Columbus, Ohio USA
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Flores celebrates five years of healing, helping animals
By Karen Edwards
July/August 2016 Issue
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Jane Flores | Photo © Gus Brunsman III
For five years, Jane Flores, DVM, has been helping and healing animals at her Elemental Veterinary Center and Pet Spa, located at 1250 N. High St. Granted, five years is a long time, at least in this business climate, for a shop, restaurant or other business to be operational – and congratulations are in order – but what you should understand about Jane Flores is that five years is – well, about a teacup poodle’s worth of time in what has amounted to her lifelong journey to Elemental.
“I remember the exact moment I wanted to be a vet,” she says – and even now, she can recount the experience with a kind of poignant clarity.
The making of a vet
Flores grew up in the rural countryside around Findlay, Ohio, with an older brother and sister, but even from a young age, Flores had a special affinity for animals. “I was always the one who was bringing some sick animal into the house,” she says. Because her family owned and worked a farm, many of the animals sheltered inside were baby farm animals – calves or lambs – that may not have been thriving the way they should. “If they weren’t in the house with me, I was out in the barn with them,” she says. “My parents would find me asleep in their stalls.”
But anyone who has worked in animal shelters, or who may have adopted a shelter pet, knows that the countryside is not always a bucolic place. From time to time, it can, unfortunately, also be a dumping ground for unwanted and abused animals.
Flores learned that harsh lesson early. It was one of those days – while Flores was still a child – a car came down the road. It slowed and, while barely stopping, out fell a small kitten. “Its tail was in pretty bad shape, and the rest of it – you could tell it was something that someone had done to it,” she says.
Flores brought the kitten home and she and her mother rushed it to a vet.
“The kitten’s tail had to be amputated,” Flores recalls. “We kept it, and the kitten grew up and was fine,” she says. “We had the cat for 14 years.”
But it was the vet who had ministered to that unfortunate creature that long-ago day who made a pivotal impact on Flores and set her off on a calling as much as a career path. The vet had been a woman, a role model, if you will, who showed Flores that veterinary medicine was a career option – and not one for men only. Yet it was more than gender affirmation that impressed Flores. “I wanted to do what she did. I wanted to heal and help animals.”
Fortunately, she says, when the time came, she was accepted into veterinary school. “I told my parents I’d better be accepted because I wasn’t doing this again,” she says, referring to all the paperwork, including a detailed biography that she was required to complete. “I’m uncomfortable talking about myself and my life,” she explains.
However, if vet school had turned her down, she had a couple of other career options in mind. “I would either have gone to culinary school or I would have earned a degree in history,” she says.
Yes. Flores is a self-described history nut. “When I was in college, I would have told you European history was my favorite. Now, I would say it’s American history. I love learning everything I can about this country,” she says. That’s why, when Flores and her family – husband Ian and children David, 9, and Ann, 11 – travel, they make a point to stop by any historical site nearby. “We don’t necessarily plan our trip around an historical site, but if there is one near our vacation spot, we’ll definitely visit it,” she says. When she has time, she also tries to visit the Ohio History Center here in town and can recommend a history book or two if, like her, you enjoy reading.
Now, about those culinary aspirations. Right now, except for the occasional “experimental theme night,” culinary adventures will have to wait. “It’s enough, most nights, to get dinner on the table,” she says with a laugh. Still, the family does try to experiment with different foods and different cultures once a month or so. Their most recent themed meal was Japanese. “We tried some Japanese comfort food,” says Flores – made from a cookbook she found. “It gives all of us a chance to try something new.” (And of course, by experiencing the food of different cultures, it’s a different way to travel.)
That eye toward something different and new, however, is reflected at Elemental. Although Flores describes her practice as “the typical neighborhood veterinary office,” and herself as a traditional vet, she does have a few extra tools in her healing arsenal that not every traditional vet does. That’s because Flores takes an integrative approach to her practice – which means that, in addition to Western medicine, she also uses Eastern practices, like herbal medicines and acupuncture, if she feels they will benefit her patients.
“Western medicine is wonderful, and it’s what I use primarily in my practice, but there are times when Western medicine doesn’t work or it doesn’t work as well as some of the older, Eastern techniques,” she says.
For example, Flores recently took care of a referral patient – a geriatric dog, with arthritis, but because of other health conditions, the dog wasn’t able to take the traditional medicine its vet prescribed. So, the vet referred the dog to Flores and Elemental. The owners were from the Dayton-area, yet they willingly drove to Columbus to see if Flores could help. “They were both medically trained professionals themselves, and they were a bit skeptical when I suggested acupuncture treatment for their dog,” says Flores, but the couple went along with it, and let Flores insert her needles. “I received word from them after two weeks into the treatment,” she says. Their dog – which had been barely able to walk into her clinic – now jumps into their car and up on the bed. It was as though she had removed years from the dog.
If it sounds like a miracle, you should know many such miracles take place at Elemental every day.
Emily Roth is a vet tech at the clinic. She is in her second-year at OSU veterinary school and says she specifically sought out Flores and Elemental as a place she wanted to work. “I wanted to work with Flores because her integrative approach and beliefs are similar to my own,” she explained. Roth currently serves as the student leader of the Integrative Medicine group at school.
Since she has been at Elemental, Roth has witnessed some of the clinic’s many miracles. “We had a cat come in with what’s called a mega colon,” Roth says. “It’s exactly what it sounds like, an
enlarged colon, and the cat was miserable.” Flores used acupuncture and shortly after treatment, the cat’s clinical symptoms improved. “People think they have to have some kind of medicine to give their animals, but it isn’t always necessary,” Roth says. “Dr. Flores uses treatments that are not invasive, and which let the body heal itself. Acupuncture, especially, can be helpful with pain management. You don’t always have to use harsh drugs to treat pain.”
That’s another reason Roth says she admires Flores. “She is great about teaching pet owners about their pet’s care. She explains everything to them, and that includes any integrative work she thinks might be beneficial,” Roth says. “Integrative medicine adds options to a traditional vet practice. You don’t have to come to a dead end if your pet is in pain or is miserable and no one has been able to help them. It’s not the end of the road. There’s a place where they can come.”
A better Betty
Betty | courtesy photo
Lizzy Morris and her 12-year old rescue pug Betty know that for a fact. Betty isn’t the only Flores patient in the Morris household. Flores also sees the Morris’s rescued seven-month pit-bull mix, Vader, and a nine-year-old Doberman called Harley. Betty, however, is the pet most often at Elemental. “Pugs usually have breathing problems anyway, but Betty has bad allergies on top of that,” Morris says. Most vets want to treat Betty’s allergies with steroid injections, which Morris says are not only expensive but not necessarily good for Betty either. After all, she’s a geriatric patient. “Dr. Flores began to treat Betty’s allergies with Benadryl and coconut oil, which basically treated her from the inside out,” Morris says. And Betty began to improve. Then, Betty began to experience a different problem. “She started having accidents in the house, and I had no idea why.” Flores, however, knew that such a behavior change could signal something more serious. She diagnosed Betty with a neurological condition which could eventually immobilize her back half, rendering her a paraplegic. To make Betty comfortable, Flores started giving Betty acupuncture treatments twice a month. “Thanks to the treatments, Betty is still walking,” Morris reports. “It has improved the quality of her life.”
Even with such promising results, Morris is reluctant to leave Betty for vacations or other trips away from home. “Not everyone wants to take on the responsibility of caring for her while I’m gone,” she says. That might have made life difficult for Morris – if not for Flores, who will occasionally go above-and-beyond her vet duties for special patients. “There was this one time,” says Morris, “I had to go out of town but I didn’t want to leave Betty. I was at the clinic and I mentioned to Dr. Flores that I didn’t know where I was going to take Betty while I was gone. Right away, Dr. Flores says, ‘She can hang out with us, of course.’”
Past and present
It’s a glimpse back to that little girl who befriended farm animals and brought them into her home. Of course, Flores may not make that kind of offer to everyone, but Betty is a longtime patient with a difficult diagnosis, so, yes, she becomes an occasional guest in the Flores home when Morris is away. “Her kids love Betty,” Morris says.
Mind you, the Flores already have their own pets – a one-year old rescued Boston terrier, Topher, and the children’s pet rats, Ms. Pac Man and Mocha. Somehow, however, when Betty visits, she fits right into the Flores mix.
If you visit Elemental with your own pet, you’ll find a clinic that has a sleek, modern look with a bit of an industrial vibe. The staff is friendly, well-trained, and versatile. They have to be because they never know what is going to come through the door. “We’ve treated bearded dragons, hedgehogs, hamsters, rats, and rabbits in addition to cat and dogs,” says Flores. If it’s a small animal, it’s been here.
Flores has the basic training to take care of them all. After all, for eight years, she was a member of the faculty at OSU’s Veterinary School, teaching future vets. “But I’d been in practice before becoming an academician,” she says. “And I enjoyed it. There are too many layers between you and the patients when you’re teaching. I missed the contact with patients, the relationships you build with the pets and their owners.”
That’s why, five years ago, she left OSU and opened Elemental. “I chose the Short North because I wanted an integrative approach to my practice, and I thought that, given the diversity and openness of the Short North, they might be more open to that kind of practice than other areas of town might be.”
When Flores isn’t at Elemental, you might see her running the neighborhood. “I’m not a running nut or anything like that,” she says. “I run two to three times a week.”
And before Elemental opened, you might have caught Flores playing music with the Scioto Brass Band and the Women’s Orchestra of Columbus. She would have been the one with the trombone – she is a classically trained, concert trombonist. But Elemental takes most of her time now – her clinic and her family. “Both my kids are involved in sports, so that’s where a lot of my time goes.”
One day, she’d like to get back to playing the trombone, to cooking more thematic dinners, visiting more historic sites and taking a few more regular runs. “Everyone has dreams,” she says. But for now, that’s all in the future. And right now, her future is at Elemental.
“Five years from now, I’ll still be here, in the Short North, at Elemental, taking care of animals,” she says.
And for that, Betty, and a host of Elemental regulars, are truly thankful.
Elemental Veterinary Center + Pet Spa is located in the Short North at 1250 N. High St. Open every day except Sunday. Visit www.elementalvetcenter.com or call 614-824-4036 to learn more.
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