Hanging up her STETHOSCOPE
In Walt Disney's classic animated film "101 Dalmatians," news that Dalmatian pups had been stolen was passed dog to dog via the Twilight Bark. One might imagine pets using that same alert system to pass the news that longtime veterinarian Mary Sullivan is retiring. After 39 years of providing medical care to animals large and small, Sullivan will retire May 30.
The news brings mixed responses from pets and pet owners and staff members of Parkway Veterinary Hospital, where Sullivan has worked for the past 18 years.
"It's been a very rewarding career," Sullivan said. "Every day is completely unique, with something different."
Sullivan didn't have plans as a youth to become a vet, but knew she wanted to work in science. A summer spent working on a dairy farm after she graduated with a degree in biology from University of Pennsylvania was motivation to pursue a career in veterinary sciences. She worked mornings at the dairy farm, then helped out at a mixed-animal veterinary practice.
She enrolled in veterinary school at Cornell, against recommendations from school counselors.
"They suggested I go to medical school and forget about being a vet," Sullivan said. "Veterinary medicine was a completely male-dominated field at that time, and women were just beginning to consider it."
When she enrolled in veterinary school, women were admitted just two per year, so they could be lab partners.
"There were two women in my class, and slowly the count grew. Now the majority of vets are women," she said.
After veterinary school, Sullivan worked at the Philadelphia Zoo, where she dealt with animals of all kinds: South American tapirs, fruit bats, seals and turtles among them.
Following that was a stint working with thoroughbred race horses in California and with large animals in Virginia and New York before she and her husband, Jerome Duletzsky, moved their family to Oregon and settled in Lake Oswego. Their youngest son, Nathan, was just 2 months old when they arrived in 1993.
Sullivan filled in at a Hillsdale veterinary clinic for a time, and then worked with Bob Groves at Lake Oswego Veterinary Clinic before taking a position at Parkway Veterinary Hospital in 2000. Sullivan says she has seen many advancements in veterinary health care during her career.
"We've seen advancements in medicine, procedures and even foods," she said. "Pet care evolved as well as human medical care."
Advancements like fear-free clinics make pets more comfortable when visiting the vet's office, too.
"There has been lots of growth," she said. "I was the fourth vet hired at Parkway and now there are 10 vets."
The pet clinic and emergency hospital has grown significantly since it opened in 1986 in Lake Oswego's Mountain Park shopping center. Now located at 3996 S.W. Douglas Way in Lake Oswego, the animal hospital offers cutting-edge veterinary medical care. From wellness exams and vaccines to advanced diagnostics and complex surgical procedures, pets receive high quality care at the clinic, including acupuncture, senior pet health, dental care, behavior counseling, cardiac and physiotherapy.
Sullivan said she gets confirmation that she chose the right profession when a "hopeless situation has a happy outcome. Every day you test your knowledge to solve a problem (of a pet's health)," she says. "You have to supply quick creative solutions, think on your toes. It's been an honor to share ideas with this wonderful group of doctors and it's exciting to be on the leading edge of medicine and procedures."
Sullivan says "this has been a great career," and she will treasure many memories.
"I keep thinking of all the incredible stories I have heard over the years," she said. "Of how important pets are to their people. From unconditional love, to courage, to safety, to humor — including stories of beagles opening refrigerators — games people play with their pets, to hunting dogs, guide dogs, agility dogs, to show dogs and cats. And, I have been honored to hear their stories, care for their pets, share in the happy and sad moments, and ease them out of this world when necessary."
"I can vividly remember the day I first met Dr. Mary," said Gregg Takashima, founder of Parkway Veterinary. "She stopped by our hospital to say hello. Now, some 19 years later as a member of our veterinary team, I can truly say that the lives of many have been so positively impacted by this fortuitous meeting. She has been a perfect example of being part of the community, whether it be our profession or the city of Lake Oswego or her choir group. She also epitomizes what a compassionate healthcare provider should be, caring, patient and competent. While we all will miss her, I know the rest of our staff joins me in wishing Mary the very best on this new chapter of her life."
During retirement she plans on traveling to visit her children, gardening, completing sewing and other artistic projects and hiking. And pouring lavish attention on her own two cats.
Sullivan's last day at Parkway Veterinary will be May 30. A community celebration of her retirement will be held at a later date. Those wishing to attend can call the office at 503-636-2102 or listen for details on the Twilight Bark.