New Vet Joins Mt Pleasant Hospital For Animals
New Vet Joins Mt Pleasant Hospital For Animals
By Dottie Evans
As long as she can remember, Maria M. Lagana, DVM, has always felt she âhad a calling.â
Horses, dogs, cats, guinea pigs, animals of every size and kind, âI love them all,â Dr Lagana said in a recent interview at the Mt Pleasant Hospital for Animals.
Dr Lagana joined the hospitalâs veterinary staff in February and works alongside Brian J. Silverlieb, DVM, longtime Newtown resident and founder of the 25-year-old veterinary practice. The animal hospital, located in a refurbished antique farmhouse on Route 6 at Exit 9, also features a luxury cat condo known as the âCatel Ritz,â a boarding kennel, grooming facilities, puppy daycare, and a yard for supervised animal play.
It was, however, the dedication of staff members and their focus upon the well-being of small animals that Dr Lagana first noticed when she came to the practice early this year. She remembers when one of her first clients was a sick animal brought in to be put to sleep by owners who, âfor a complicated set of reasons,â were unable to care for it. When working on the animal, she found she was able to cure it through surgery.
âIâll never forget Dr Silverlieb thanking me for saving that animal,â Dr Lagana said, adding that it was subsequently adopted by another family.
âIt was a terrific attitude that he showed,â she said.
In addition, she was impressed by the hospitalâs facilities and equipment for animal care, including a laser surgery unit, which she called âvirtually painlessâ for the animals, as well as ultrasound equipment.
âVery few practices have these units. This is high quality veterinary medicine,â Dr Lagana said.
Dr Lagana pursued her undergraduate and graduate studies at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., having grown up in upstate New York.
âI was known as the James Herriot of my community,â she said, recalling that in addition to owning numerous small animals, she had a horse named âAjaxâ that grew up with her. âAjax only just died at age 42,â she added.
Dr Lagana lives now in Brewster, N.Y., sharing her house on a lake with four cats and three dogs. Somehow, like many veterinarians in the area, she manages to find the time to put in one night a week at the Danbury Emergency Animal Clinic. It was at this facility that she actually heard about the opening at the Mt. Pleasant Hospital, leading to her applying for the job.
âI usually go into the clinic once a week from 6 pm to 8 am. It is rewarding, though sometimes sad,â she said.
When asked what kinds of cases come in the door of an emergency animal clinic, Dr Lagana took a deep breath and reeled off the harrowing but often typical scenarios that involve late night clients.
âWe get dogs hit by cars. Usually itâs around dinnertime when the owners get home and the dogs are let outside after being in all day. We see broken bones and respiratory distress.
âOr we get the more chronic cases, such as cats with urinary problems, where the signs arenât noticed by the owners until they get home from work. The owner will see that the cat is scratching in its litter box, squatting frequently, but it canât seem to go. Itâs not eating. Those are the usual symptoms,â she said.
The worst is âthe bloat,â a condition that strikes large breed dogs where, for some reason, the stomach suddenly twists around on itself or âflops over.â
âIt happens so fast. We need to see those animals within hours or it is too late,â Dr Lagana said.
Dr Silverlieb Celebrates 25 Years
Standing nearby during the interview was Dr Silverlieb, owner of the Mt. Pleasant Hospital for Animals, who said he was âdelighted at the addition of Dr Lagana to his staff. Especially now,â he added, during his Silver Anniversary Year.
He remembered vividly the day 25 years ago when he hung out his shingle and started âfrom scratch.â It was April 14, 1977.
âOn our very first day we had two clients, which was amazing since in those days, vets werenât allowed to advertise,â Dr Silverlieb said.
âIt was against the ethics of the profession. You just had to put out your sign and hope the clients would come to you. Word of mouth, thatâs all we had,â he said.
When he bought the old house at 119 Mt Pleasant Road for his practice, it was a realty office and many of the gracious details of the original farm house had been retained. For example, the clientsâ waiting room, which was once the front parlor, features a fireplace and tall, sun-filled windows.
Â A colorful mural has been painted on the front wall of the reception counter by a previous client depicting a kind of Peaceable Kingdom where all the animals and staff coexist in harmony. There are sheep, horses, ducks and geese, shelties, beagles, terriers, labs, and numerous cats, all mingling on the front lawn while Dr Silverlieb and his hospital staff look on.
Â âThe old house was built in 1719, originally in the red light district,â Dr Silverlieb said, âAnd after that it was farmed by the Camp and the Platt families.â
But with a 100-year-old grapevine twining over the entryway arbor and rose bushes and perennials growing behind a white picket fence, the old place could not look more respectable today. There is even a red fire hydrant in the middle of the front lawn so the canine clients will feel welcomed.
âRight away, I felt this positive energy about the place,â Dr Silverlieb said.
Like Dr Lagana, he also mentioned feeling âa callingâ at an early age to be a veterinarian.
When he finally did go to vet school at the University of Pennsylvania, âthe neighbors all said it was about time and no surprise. Iâve always felt lucky that I knew what I wanted to be from such a young age,â he added.
To celebrate its 25th anniversary year, the Mt Pleasant Animal Hospital will have an Open House Adoption Day on Saturday, June 29, for clients, their families, and friends.
âIf anyone decides to adopt an animal, we will give the animal a free exam and distemper and rabies shots,â Dr Silverlieb said, adding âwe hope to have a big turnout.â