From sea turtles to spaniels, pythons to pot-bellied pigs, Dr. Doug Mader, co-owner of Marathon Veterinary Hospital, has been treating all sorts of animals for the past 14 years in the Florida Keys, where his name has become synonymous with the term "animal care."
While his name is familiar throughout the Keys -- and the world -- for his expertise in treating exotic animals and reptiles, the hospital recently moved to a new location in Marathon, where Mader and his staff of about 30 recently celebrated the grand opening of their sparkling headquarters at 5001 Overseas Hwy.
"We moved two miles up the road," Mader said.
But those two miles of road have made all the difference. The new 6,000-square-foot hospital, installed in the old Boater's World building, is the only one in the Keys that is staffed 24 hours a day for animal emergencies, and the high-tech equipment and operating rooms rival that of any human medical center.
On a recent rainy day, the hospital interior was bright and inviting, as several procedures took place simultaneously.
In one day, a small dog was under anesthesia while getting his teeth cleaned, an elderly cat was having a tumor removed while lying on a comfortably warmed stainless steel operating table and Springer spaniel was look glum and embarrassed from inside the dreaded "cone" that kept him from chewing at the blue cast that surrounded a broken leg.
But that's not all.
There were also healthy dogs and cats in the back that were simply there for a vacation, or more accurately, they were being boarded there while the owners were on vacation.
"We do not board any animals outside," Mader emphasized.
All the animals, patients and boarders, are kept in air-conditioned comfort, and the cage for each boarder is equipped with a web cam that can be accessed online by the animal's owner whenever they want to check on their four-legged friend -- or their bird, rabbit, snake, you name it.
"We'll treat anything," said Mader, whose reputation was built on his treatment of exotic animals, but he is also board certified for dogs and cats.
And before arriving in the Keys and meeting sick sea turtles, "I was a rodeo cowboy, a blacksmith and an equine doctor," he said.
Mader owns the hospital with his Swiss-born wife, Dr. Geraldine Diethelm, also a veterinarian who offers acupuncture for animals in the hospital as well. The acupuncture room, while smaller, is reminiscent of any other spa room. A water fountain bubbles in one corner under dimmed lights, while soft music helps with the relaxation.
"Acupuncture helps with arthritis, pain, anxiety," Diethelm said, "same as it does with humans."
The new hospital also boasts its own lab that can handle 99 percent of blood and urine tests, Mader said while pointing out the new Intensive Care Unit, where a metabolism cage can be manipulated to super-saturate the air with oxygen for critical cases.
A solar tube in the "cat condo" lets sunlight into the room, which is the only windowless space in the building, and an outside yard gives dogs plenty of exercise during their stay.
"The one thing people keep saying is that there's no way we could have done all this without raising our rates," Mader said, crediting Centennial Bank with the financing for the renovations. "They gave us such a good deal with the financing, that we could do all this, and we do it for the same prices."
He also pointed out the mural on the side of the building.
"Every animal on there is an animal I've treated," he said, pointing out a turtle with a missing fin that had been cut off by fishing line.
The original mural had been painted 16 years ago by a young artist named O'Farrill.
"The City Council said we had to save the mural," Mader said. "But it wasn't possible with our renovation plans, and all the concrete spalling of this wall."
Instead, he tracked down the artist, 16 years later, who is now living in Las Vegas as a successful painter.
"I told him what was going on, what I wanted to do, and he volunteered to come paint the new mural for free, as long as we'd cover the materials. It was amazing, and it looks amazing. I didn't want it to look like one of Wyland's walls because we don't have whales down here. So every animal on here is one that I've treated -- except the sailfish. The artist just likes sailfish."
So a mural remained on the building, the Marathon Veterinary Hospital expanded in both size and scope and everyone's happy -- well, except the spaniel in the cone, but he'll be fine in a few days.