Based on an interview I conducted with Dr. Fred Jones, owner of Arlington Animal Hospital, this piece is the first in a series of profiles I’m writing of Columbia Pike business owners for the Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization. This kind of piece was really what I had in mind when I started the blog, but I digressed. Stay tuned for profiles of yoga studio owner and optometrist.
A little Jack Russell Terrier came to see Dr. Frederick Jones one day with a serious problem. The dog had ingested a bottle of Gorilla Glue, which, according to Dr. Jones, “binds and expands.” Dr. Jones took the dog into surgery and opened his stomach. He removed “a giant ball of glue, in the shape of the stomach. It was really cool.” Afterward, the veterinarian reports, “the dog did great.”
Dr. Jones has always loved animals and knew when he was 12 that he wanted to become a veterinarian. He started working as a kennel assistant when he was 15. Years later he is an accomplished vet and the new owner of Arlington Animal Hospital located at 2624 Columbia Pike, near the intersection of Columbia Pike and Walter Reed Drive.
Arlington Animal Hospital was founded in 1938 by Dr. CK Francis who built an apartment upstairs from the clinic for his family to live in. The apartment is still owned by the Francis family and now occupied by another hospital staff member. One of Dr. Francis’ sons, David, became a vet and took over the practice with a partner, Dr. V. Wayne Kimbal. Later the practice had another owner, Dr. Kay Young, who had also known the elder Dr. Francis. Dr. Young sold the practice to Dr. Jones in 2009 and has stayed on as a veterinarian.
Perhaps because of the continuity of vets and owners and the community culture at the Hospital, patients’ owners have been very loyal. “I’ve met some people who have told me they’ve been bringing their dogs here for 10, 20, 30, or 40 years,” Dr. Jones said. “One thing I’ve noticed about Arlington Animal Hospital is the sense of community here is tremendous.” While many patients live in the neighborhood, they also come back to the Hospital after moving to Alexandria or DC. Dr. Jones said the relationship of patient and owner to vet is much like humans with their family doctors.
“You know the animal,” he said. “There’s a comfort level a lot of people have with a veterinarian they’ve had a long relationship with. And animals do recognize you when they’ve been coming for several years. They’re happy to see you and you’re happy to see them.”
Before coming to Arlington, Dr. Jones worked at Woodbridge Animal Hospital, a larger facility open 24 hours that employs 11 doctors and 75 staff. While he enjoyed his experience there, Dr. Jones knew he wanted to one day own his own practice. Arlington Animal Hospital operates with a staff of 9, including three veterinarians and six assistants and receptionists.
“This type of hospital has more of a homey feel to it,” Dr. Jones explained. “It’s personal. You walk in and know everyone by name and all their pets by name. You stand out front and chat. It’s a welcoming and comforting place. If there’s someone waiting in the waiting room the receptionist is often on the floor playing with the dog or cat. I like that culture.”
While Dr. Jones values the time he spends with dogs and cats and their owners, he now spends a fair amount of time learning the business side of running an animal hospital. “It’s a lot to digest,” he said. “I could have read any number of books, but really you aren’t going to figure it out until you’re doing it.” He recruited a veterinary consultant to provide advice and support on running the practice.
The Hospital sees between 300 and 400 dogs and cats each month. Dr. Jones sees patients Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturday and Tuesday mornings. The rest of his time is dedicated to administrative work.
His heart is always with the animals. “It’s such a rewarding job,” Dr. Jones said. “When I see a dog or a cat that is sick and I can help them or make them better, that’s the best feeling in the world for me. We really strive to give them the best possible medicine and care that we can. That makes the owners want to come back.”
Dr. Jones has noticed an increase in how much owners are willing and able to spend on their pets, and believes the advent of pet health insurance is a positive thing. “People are treating their pets more like family. They’re willing to do things they wouldn’t have done years ago because of the way our society has developed. Why not? They deserve to have good lives too? Our interest is the best interest for our pets.”
The Hospital is not a 24-hour clinic, so it doesn’t board sick animals. While the clinic’s storefront is narrow, the space is large inside and stretches back to the parking lot behind it. An enclosed outdoor exercise area adjacent to the hospital provides a place for dogs to run. “If there’s slow time,” Dr. Jones explained, ”we take dogs outside and toss a ball. It’s a bit of a concrete jungle but they can stretch their legs.”
Seeing a dog run and play is a great sign of his health. Dr. Jones recalled one dog he treated who had a malignant tumor on his leg. “I told his owner, ‘it hasn’t spread. Amputate his leg and he’ll do fine. He can live a great life.’ The man didn’t want to do it, and was worried his dog wouldn’t be the same. He thought about it for a while and ended up agreeing. Several months later he brought the dog in for a routine checkup. The dog was doing great. The owner said, ‘he runs faster on three legs than he did on four!’”
Arlington Animal Hospital is open Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday from 8am to 8pm, Wednesday from 8am to 4pm, and Saturday from 8am to 2pm. The Hospital is currently accepting new patients. Visit www.myarlingtonvet.com or call 703-920-5300.