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Care for Your Senior Pet

Of the 100 million pets in the United States, more than one-third fall into the "senior" category. Since many age-related problems are insidious and irreversible, it is imperative that they be discovered early enough for medical and surgical intervention.

Second Open House a Big Success

open house Our Second open house was on Saturday, September 12th, 2009. We had to compete with President Obama visiting Minneapolis to discuss health care reform and the first home football game for the University of Minnesota Gophers in the new TCF stadium. It was a beautiful warm afternoon when we invited clients, family and neighborhood friends (along with a few patients) to visit our clinic. We were celebrating nearly 5 years of being open in our new building. The event was a success on many different levels.

The University of Minnesota displayed 3 majestic birds, a bald eagle weighing eight pounds, an owl and a peregrine falcon. One of the handlers was the daughter of Toshimi Shimizu, a longtime client at Westgate. Facepainting was done by the sister of our longtime technician Hanna Evans. Photographs were taken by the nephew of our manager, Jodi Harrod.

For food we offered popcorn and lemonade. Judith Clancy managed to master the concession-style popcorn maker after the first patch burnt further than the France 44 parking lot. The lemonade was made with bottled water and everyone thought it was better than fresh-squeezed. Many companies that support Westgate were present with educational information including Novartis's presentation on protecting from fleas without an insecticide, Pfizer's presentation on zoonotic concerns of intestinal parasites, Hill's Nutrition presentation of treating arthritis with a special diet.

Our veterinarian presentations including Dr. Melin and Dr. Perry demonstrating the benefits of laparoscopic surgery, Dr. Hershey spoke to the younger visitors about preventing dog bites and Dr. Karlin overseeing how our staff can make flavored liquid prescriptions from tablets. Dr. Reed, Dr. Norton-Bower, Dr. Downie and Dr. Porter were also present.

The Westgate Staff provided the logistical help to visitors not miss any opportunities on both the main and lower floors. Demonstrations by staff included a billboard display of our AAHA accreditation, laboratory testing, digital radiography and dental cleaning.

Our special guests included Dr. Bennett Porter Jr, father of Dr. Porter III and original owner of the Westgate Pet Clinic, Jessie Marianiello of Stray Dog Arts, two Golden Retrievers from Helping Paws of Minnesota, Donna Cioni from cable TV's The Dog Show and client Jeff Robertson with his banjo and singing dog Lou. We had a raffle to win 2 pet portraits by Jessie with the proceeds all donated to Helping Paws. Thank you for a memorable event, we hope to try this again for our 10th Anniversary!

A Porter Family Tradition

by John D. Schroeder in May 1993

Dr. Ben Porter Sr. holding a horse with Sam Turner (Animal Humane Officer) in Albert Lea 1910-1918. Horse is starving and pronounced Sweeney.Four generations of veterinarians, all named Dr. Bennett Porter, have been caring for Minnesota animals for the past 100 years. It is a family tradition that continues today at the Westgate Pet Clinic and Park Pet Hospital.  What began as a practice of being a horse doctor in the wilds of Minnesota has evolved into a sophisticated high-tech veterinary clinic that uses computers and the latest in medical technology to care for household pets in Southwest Minneapolis.

Dr. Bennett Porter III and his son, Dr. Bennett Porter IV, operate Westgate Pet Clinic where a staff of six treat all breeds of dogs and cats. It is a family practice where every day is different and changes have been plentiful over the years.

edith Adelle Prescott Clark PorterThe history of the veterinary practice began in 1858 when Thomas Portier brought his family from Quebec to Minnesota. His son, Bennett, became a horse doctor, farmed and raised stallions. He was one of the first in North America to get a degree from Ontario Veterinary College in 1904. It was the same year that his ninth child, Bennett II, was born. His wife, Edith Adelle Prescott Clark, was also a pioneer in Veterinary Medicine. The family name eventually changes to Porter.

Bennett Porter II continued in his father's footsteps and obtained a doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree in 1931 from Iowa State College. He practiced in several locations around Albert Lea, Minnesota before coming to St. Louis Park in 1947 and opened Porter's dog and Cat Hospital. it became Park Pet Hospital and is still operated by the Porter family. Westgate Pet Clinic opened in 1973.

American Veterinary Medical Association Membership Card 1931Dr. Bennett Porter III remembers going out with his father on large animal calls and helping around the clinic. He developed a natural interest in caring for animals which led to his degree from the University of Minnesota in 1961. His brother, Gene, who operates Park Pet Hospital, graduated from the U of M in 1959.

As a veterinarian for 20 years in Southwest Minneapolis, Dr. Porter III has seen many changes. New drugs and new diets are lengthening the lives of pets. Twenty years ago, dogs had an average life expectancy of seven years. Now it is twelve years.

"When my dad started, the drug available was sulfa," he says. "Now we have access to many others." He adds that the number of cases of distemper has greatly decreased.

Pets are living longer because people are taking better care of their pets and he also credits technology as another factor. "Today a vet clinic is much like a small human medical clinic in that we have a central lab and computer technology. We can get test results from our lab in fifteen minutes, where in the past we would have to sent them out. We now use electrocardiograms and even do our own radiology."

Dr. Porter Sr. standing next to the mobile veterinary truck in front of the temporary Park Pet Hospital BuildingBennett Porter IV notes that today people view pets as a member of the family and take their health quite seriously. He says owners generally take good care of their pets and ask questions to understand what's wrong when a pet is ill. They want their dog or cat to be happy and healthy.  "The hardest thing about being a vet is when it is time to put an animal to sleep," says Bennett IV. "We end up focusing on the issue of quality of life. For some people it is the most difficult decision they have ever made."

His father points out that it is sometimes hard to treat pets because pets can't talk. Veterinarians must use their powers of observation and gather information from their human owners. What many of those owners do not realize, according to both doctors, is that their pet can get most of the same diseases that people do, including diabetes, heart disease and cancer. The same drugs and treatments that are used to help humans can save the lives of pets.

Like humans, pets are also benefiting from the computer revolution. Westgate Pet Clinic makes extensive use of computers to free the doctors from paperwork, giving them more time to be with people's pets. Their computer contains pet health histories, reminds them to telephone clients to check Thayer Eugene Porter L, Bennett Jay Porter III M, Bennett Jay Porter Jr Ron pets, tells when vaccinations are due, and produces their billing and newsletter. They say that in the future, computers will help diagnose pet disease, provide vet training and even more medical information.

Both father and son say that life as a veterinarian is gratifying because pets are such an important part of people's lives. As to whether there will be future generations of Porter vets, Bennett IV says it is a possibility, but he doesn't think so. His three-year-old son, Bennett Porter V, is interested in animals, but right now is afraid of big dogs.

Modest Plaque Commemorates Pioneer Veterinary Practice

by Evelyn Cheslak
published in 1963

A modest marble plaque in the reception room of the Park Pet Hospital reads "In memory of Dr. Bennett J. and Edith Porter, pioneers in Minnesota veterinary history."  It marks a family's singular dedication to this field of endeavor -- a veritable dynasty established by a self educated "horse doctor" more than 100 years ago and continued today by his highly trained grandson and two great grandsons.

Lively Profession

Dr. Porter bags 4 bobcatsEngaged in a lively profession at 4925 Highway 7 in St. Louis Park are two generations of Porters, Dr. Bennett J. Porter II, popularly known as Dr. Porter Sr. and his sons, Drs. Bennett J. III and Thayer Eugene, known as Dr. Ben and Dr. Gene.

The dynasty began with French Canadian Thomas Portier who brought his family here from Quebec in 1858, crossing the river at MacGregor to homestead with eight other families in Shell Rock township.

"Their log cabin still stands there," mused Dr. Porter, Sr. who visited the site recently, "although the family had moved on to Albert Lea."

"Grand-dad was an old horse doctor by 'preceptorship'," he reflected. "If you wanted to become one in those days you simply learned by association. Our profession looks down today on the term 'horse doctor' but it shouldn't, for to be a good horse doctor you really had to be good."

"Remuneration then was small, and grand-dad farmed and he raised stallions to supplement his income."

porter_cartoon_web"My father," he continued, "never did anything else but practice veterinary medicine. He graduated from Ontario Veterinary College, one of the very first in the North American continent, in 1906. He was no kid then, but a married man with a family. It was the year I was born, the youngest of nine children."

It is perhaps truly appropriate for Dr. Porter to dedicate the pet hospital to both his father and mother for Edith Adele Porter was a terrific plugger for veterinary medicine. She had no formal training other than that as the wife of a veterinarian she played a very important role as did a doctor's wife in those days. She helped to brew the concoctions, to roll the pills and she could diagnose and dispense when her husband was out on a call.

Widow And Children

"She was a widow with three children when she married my dad," said Dr. Porter. "He too was widowed and the father of three children. Both their spouses had been claimed by typhoid which raged at the time. They reared three children of their own as well."

Dystokia in the Sow 1/13/1909Dr. Porter recalls vividly his early impressions of the veterinarians as they met frequently at his father's home: "State meetings were held in small towns then (not in the Twin cities as they are today) simply because most veterinarians were in small towns. That's where the business was. I would listen to them talk by the hour. They were rough shod individuals but imbued with great honesty and integrity."

"It never occurred to me that I would be anything else but a veterinarian -- somehow it was always in the back of my mind -- but I didn't settle down to it all at once," he went on. He recalls that he left high school after only two years of schooling to engage in work, but it was always work with animals. After a four year lapse a sudden determination drove him back to high school which he completed in one year. His classmates were four and five years his juniors when he graduated in 1927.

"Not many went on to college in those days," he recalled. "I had trouble finding a college offering training for veterinarians." He entered Iowa state College that fall and fours years later emerged with a degree of Doctor of Veterinary Medicine. (Today it takes the equivalent of 7 to 8 years to attain the D.V.M. degree with a very minimum of six, two years of pre-veterinary studies and four years of veterinary school.

His college years were depression years. The bank with his life's savings had closed as did a host of others in those days but incredibly it was a blessing in disguise. More than 86 percent of his money was returned and fortuitously the dividends arrived quarterly" just in time to pay tuition and book fees."

A young Gene Porter mowing the lawn at Park Pet Hospital in 1949

Still In Grade School

"Dad had died when I was still in grade school," he said, "and mother joined forces with me. We ran a boarding house for 27 veterinary students. Sometimes I think she had more fun going to college than I did. She was an eager listener, an active participant in all our bull sessions. I think my dad too would have been very happy to know I went on in his field."

porter_home_webAfter his graduation, Dr. Porter practiced in Minnesota for a short time, in Vesta for two years, then back to Albert Lea where he purchased his father's old home, remodeled it, transforming half into an office and small animal hospital. Not being able to finance all of the improvement by outside help he did much of the work himself, working long into the night.

He came to the Park in 1948. "I had always wanted to get into small animal work and the proximity of the University was another factor," he commented. He bought land here only to discover he was sitting on top of old Bass Lake. Pilings 50 feet deep support the pet hospital! In 16 years he has seen a small community develop into a thriving city, a panorama of building complexes replacing open meadows. The three doctors "do practically everything" in their pet hospital. Today practice in the small animal business is analogous to human medicine; it's as clean and as aseptic but you're limited by your patients," said Dr. Porter.Highway Seven in St. Louis Park Minnesota is just a dirt road in 1949.

Years ago diagnosis was made purely on clinical examination with no laboratory work. Today vast amounts of lab work are done. "You have to be a little bit of everything, ophthalmologist, dermatologist, and surgeon," he remarked.

"Those old timers were pretty good when it came to observing," he reminisced. "When I think back, it is amazing what they could do with little or no equipment and no education. There was just a romance connected with it. You loved horses as a rule...."

Like their dad, it never occurred to Drs. Ben and Gene to be anything else but veterinarians. Both are graduates of the St. Louis Park high school, both attained their degrees in veterinary medicine at the University of Minnesota.

Refresher Courses

All three attend refresher courses at the University whenever they are offered. An experience Dr. Porter, Sr. recalls with satisfaction is "going back to school" during 1956-57, this time to teach. Dr. Ralph Kitchell of the anatomy department of the veterinary school took a leave of absence at that time and Dr. Richard Palmer of Wayzata and Dr. Porter assisted in the teaching, drawing on their long and varied years of experience.Park Pet Hospital Temporary Building close to the open storm Sewer 1949

Park Pet Hospital after a heavy snow fall.One cannot escape the pride Dr. Porter feels in his profession, a pride he has developed in his sons. "Our profession is becoming more aware that we have to paint an image -- most of us are reluctant to tell people what we ca do. Patients do not look upon us as upon a physician. An animal life is not as important as a human life...but we couldn't do a better job if we were treating a human being.

"Veterinary medicine is important," he continued. "Without it there wouldn't be the food to feed our population. It never occurs to a man sitting down to his sirloin that it's the veterinary vigilance over livestock and meat inspection that made it possible." He recalled the part U.S. doctors of veterinary medicine played in stamping out the hoof and mouth disease in Mexico and that many were killed in the process by embittered Mexicans.Dr. Ben Porter Sr. is seated on the left.

Strong Feelings

Dr. Porter has strong feelings about the term "vet" to describe his profession: "I've no objection to 'horse doctor' but I do to 'vet' as an unsatisfactory name." Some figures confirm the validity of his objection. in a recent survey made at Michigan State College, which has a veterinary school, 65 percent of the students associated the term "vet" only with members of the armed forces.

Philosophizing about pets in general, Dr. Porter would put a dog in every home when a child turns six. "Children learn affection from an animal in a very special way," he said. "There's something about a pet -- it just does something to a kid." dr. Porter sees children bringing in their pets by the score "and there isn't a mean kid in the lot. The country's spending millions to combat delinquency but they are overlooking the simplest cure." Year round leashing? Dr. Porter sees the results in his practice: less fractures, and more sick dogs.

COtober 27th, 1948 Southwest Shopper and East Lake ShopperWill the dynasty continue? There's Dr. Porter's youngest son, Craig, 16 a student at West High who as yet has no plans. then, of course, there's Bennett J. Porter IV, six year old son of Dr. Ben.

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We provide the quality care our clients expect and their pets deserve, by relying on the expertise and
compassion of each team member.


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4345 France Avenue South
Minneapolis, MN 55410
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