjoy helping people as a past EMT, but much much prefer working with animals and their people!
Growing up in Alaska, wildlife was a part of me; I’ve always wanted to help with their conservation, so while in veterinary school I decided to pursue a masters degree in conservation medicine. I was one of 3 people to get a ‘dual degree’ DVM/MSc and part of that was a summer in Africa, learning about conservation in Africa as well as wildlife handling, poaching and the problems Ugandans face with the human population encroaching on wildlife habitat. It was an eye-opening experience and the people were amazingly appreciative of what little they had. Ultimately I’d love to incorporate those experiences with veterinary work down the road working with wildlife conservation, reintroductions, etc. For now, I’m enjoying learning top notch medicine for small animals and next year may incorporate some large animal work as well. I love surgery as well as the huge variety involved in this career. There are so many fun options to choose from being a veterinarian!

Dr. Christine Fabregas
I grew up in Northridge, CA which is part of the San Fernando Valley just North of Los Angeles. As I was growing up, my family bred Shih-Tzus and as soon as I saw those little puppy faces, I knew wanted to take care of them. The runt of the second litter became sick a few days after she was born. She needed special attention with bottle feedings, heat support, urination/defecation. Unfortunately, she passed away the following days after treatment. This event solidified my goal to becoming a veterinarian in the future. I also enjoyed Mathematics and the theory behind the science. I graduated with a Bachelors in Mathematics from University of California, Los Angeles and then perused my degree in veterinary medicine at Ross University, finishing my clinical year at the University of Pennsylvania. During my time in veterinary school, I joined numerous clubs such as the SVECCS (worked emergency shifts throughout semesters, coordinated a speaker for multiple day talks to the student body), Pathology Club (working with green vervet monkeys, green sea turtles, dogs, and cats), and the Feline Club. Every Friday in the afternoon, I played beach volleyball with other students. It was just the right balance I needed to keep me stress-free during the week. I am currently deciding between General Practice, Emergency Medicine, and Cardiology. This year will guide me in the right direction, I’m sure of it!

Dr. Ruth Dunning
I grew up in Milwaukee, WI but luckily, my entire family now calls California home. I am a proud graduate of the University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine (GO BULLDOGS!!!). I knew I wanted to be a vet because I love working with animals AND the people who love them unconditionally. Plus, medicine is fascinating! When I wasn’t busy studying in veterinary school, I found time to work on animal welfare reform and issues. One of my proudest moments was when I was named the Humane Society of The United States 2011 Veterinary Student Advocate of the Year. General practice medicine is what I enjoy the most, so I will probably focus on that once I’ve finished my internship at Encina Veterinary Hospital.

Dr. Nadia Rifat
I am originally from Laguna Niguel in Southern California and went to veterinary school at University of California, Davis. I was one of those kids who wanted to be a veterinarian and then just never grew out of it! I have always had a love for animals and a desire to help them and their human companions. Although I enjoy working with companion animals, I also have a passion for zoo/wildlife, particularly marine mammals. During veterinary school, I had some really amazing opportunities: I was able to work with seal pups in Washington, work at Sea World in San Diego, and work at a wildlife sanctuary in Australia.

After this internship, I would ideally like to go into private practice and/or emergency with a bit of wildlife work in the mix.

Dr. Maryam O’Hara
I grew up in the Bay Area and attended UC Davis School of veterinary medicine. I’ve always wanted to be a veterinarian and help animals in their time of need. Although I grew up in the Bay Area, I call Moscow, Russia my home as it is my birthplace.

While in veterinary school, I had the wonderful opportunity to work with the Food Safety and Inspection Service of the USDA. This was a great experience as it showed me what the veterinarian’s day to day role is in maintaining the safety of our nations food supply. I plan on working in small animal general practice after completing my internship here at Encina Veterinary Hospital but in the future, I hope to expand my knowledge and work with small mammals and exotic pets.

Dr. Erica Chiu
I’ve always been an avid dog lover my whole life and as I got older, I began developing an interest for medicine, science and weird infectious diseases — it seemed natural to become a veterinarian! I completed my undergraduate education at UC San Diego and graduated veterinary school right here at UC Davis. One of the greatest experiences I had in veterinary school was the educational opportunity to spend a summer at the San Diego Zoo researching Avian Tuberculosis. Once I complete my internship in July of 2012, I am hoping to practice small animal (cat and dog) general practice and emergency.

The Pets of Encina…

Thanks to our fabulous in-hospital photographer Julia, we have acquired some very cute photos of our staff and their pets. Perhaps we are biased, but we feel that our animals are definitely calendar-worthy (pet agents, feel free to contact us if you see the model potential below).

Chewabacca, Julia's German Shepherd, is Always Ready For His Close-Up

Shannon and Her English Setter Jenna

Melina's Kitten Chum Chum Has Serious Cattitude

Greetings from Encina Veterinary Hospital!

The Blogger Ashley and her "nephew" Tucker

Greetings and welcome to the Encina Veterinary Hospital blog. My name is Ashley Core and I have worked for Dr. Roger Johnson for nearly 5 years, both at Encina and at our Antioch facility, East Bay Veterinary Emergency. I want to be a veterinarian when I grow up, suffice to say like all of my friends here at Encina I live to serve you and your fur-coated friends during both sickness and health. I hope that you will join me as I share the true tales (no pun intended) of our clients and patients, and reveal what happens behind our treatment room door… where you’ll never hear that it was “just another day at the office.”

This blog is also a platform for your questions, comments, and stories, please e-mail me at or comment below the blog posts. This blog will be updated a minimum of three times per week, so please subscribe to our RSS feed or and check back for new posts regularly. Thank you for reading, I look forward to sharing our unique world with you!