The Aspen community lost a longtime veterinarian this week. As Aspen Public Radio’s Carolyn Sackariason reports, Dr. Scott Dolginow bid farewell to the Aspen Animal Hospital after nearly 30 years.
Dressed in blue scrubs, Scott Dolginow performs his last surgery on a small, 15-year-old poodle named Ginger, who likely has cancer.
“I’m closing up an incision and removing that tumor over there on the table. It’s almost as big as the dog. Dog’s how many pounds? 13 pounds. 13 pounds. Probably a 1 pound tumor,” he says.
He’s assisted by technician Kelly Immel, who observes the veteran doctor’s demeanor in the final hours.
“He’s been funny, very witty today,” she says.
Dolginow says he feels different today.
“It’s the end of an era to me; yeah, I would say it definitely feels like the end of an era. It’s strange after 27 years to think this is the last day. Yeah, a bit emotional,” he says.
It was even more emotional when he sold the business in October. Dolginow had a 4-year contract with the Aspen Animal Hospital’s new owners to work here two days a week but demands from his other business, the emergency vet clinic in Basalt, became immediate so he got out early so he can work there. He says it’s probably better that way.
“In some ways it’s easier for them to not having me here now, with this being theirs now and I think they get sick of people saying, ‘well Scott wouldn’t do this or we only want to see Scott only.’ I’ve been here a long time and I think in some ways it might easier for them to not have me here as new owners and going the directions they choose to go,” he says.
Dolginow has decades of experience in complex soft tissue surgeries and orthopaedics.
He has struggled to hire people to staff the 24-hour Basalt clinic because of the valley’s high cost of living. Wednesday marked the 10th anniversary of that business, which has been a success in some regards and not so much in another.
“If I was smart financially, I would have closed the doors a long time ago because I look at all the hours I’ve worked there and not paid myself for it. I’ve lost way more money than what I invested in it to get it going. But I think the community; the population of the Roaring Fork Valley is educated, sophisticated and animal lovers, and they really want 24-hour care and quality care,” he says.
There have been a lot of changes in the industry during Dolginow’s career — more competition locally, a growing seasonal clientele, increased technology and more staff at the Aspen Animal Hospital, though just four of his employee are still there.
Dolginow’s approach toward his care for animals and their owners has been a focus in his practice, and in turn pet owners have reciprocated with their loyalty and friendship.
“I’ve really enjoyed being a small town vet and developing relationships with clients. I think winning people’s trust and confidence; trying to provide quality service and make it affordable for people,” he says.
And what comes with small town living, and its often wild residents, are moments that will be etched in Dolginow’s memory well beyond his tenure here.
“There were some interesting middle-of-the-night emergency calls that kept life interesting; the 2:30 in the morning call to Woody Creek for the cocker spaniel that had gotten into the cocaine was amusing,” he says.
He’s watched families grow up, have their own kids and experienced with them the evolution of pet ownership over the decades. He has seen tens of thousands of animals and has bonded with many of their owners.
“It’s just been really fun, really fun and exciting. People have been great to me; certainly have enhanced the quality of my life beyond what I ever imagined,” he says.
Dolginow sees one of his last appointments today. It’s Iris, a chocolate lab from the Aspen Animal Shelter who needs her ears checked.
He says he will come back to the Aspen clinic occasionally when his expertise is needed, and will be still available for emergencies in Basalt.
Carolyn Sackariason, Aspen Public Radio News.