As part of our community blog content at ON THE MOVE, we present our interview series, where we invite movers to bring their thoughts not only on the physical move but on the intensely personal experience of moving house. Here we explore the spirituality and psychology of Home and why where we live means so much to us. We want to hear your story, please share it with us.
Traveling Veterinarian Makes Housecalls in Jerusalem
Interview with Dr. Mollie Lawee
Does your rabbit need his teeth trimmed? Your rather obese and loveable cat have diabetes? Your dog have bad dandruff? Your ostrich need an opthamologist? This is a job for a Dr. Mollie Lawee, a traveling veterinarian who makes house calls in Jerusalem!
Born in Miami, Dr Mollie graduated from Cornell University, and received her graduate degree veterinary medicine at the University of Minnesota in 1990. She happily vaccinated the cougar cubs in vet school, and looked forward to bigger things. Along came the obstreperous ostrich with the eye problem. Since then she’s been treating animals in the USA and Canada, until she came to Jerusalem 5 years ago with her family.
Onthemovers.com ferreted out Dr. Mollie and asked, “How is being a vet in Jerusalem different than in North America?”
“It took a fair amount of adjusting to get used to the veterinary practice here in Israel. I was accustomed to working in a large office, with a whole team of technicians and receptionists. The office had two or three veterinarians every day. The technicians did many of the procedures on the animals, while the doctors diagnosed, suggested treatment options and interacted with the owners.
“Here, based on the economics, there is usually only one vet per clinic who does most everything. In Tel Aviv there are bigger clinics with more doctors. Another difference seems to be the level of service that vets provide to their clients. North Americans expected more time, interaction and explanation.”
What made you decide to do housecalls? That’s pretty unususal for a vet, right?
“After it took me a whole year to get my Israeli license- it was a whole process- I thought I would open my own practice. But I learned that the demographics in Jerusalem show there is not a large underserved client base for a vet to draw upon. For example, the Aravi (Arabs), don’t have as many pets and only occasionally call a vet. This is also true among the Charedim, although you’d be surprised. I have been to visit pets in very religious neighborhoods. Jerusalem is not a rich city. I researched all the various neighborhoods and suburbs and discovered no area is underserved by vets, in fact the market was saturated.
“I have some mentors in the field, old friends and new friends here in Israel, vets who have housecall practices. They help me build my practice. There is a need for this type of service, especially among the elderly and people with less mobility. Also many people simply don’t have either the time or a car to take their pet to the vet. So I found my niche.
“Here’s a typical story. I started treating an elderly lady’s beloved, but big fat cat who was known to have diabetes. It was difficult for her to bring the cat to a vet. She couldn’t pick the cat up and get it into a carrier, much less lift the carrier into a car. She always had to find someone to go with her to the vet. When she discovered blood in the cat’s water dish, she called me. The cat actually had a tumor in its mouth which I treated. The cat didn’t have to be shlepped when it was ill and could be treated at home. A fairly long while later, the cat’s quality of life deteriorated. I was able to euthanize it at home, which was much easier for both the cat and its owner.
“Another family in Givat Ze’ev had a little dog who was pregnant. Their teenage son was the one who would call me, ususally in the evenings to ask questions about his dog. One night the dog seemed to be in labor, and he called me asking what to do and where to go. Unfortunately he didn’t follow my advice. The next morning he called again and said that the dog still hadn’t given birth and she seemed to be in distress. We met at a clinic run by a certain colleague of mine, and we performed an emergency C-section. We managed to save all the puppies! My colleague still teases me about that. A couple of the puppies didn’t look so good, and I tucked them under my lab coat on my skin in order to warm and recusitate them. It worked!”
So you basically created your own start up company!
“I’ve never been drawn to the business end of having my own business. I had to learn to do it. I’m not passionate about business. I’m passionate about being a vet and taking care of animals. MATI (Jerusalem Business Development Center) helps entrepreneurs and new olim with information and classes about starting and maintaining a small business. New olim are entitled to certain loans too. My Hebrew is adequate but they offer many things in Hebrew and some things in English. MATI is a great resource for your readers to know about, and their website is www.israelbusiness.org.il/startingyourbusiness/assistingcenters/MATI “
Besides cats and dogs, what other kinds of animals have you treated here in Israel?
“One thing they have here in Israel, which I never saw back in North America, is a Pinat Chai (Animal Corner). You’ll find these in many public institutions like community centers, tourism sites, and even old age homes. Quite often people are allowed to pet the animals, and interact with them. Sometimes the animals are for looking only, like the exotic aquariums in the Beilinson Hospital (Rabin Medical Center’s) children’s ward.
“One time during a school vacation, the babysitters for the Pinat Chai missed taking care of a family’s rabbit properly. Her teeth had not been trimmed. A rabbit has continually growing teeth, and some pet rabbits need to have their teeth trimmed. Otherwise they will grow over the mouth, preventing them from eating or drinking. When the family called me, the rabbit was literally at death’s door. She was starving and so weak that she couldn’t stand. On top of that she had become bald, and had a ton of fleas, poor thing. I trimmed her teeth, and fed her sugar water with a syringe until she was able to eat by herself by the time I left.
“One Motzie Shabbos it was raining hard and I went to treat a hamster with an inverted cheek pouch. Hamsters have pouches on both sides inside their mouth. These pouches extend all the way from their mouth to as far back as their shoulders! The hamster uses his cheek pouches for transporting nesting material or food to his storage area. Sometimes one of the pouches may turn inside out, and the hamster ends up with a pink glob coming out of the corner of its mouth. I managed to get it back to its normal position.
“I have a favorite story of a hamster that had dislocated its elbow. I fiddled with it until it popped back into place and the hamster went scampering across the table on all four legs again. I used to see ferrets routinely in North America, but not here. Nothing super exotic lately.”
What do you like most about being a traveling vet?
“I get to set my own hours, which are tailored around my family. My two youngest children are still in school, though my oldest have finished university and are here in Israel in yeshiva. I work a lot in the evenings. My husband is very supportive and flexible, for example when I need the car. I’m Dati, so I don’t work or answer calls on Shabbat or the holidays.”
What would your clients say is the best thing about your house call service?
“Often I will bring treats to the animals to help them relax. That way even little puppies or kittens won’t cry, and may not even notice that I gave them a shot. The next time I come, they are happy to see me, we’re friends, and instead of trying to eat me, they’ll look for a treat.
Another thing is that I provide a high level of service that North Americans are used to, like answering calls, follow through, and a personal interest in their pet. We share the same language, style, and cultural values. It may cost a little more for the house call, but it is a value added service. Finally there are halachic issues involved in owning pets, and the religious owners appreciate that I am familiar with them. For example there is a problem spaying or neutering pets.”
What areas do you serve, and how can people contact you?
“My main areas are all over Jerusalem, also Mevasseret, Gush Etzion, Givat Ze’ev, Beit Zayit, and Maale Adumim. I have traveled farther on occasion. People can reach me at my website www.drmollie.co.il or email me at email@example.com or find me on Facebook (at Dr. Mollie Lawee Jerusalem Business.) Of course they can just call 054-266-2406.”
My final question, do you own any pets?
“Less than you’d expect. Our cat was 20 years old and died of old age before we made aliyah. Now we have a rabbit.”
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