By Tom Reardon, August 2019 Issue.
Dr. Darren Wright and his wonderful staff at Kaibab Animal Hospital have the right idea about how to help animals and the owners through what are often difficult and stressful times. In a simple, unassuming office on North 68th Street in Scottsdale, Dr. Wright has forged a safe haven for cats, dogs, kittens, and puppies to get the care they need while their “parents” stay fully informed about what is happening, why it’s happening and, most importantly, what options are out there for their beloved pet.
When you walk through the door at Kaibab, the first thing you notice is their motto in big letters above the receptionist area: The Little Clinic With The Big Heart. Instantly welcoming, this motto fits Kaibab to a T. The building is clean with well appointed rooms and the perfect mix of pet-related art, information, and cozy charm. In short, when visiting Kaibab, you’re going to feel comfortable, appreciated, and part of the family. Dr. Wright has done an amazing job in creating a warm, nurturing space which is appropriate for puppy or kitty’s first check-up or a loving pet’s final moments.
On the day we met to talk about his practice, Dr. Wright has already performed four surgeries and was enjoying a well-earned break in the middle of his day. A single dad to his mini-pinscher, Luci, Dr. Wright is old enough to know better, but clearly young at heart. It is obvious after meeting him that he is just a genuinely good dude (and what would Miss Manners say about referring to a doctor as a “dude”?) and to hear him talk about his work and his staff and the animals he cares for is inspiring. For Dr. Wright, it’s all about making sure he is doing everything he can to make his patients and their families heard, informed, and safe.
When did you know you wanted to be a vet?
It was one of those things that since I was a kid, I’ve always wanted to do, like most kids. Thankfully, I just kind of stuck with it.
Lots of children express interest in veterinary science due to their love of animals but struggle with the idea of doing surgery on animals. What advice would you give to the budding vets out there?
Yes, you love animals and want to do the best for them. Some people, even friends who are vets, don’t like surgery. We all have to learn it to get through medical school and you have to do all the things and you have to be proficient in it. Once you graduate, you have the option of kind of doing what you want, though. For example, if you want to do just behavior and kind of be the doggy psychiatrist, you can do that.
Many people think euthanasia is the hardest thing we do, and some people think that it is almost all of what we do (euthanize animals). Unfortunately, it is something we do a lot and it’s one of the harder things to do in medicine, but I always look at it as it’s a very kind tool. It’s a gift you can give them to take away pain, to take way suffering, to give them the dignity that we just don’t get to do with people honestly. I always go into every euthanasia hoping it’s my last one, but it’s also a tool that I never want to be without because it is a valid treatment to take away the pain.
It’s a fine line that every vet has to walk, I’m sure, to broach this subject. How do you handle this?
It is hard to broach that subject. You have to read the actual client and say, “Okay, what are they looking for?” And some people are looking for that comfort, that validation saying, “I’m not doing the wrong thing or I’m not doing this too early” or anything because there are a lot of cases where people wait too late. I never want the animal to suffer, but as long as they’re comfortable, I’m going to support the owner and whatever decision they want to make as long as the animal is not being put in a bad position. I’m here as an advocate for the animal itself. There are times where I’m like, “Look, this is not going to end well. We can go and do these thousands of dollars of testing, but what am I going to do with those results?”
My philosophy on it is you have to kind of take their top three favorite things in life and as long as they can still do two of them and are still having more good days than bad, then we’re probably still doing okay. We can modify medications; we can change things. But when you look in their (the animal’s) eyes and you see that they’re just not having fun anymore, that’s when you’re saying, “Am I keeping you around for you or keeping you around for me?” It’s a very hard personal decision.
What’s the best part of your job?
Of course, it’s just playing with the puppies and kittens. It’s a difficult job when you’ve got to come in and get licked by dogs and cats and play with them all day. That’s the best thing. I really enjoy working with my clients. I have a lot of fun with them. I had one this morning where the owner was panicking because their dog was coughing all night and she though her dog was dying of heart failure, but we found that he was just having some allergies, so we got him the right medication and I got to be the hero. It feels really good to do that.
Many members of the gay community like to support gay-owned businesses. Do you feel some responsibility to help foster this in the gay community here in the Phoenix area?
As a community we have to lead and support each other and be out there, too, to help when there is an issue. As a community, we always want to be accepted. If we’re gay, we’re out there saying, “Hey, you need to accept me for who I am, love me for who I am,” and everything’s great. But then you get inside of our world, and again, we’re very cliquey and we isolate each other and that drives me nuts. Let’s kind of all be happy together.
So, we want to force everybody outside of community to accept our community, but within our community, we want to still isolate ourselves. That’s something that I’d like to change, but I don’t know how to change at this point other than just loving everybody. That’s something I would like to try and help foster a change in that because it does drive me nuts.
What is something you would like our readers to know about being a vet or veterinary science that people don’t know enough about?
Something I think that everybody needs to know that’s not really out there is the psychological issues we have in veterinary medicine. This is something that I am a big advocate for and something that I always try and talk about. A lot of people don’t realize that veterinarians actually have the highest suicide rate of any profession right now. People don’t realize it, I think, because they see us here and we seem like we’re all just happy go lucky because of how they see us here but just like any case of depression, you often don’t see it until it is too late.
What would you like to see pet owners do more of?
Honestly, preventative care (for the pet) and getting your annual check-up. I recommend every six months exams here. Pets are growing a lot older than we realize every year. I have wellness plans that help cover the costs so they can come in and I can listen to their heart (for example). Dentistry is huge, too.
If we can start with dental cleanings early, we can keep the teeth in their head. They spent a lot time making those teeth and if I can keep the teeth healthy, they’re going to be a lot healthier in general throughout their life.
Do you have any pets of your own?
I have a pet. A little min-pin named Lucy. Her drag name is Diva Lucia Dunne-Wright. She doesn’t realize she’s a dog.
What do you think she thinks she is?
She thinks she’s my queen. Okay. She lives in the house and I pay the bills. I mean, I sleep on her bed, all these kinds of things. She comes to work with me every day and is fine with the other dogs, but I think if I have another dog in the house, she’d be mad, so I only have the one.