By the time he was in the fourth grade, Rick Parsons knew what he wanted to do for the rest of his life.
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“I loved animals,” said Parsons, DVM, owner of Placerville Veterinary Clinic, located on Mother Lode Drive in Placerville. “I had my first dog, Tiny, and that was it . . . Ninety-five percent of vets decide they want to be veterinarians in elementary school, actually. Very few professions can say that.”
After high school, Dr. Parsons attended UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine and then did an internship in medical surgery at Colorado State University. In 1975, he joined Dr. Jon Vilhaure at Placerville Veterinary Clinic, and he’s been there ever since.
“When I came, this was about the only clinic in the area,” said Dr. Parsons. “It was started at this location in the 1950s. Back then, Mother Lode Drive was the main drag through town — the Highway 50 of the ‘50s.”
From its modest beginning, Placerville Veterinary Clinic has grown to a caring staff of 11, including Dr. Parsons and his associate, Melissa Richards. Dr. Vilhaure retired in 2010. Today, the clinic offers pet owners hundreds of different services, including emergency medical care, pain management, dental hygiene, nutrition counseling, vaccines, microchipping, pet boarding and many more. Dr. Parsons also says that veterinary medicine itself has changed a lot during his career.
“Whereas in the past we dealt with a lot of trauma, today I handle a lot more medical care,” said Dr. Parsons. “People are taking better care of their pets and are more preventative oriented. Because of this, pets are living longer, and we’re now seeing conditions like cancer that didn’t exist before. When I graduated from veterinary school, a dog’s average life expectancy was seven. Today, it’s 13.”
Some of the most common reasons pets visit Dr. Parsons are pet allergies and vaccinations. Lethargy, lack of interest in eating, persistent lameness, vomiting and diarrhea are other common signs that it might be time to for pet owners to have pets checked. In all situations, however, Dr. Parsons has learned to trust the owner’s assessment of their pet. “If you feel something is wrong, have your pet checked. We weigh how you feel.”
Like any business in the community, Placerville Veterinary Clinic has felt the effects of recent hard economic times. With less money to go around, people are choosing to have fewer pets per household, and there are times when pets’ care, especially elective procedures like dental work, is delayed.
“Sometimes we’re seeing things that could have been handled much better if they’re been treated earlier,” said Dr. Parsons. “Veterinary care can be difficult because owners have to make decisions that involve putting a dollar value on their pet. We understand that and try to put ourselves in their shoes. We lay everything out there and help them sort through their options as they decide what they can afford.”
When asked what he feels has brought Placerville Veterinary Clinic success over the years, Dr. Parsons is quick to emphasize his Christian upbringing and belief that you should do unto others what you would like done to you. He’s also extremely proud of his profession itself and of his staff, most of whom have been with him for many, many years.
“I have a tremendous staff,” Dr. Parsons said. “They love on these pets while I focus on their medical care. Most of them have been with me for 10 or more years, and that long-term relationship make a difference.”
Ultimately, though, the best marketing is to practice the best medicine. Veterinary care offers vets an incredible variety and will always be in demand because people want to take good care of their pets. Dr. Parsons is proud to have long-standing relationships with many of his clients and feels fortunate to be in a profession he is passionate about and that, he says, is extremely rewarding.
“There’s nothing better than to see the smile of a little boy when his pet is fixed. That’s worth its weight in gold,” said Dr. Parsons. “Except, of course, for when the older man brings in his trusted pet, and you’re able to care for his friend for him. In that situation, the little boy has become the older man. Then it’s worth even more.”