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New Vet Joins Mt Pleasant Hospital For Animals



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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 “had a calling.”

Horses, dogs, cats, guinea pigs, animals of every size and kind, “I love them all,” Dr Lagana said in a recent interview at the Mt Pleasant Hospital for Animals.

Dr Lagana joined the hospital’s 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 “Catel Ritz,” 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, “for a complicated set of reasons,” were unable to care for it. When working on the animal, she found she was able to cure it through surgery.

“I’ll never forget Dr Silverlieb thanking me for saving that animal,” Dr Lagana said, adding that it was subsequently adopted by another family.

“It was a terrific attitude that he showed,” she said.

In addition, she was impressed by the hospital’s facilities and equipment for animal care, including a laser surgery unit, which she called “virtually painless” for the animals, as well as ultrasound equipment.

“Very few practices have these units. This is high quality veterinary medicine,” 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.

“I was known as the James Herriot of my community,” she said, recalling that in addition to owning numerous small animals, she had a horse named “Ajax” that grew up with her. “Ajax only just died at age 42,” 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.

“I usually go into the clinic once a week from 6 pm to 8 am. It is rewarding, though sometimes sad,” 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.

“We get dogs hit by cars. Usually it’s 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.

“Or we get the more chronic cases, such as cats with urinary problems, where the signs aren’t 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 can’t seem to go. It’s not eating. Those are the usual symptoms,” she said.

The worst is “the bloat,” a condition that strikes large breed dogs where, for some reason, the stomach suddenly twists around on itself or “flops over.”

“It happens so fast. We need to see those animals within hours or it is too late,” 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 “delighted at the addition of Dr Lagana to his staff. Especially now,” he added, during his Silver Anniversary Year.

He remembered vividly the day 25 years ago when he hung out his shingle and started “from scratch.” It was April 14, 1977.

“On our very first day we had two clients, which was amazing since in those days, vets weren’t allowed to advertise,” Dr Silverlieb said.

“It 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, that’s all we had,” 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 clients’ waiting room, which was once the front parlor, features a fireplace and tall, sun-filled windows.

 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.

 “The old house was built in 1719, originally in the red light district,” Dr Silverlieb said, “And after that it was farmed by the Camp and the Platt families.”

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.

“Right away, I felt this positive energy about the place,” Dr Silverlieb said.

Like Dr Lagana, he also mentioned feeling “a calling” at an early age to be a veterinarian.

When he finally did go to vet school at the University of Pennsylvania, “the neighbors all said it was about time and no surprise. I’ve always felt lucky that I knew what I wanted to be from such a young age,” 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.

“If anyone decides to adopt an animal, we will give the animal a free exam and distemper and rabies shots,” Dr Silverlieb said, adding “we hope to have a big turnout.”

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