WILSHIRE BLVD — Gary Adams was going to be a CEO.
That was the plan, at least, when he entered college at the University of California, Davis. “Plans” are fickle things, though, and — fortunately for hundreds of dogs and cats — Adams’s plan changed.
“I was always that kid who brought home wounded pigeons and stray dogs,” Adams said. “Ever since I was a little kid, people would say, ‘You should be a vet when you grow up.’”
Though Adams “never gave it any thought” as a child, a college stint working for a veterinarian set him on the path that people had been suggesting for him for years.
“I loved all the hands-on work. I love dogs and cats. I just fell in love with the practice,” Adams said.
Today, as owner of Westside Animal Emergency Hospital, Adams has teamed up with animal rescue organizations throughout the Los Angeles area, and is using his veterinary expertise to help neglected animals thrive.
Adams first became involved in rescue work when he was approached by the Los Angeles rescue group A Dog’s Life, for his veterinary services.
“As it turns out, a lot of veterinary hospitals aren’t really rescue-friendly,” Adams said. “But I give significant discounts for rescues, because they’re doing a really charitable thing … Besides, I got into this profession to help animals, not to help animals with owners who can afford to pay for it.”
Adams’s success with the animals from A Dog’s Life lead to referrals — lots of them. Soon, Adams was treating animals from shelters all over the Los Angeles area. Today, rescue animals make up more than a quarter of Adams’s patients.
“I guess they thought I did a good job,” Adams said of his first clients.
Today, a plaque in the waiting room of Westside Animal Emergency Hospital illustrates just how good a job Adams did. It was awarded to him by A Dog’s Life in 2006, “For his dedication and compassion for the well being of animals great and small.”
“Rescue animals that I see are generally in pretty bad shape,” Adams said. “They’re the dogs from the shelter, and they’re not cute. They’re not the ones that the general public would typically want to adopt. They come in here with bad skin diseases, mange, bad teeth, wounds.”
Adams diagnoses these myriad problems, and treats them to get the animal ready for adoption. According to Adams, the transformation an animal undergoes after treatment is often astounding.
“Somebody told me we should start a show called ‘Extreme Dog Makeover,’” he joked.
Adams doesn’t limit his services to doctoring sick rescues. He also works to help the animals find homes, putting his clients in contact with rescue outfits when they are looking to adopt a pet. Westside Animal Emergency Hospital also has a unique policy in place, known as a “dump fee,” to give owners with financial limitations more opportunity to have their pets treated.
“If somebody has an animal that’s injured or has some sort of acute problem and they don’t have the money to take care of it, they can leave the animal here for care and pay a minimal fee … Then we’ll treat the animal, get it healthy, and adopt it out,” Adams explained.
Owners can use this as an alternative to euthanasia, which Adams describes as “the worst part of my job — it’s the last thing I’ll do.”
“We do that a lot,” Adams said of the “dumping” practice. “Maybe more than we should. It’s not smart economically … but it makes me feel better.”
Adams opened Westside Animal Emergency Hospital four years ago. This event in his life represents yet another deviation from “the plan.”
At the time, Adams was employed at California Animal Hospital, a large hospital where he had worked for eight years, and had never even considered the possibility of striking out on his own. He passed the building where his practice now stands every day, driving down Wilshire Boulevard on his way home from work — as chance would have it, his route home would have a profound effect on his career path.
“One day, I noticed that there were no lights on,” Adams recalls. “That went on for a few weeks. Then, I noticed a big ‘For Lease’ sign … I left my other job and I had opened here within four weeks. It all happened really quickly.”
Adams has been in his current practice for four years. Adams said one of the major benefits of opening his own practice was the opportunity to work in Santa Monica, the city where he has lived all his life, rather than in Los Angeles.
“I was born and raised here, and I’m not ever planning to leave here,” Adams said of Santa Monica.
An alumnus of Santa Monica High and Lincoln Middle School, Adams’s childhood was greatly shaped by Santa Monica. He describes the city as “a great place to grow up” understandably, he and his fiancée, Amy, are now raising their 2-year-old son, Bowie, here.
For Adams, deviation from “the plan” has been rewarding. Though he could have been a businessman, a Spanish translator or even a doctor of human medicine, Adams’s choice to pursue veterinary medicine has benefitted hundreds of animals throughout Southern California, and has brought Adams himself personal satisfaction.
“People ask me fairly often if I regret not going to medical school instead of veterinary school,” Adams said, “and almost invariably I say I wouldn’t change it. It’s a lot of work, but I’m totally satisfied with what I do as a living.”