Veterinary hospital completed on site of 2012 fire

Published 12:00 am Sunday, October 27, 2013

SALISBURY — Dr. R.B. Lowe’s practice didn’t stop when fire destroyed his family’s veterinary clinic in the early morning of Feb. 19, 2012.
He had to keep going, he said, to keep the loss of the family business out of his mind.
“I just told the boys, the only way I could deal with this was to be out there on the truck,” Lowe said.
A year and eight months later, Rowan Animal Clinic is still strong, he said. The business moved into temporary quarters within days of the fire, and life went on.
Saturday, as he stood in one of the rooms of the newly furnished veterinary clinic at 4155 Statesville Blvd., Lowe’s voice was full of emotion.
“I have a lot of good friends,” said Lowe, who has been a practicing vet for 40 years.
Outside, friends and clients had gathered throughout the afternoon to celebrate the new facility’s official opening.
So many, the Lowes said, they ran out of the free barbecue they’d advertised, and had to order more.
“We’d planned on 375 people,” office manager Nick Lowe said. They figured the final total was well over 400.
Nick and his brother, Dr. Greg Lowe, led tours of the new animal hospital, built on the same property as the previous building.
The clinic draws on the family’s years of experience, they said,.
The new facility has 24 animal runs and can accommodate more than 30 dogs and cats, all told, Nick Lowe said.
Outside, there’s a drive-up access for their large-animal clients — some horses and goats, but mostly cattle, Nick said.
There are five examination rooms, a computerized X-ray facility and a large, open operating area.
In the front, in a part of the building that Nick said some are calling “the silo,” is the retail shop.
There’s also an adoption center, which soon will be the temporary home of animals looking for “forever homes.”
The new Rowan Animal Clinic includes some special touches the Lowes wanted to include.
There’s an antique sliding door on the wall, painted a bright blue.
In fact, bright colors are the norm throughout much of the public space.
“We wanted it to be happy,” Nick Lowe said.
But there’s another room, away from the main hallway, designed for times when the news isn’t good.
The nameplate on the door says it’s the “comfort room,” and it’s designed for those whose animals need to be put to sleep.
The comfort room has soft chairs, an exam table that can be folded out of the way, and big windows that look out over the grounds. A separate door leads out to the parking lot, away from the main entrance.
“Euthanasia is just a thing all vets dread,” R.B. Lowe said.
And, at many animal hospitals, “people have to go out through the waiting area, all in tears and upset,” he said.
“We just decided that we wanted a place that you could be in peace, and you could exit without having to be on display,” R.B. Lowe said.
There’s still some work to be done, some equipment to be installed. There are still boxes sitting in the offices that the doctors will use.
But Nick said they’ve been seeing patients since Monday. “We’ve got all the important things ready to go,” he said.
As they move forward, there are still reminders of the past.
The pet cemetery, where the Lowes have long buried animals whose owners didn’t have the ability to do so, is still there, still shaded by the pines R.B. Lowe said his parents planted as seedlings.
In the comfort room, there hangs a painting of the old clinic, presented to R.B. by the architect who designed the new animal hospital.
Lowe said the painting nearly brought him to tears.
The fire destroyed their business, but it also claimed the lives of nine dogs who were being boarded there.
Greg Lowe said a fund has been set up to turn the plot next to the new clinic into the Precious Nine Park, a dog park for the community.
“People wanted to give us money to rebuild the building, and we weren’t comfortable with that,” Greg said.
Instead, donations are being accepted and will go into a Wells Fargo fund for the purpose.
Throughout the afternoon, clients and friends stopped them to say hello, give a hug or remark on the new hospital.
“I think it’s marvelous,” said Dr. Bianca Ortolani, now a veterinarian in Massachusetts.
Before she became a vet, Ortolani said, she was a veterinary technician at Rowan Animal Clinic.
She happened to be in town, and wanted to pay her respects to the Lowes.
The Lowes said that good has come out of the tragedy.
Their new clinic has more space, and their staff once more numbers more than 20 full-time and part-time employees, Nick Lowe said.
And though the Lowes have moved on from the fire that shook up their lives, they said their clients have stayed with them through it all.

Contact Hugh Fisher via the editor’s desk at 704-797-4244.