When cats hear Dr. Jane Berg pull up in her Escape, they run and hide. She swears cats know the sound of her engine. While plenty of road warriors boast that their vehicle doubles as an office, Berg’s ride has to double as a full-scale clinic. She is a house-call veterinarian.
Many people have pets who experience stress when being transported to the vet’s office; Berg brings the service to the patient, though sometimes, particularly with cats, even that’s not enough. With six cats of her own at home, she knows felines can be more difficult.
“I don’t wear a white coat,” she says.
Berg’s practice is built around evening calls and her days begin around noon, with call backs to clients, making appointments, faxing documents and filling subscriptions. She’s usually on the road by about 3 p.m., leaving her home in the Rouge Valley at the east end of Toronto for patients as distant as High Park and Islington, in Toronto’s west end. A typical workday might see her in the vehicle until midnight.
A longtime Ford owner, Berg recently downsized from an Explorer XLT to an Escape LTD, hoping for a lower environmental profile. She finds the seat comfortable for long days at the wheel and the layout serves her purposes well, since she has specific standards to uphold.
House call veterinarians face particular licensing regimens, and are inspected just like any other veterinary clinic. And her Escape has to be a veterinary clinic on wheels.
“I have to have virtually everything in the vehicle that a clinic has,” she says. That can include oxygen tanks, a broad spectrum of prescription drugs including antibiotics and painkillers, reference books, creams and more. She doesn’t do X-rays or surgery, but she has to conduct exams, take blood samples, and treat the lumps, bumps, colds and inevitable stomach issues – essentially, any outpatient veterinary care.
Along with being a mobile clinic, it’s an office, too. “I often eat lunch at my ‘desk,’” Berg says. “I even have a garbage pail.”
She often takes phone calls on the road from patient to patient. The Escape allows her to talk hands-free through SYNC, a crucial safety feature when negotiating the often hairy roads of downtown Toronto.
“I use the hands-free exclusively,” she says. “You have to drive defensively in this city.”
When she has time off, the Escape also serves her well during scuba diving trips. Once a scuba instructor, Berg still enjoys diving shipwrecks near historic Kingston, Ont., and has done some underwater archeological work on wrecks in Lake Erie. The Escape comfortably packs two sets of diving gear, striking a perfect balance between work and play.