2002 Winners

National Stronghold Veterinary Pet Care Awards Presented

The winner of the National Stronghold Veterinary Pet Care Award for 2002 is John O’Mahony, from the Animal Care Hospital in Douglas East, Cork. John was presented with the perpetual Stronghold Veterinary Pet Care trophy and a prize valued at €2,000 at an awards ceremony in Citywest in Dublin yesterday (Sunday 24th November, 2002).

Second place in the national awards went to Annette Quegan from Barrowside Veterinary Hospital, New Ross, Co. Wexford and the 3rd national prize went to John Bainbridge of Argyle & Bainbridge Veterinary on the Upper Kilmacud Road, Dundrum in Dublin.

In recognition of a century of pioneering innovation, research, education and contribution to the advancement and understanding of the importance of animal welfare, the judges of the competition awarded a special prize to the UCD Faculty of Veterinary Medicine to mark 100 years of excellence and care.

Because of the ethos and consistency of professionalism and dedication evident from a number of individual nominations for all staff, the judges also decided to recommend a special Highly Commended Practice award to Gilabbey Veterinary Clinic, Cork City. Represented by Tom Conway, Shane Guerin, Pat O’Doherty and their team of colleagues, this is the second year that Gilabbey have achieved this overall distinction.

A number of vets were Highly Commended at a national level within the competition. These were:

  • Richard Brennan, Thomastown, Co. Kilkenny
  • Tom Brosnan, Ark Veterinary Clinic, Killarney, Co. Kerry
  • Enda Costigan, Blacklion Pet Hospital, Greystones, Co. Wicklow
  • John Finnegan, Henry & Finnegan Animal Clinic, Castlerea, Co. Roscommon
  • Finbarr Heslin of Beaufield Veterinary Centre, Celbridge, Co. Kildare
  • Paul Kelly, Ratoath Veterinary Clinic, Ratoath, Co. Meath
  • David & John MacGuinness of Avenue Road Veterinary Clinic, Dundalk, Co. Louth
  • Aidan Miller, Ark Veterinary Clinic, Galway
  • Tanis Turley, Anicare Veterinary Group, Botanic Road Glasnevin and Malahide Road, Clontarf.

Organised by Pfizer Animal Health in association with the Irish Veterinary Journal, the Awards are assessed on stories written by members of the public about their vets.

The nominations, received from all 26 counties in the Republic of Ireland, were judged not only on the technical veterinary skills but also on the level of care and service demonstrated to both the pet and the pet owner in each individual case, which is often way beyond the call of professional duty.

This year’s stories included the vet who dug a grave for the dog who passed away; and the vet who was a “sight to behold” crawling under the bed to catch a family of stray kittens. There are puppies who ate tablets, puppies who ate lightbulbs and the Bernese Mountain dog who ate a tea towel. There are three legged cats and pets in car accidents. Samples of some of the top nominees for 2002 are at www.progresspr.ie/petcare.htm

Speaking at the awards ceremony, Brian More O’Ferrall from Pfizer Animal Health said that reading through the stories it was very evident that tremendous importance is placed on good veterinary care and an ability to understand and empathise with the owner’s emotions, because their pets are so loved.

“Their pets are loyal friends and an important part of the family. Whilst they are wonderful companions for people of all ages, they are especially treasured by those living alone. They are also important for giving children an early sense of responsibility, caring and purpose in the increasingly impersonal, superficial world in which we all live today,” said Brian More O’Ferrall.

“The Stronghold Veterinary Pet Care Awards give pet owners an opportunity to acknowledge the excellent work done by vets. However the awards also highlight the need to care for the health and welfare of pets properly in terms of being a responsible pet owner, which is a very important message at this time of year,” concluded Brian More O’Ferrall.

The stories written by pet owners range from happy or funny, to dramatic stories and some particularly sad stories, which ended with the death of a much loved family pet. However the nominations all consistently highlighted a dedicated and professional veterinary profession which has a caring and gentle approach to animals; which takes time to listen to pet owners, explain treatments and often to comfort a pet owner or help them through a difficult decision.

The winner of the Stronghold Veterinary Pet Care Award, John O’Mahony, is originally from Kilcorhane near Bantry in Cork. A graduate of the UCD Faculty of Veterinary Medicine in 1987, he initially worked in a mixed veterinary practice in Norfolk for some three years and then took a year to travel globally but particularly around Australia. He returned to England in 1991 to work in a practice dedicated to small animals before moving back to Cork in 1994 when he purchased the practice in Douglas East. John, married to Mercedes, has a 2 year old son John and a 6 week old daughter, Clara.

He was one of the Highly Commended veterinarians in this competition in 2001.

John received a number of nominations for the award, but his winning nomination was from Sharon Barrett from Lakeland Crescent, Blackrock Cork for the difficult diagnosis and outstanding care of her pet dog, Jessie.

A sample of the top nominations for this award are on line at www.progresspr.ie/petcare.htm

– Ends –

Issued by: Progress Communications 056-71895
Date: Monday 25th November, 2002


Sample Nominations from Pet Owners for Top 5 Award Winners

Additional samples of nominations available at www.progresspr.ie/petcare.htm

Overall Winner, Stronghold Veterinary Pet Care Award, 2002
Vet: John O’Mahony, Animal Care Hospital, 14 The Fingerpost,
Douglas East, Cork
Tel 021-4893033
Winning nominator/pet owner: Sharon Barrett, Lakeland Crescent, Blackrock, Cork

Why nominated:

I would like to nominate my vet because I truly believe that my vet is the most deserving of the award. Previously, I had met my vet on routine check-ups, but when Jessie, my five year old West Highland Terrier became ill, I found out just how much I would come to rely on him for her mere survival.

Jessie started to become ill on a Friday with loss of appetite, shaking, accidents (i.e. urinating) and turning more and more depressed-like. By Sunday I had to take her to the vet. I found John to be more then happy to see Jess even though it was a Sunday.

At the start it was thought it was just an infection, but within a day or two she had deteriorated considerably. John took her in and she spent two days in hospital on a drip. Between John and the nurses she got the most wonderful care and attention with me being allowed to visit her. Looking much better, Jess was allowed home.

But once again in a few days we were back to stage one. This continued in and out of hospital, getting better only to get sick again, for the next few weeks. Jessie couldn’t hold on for much longer – she was physically and mentally drained from the tests, a lesser vet would have given up but John went through text book after text book, consulted with the College of Veterinary Surgeons, ruling out illness after illness.

John was terrific through all of this, keeping me updated with every test and result, explaining everything in detail. Finally he suspected she had “Addison’s Disease” so he performed the necessary tests, within days we had the results to confirm his suspicions. Jessie is now on steroids and doing great !!

Being such a rare disease it would have been possible to misdiagnose and maybe even have had to put her down. Having gone through such serious illness with Jess, I got to know John on his staff on a personal level.

I feel extreme gratitude for the Animal Care Hospital and its staff and I sincerely feel that they deserve this nomination to the highest degree. Words cannot express how thankful I am for saving Jessie’s life, without them she would not be sitting next to me now !


Other sample nominations from pet owners about John O’Mahony included:

The story of Elsa, the dog who died on her 14th birthday as a result of kidney failure. Her owner was anxious to have Elsa buried in her garden but when her vet realised she had made no arrangements, he organised everything for her.

John sent her home and arrived to the house an hour later with a veterinary student. Elsa’s owner watched from the house as this vet dug the grave himself. She wrote:
“I can’t tell you how much this meant to me…I still get comfort from the fact that my companion of fourteen years had been put to final bed by someone who had always taken a great interest in her and cared for her so kindly. ..”

There is the story of this vets care of Benny and Susie over many years, described as their owners’ “best friends.” We are told that Susie died peacefully in her vets’ surgery but that his care of her over her final six months was unbelievable. He attended to Susie on Saturdays, Sundays, middle of the night, whenever it was needed. Susie was diabetic for the last few months of her life but due to the care of her vet and his staff, she was as happy and lively as a pup.

This pet owner described her vet as a great gift with both animals and with owners.

We heard about Florrie, who was run over in Cork city, very seriously injured and brought to John’s veterinary clinic. The dogs’ owner was never found, so the vet was left with a stray dog, with a badly fractured right hind thigh bone. Evidently this was a dog with pins and wires in his leg but with a smile on his face, which John helped to happily re-home in Bantry.

Pepe was a 13 year old dog who was attacked, unseen, in his garden one Sunday. It appeared her back was broken and she had puncture wounds on both sides. Her owner wrote “Pepe had been a member of the family for thirteen years; we did not want to lose her this way”.

Pepe’s vet, John, responded immediately. She was kept in care and referred to specialists where needed. Her vet kept in constant contact. She was returned home with exercises and despite her serious injuries is “practically 100%”

We also heard about Jess the dog. We were told that after her neutering operation, John snuggled her up with her fluffy teddy without a laugh or a questioning gesture.

2nd National Award – Stronghold Veterinary Pet Care Awards 2002
Vet: Annette Quegan, Barrowside Veterinary Hospital
Millbanks, Rosbercon, New Ross, Co. Wexford
Tel: 051-425400

Sample extracts from nominations:

There is the story of Puss the cat with feline Aids whose owners believe Annette’s speedy diagnosis and excellent follow-up care has meant that it’s not all doom and gloom. There are days when “Puss” can chase a twirling leaf, climb a tree, pounce on a mouse or present his owners with a rabbit at the kitchen window. It is thanks to Annette that he has the joy of doing and his owners have the joy of watching.

A beautiful nomination was received for the care of an elderly dog, Tom, over a number of years. Sadly, just a few days after receiving the original nomination, a further note arrived from Tom’s owner to say that he had passed away and again acknowledging the gentleness and compassion of his vet.

Einstein the cat also, sadly, also passed away. But his owner found a young orphaned kitten shortly afterwards and this vet helped with advice on how to hand rear a 2 week old kitten.

3rd National Award – Stronghold Veterinary Pet Care Awards 2002
Vet: John Bainbridge, Argyle & Bainbridge Veterinary,
Overton, Upper Kilmacud Road, Dundrum, Dublin 14
Tel: 01-2987510

Sample extracts from nominations:

One pet owner tells us she has known John Bainbridge for at least 25 years, visiting him with four different dogs over those years.

He is described is a most patient and compassionate person – he showed this very clearly at the time of the illness and death of this beloved labrador, Fainne, who was 16 ½ years old when she died.

Initially she contracted cancer in her mammary glands but with surgery and support she pulled through very well, going on to live another 4 and a half years. Later, Fainne the dog had a series of small strokes which left her a little bit disorientated. She was also practically blind. As she was a large dog, and to avoid as much discomfort to her as possible, her vet called to the house on many occasions.

When it was time to let her go, this vet administered the medication to Fainne as she lay in the arms of her owner before the fire. It was so peaceful and gentle and this pet owner will never forget the thoughtfulness and compassion of this vet.

She has found John’s compassion, professionalism, thoughtfulness and kindness so helpful during this time and over the past 25 plus years, and cannot thank him enough.

Another pet owner from Rathmines tells us that John has been a marvellous vet for years…
“Those years ago, when I had a Chihuahua dog, Tiffany, John proved his dedication at looking after small and delicate animals. The number of times he had to attend that little dog in emergency situations is uncountable…”

“Post-partum septicaemia at 2 am., a dangerous enteritis at 1 am., an emergency caesarean section.. he always saved the day! Any time of day or night, any day of the year, always in good humour. Always very professional and courteous, he has an equal understanding of both animal and owner, in good times and at the worst time. He works very long hours, and is never in a hurry….. His reputation stretches far and wide around south Dublin, and I speak for many in wishing him the best of luck in this competition…”

Judge’s Award – Stronghold Veterinary Pet Care Awards 2002
Vet: Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, UCD,
Belfield, Dublin 4
Tel: 01-7166000

Recognising a century of pioneering work and research within an organisation which has stood for the highest professional standards in pet care and which has made a major contribution to veterinary education in Ireland.

This award is presented at the discretion of the Judging Panel to mark 100 Years of Excellence and Care.

Category Award – Highly Commended Practice- Stronghold Veterinary Pet Care Awards 2002
Vet: Gilabbey Veterinary Clinic, 38 Gilabbey Street, Cork
Tel: 021-4962799

Sample extracts from nominations:

A Dog’s Life:
Recently, my dog needed to have an operation. Those eight little words go no way to explaining the sheer anxiety, hours of nail-biting and overall panic that comes from the thought of losing a beloved pet.

Zak, my German Shepherd, was diagnosed as having diseased bowel muscles and had to be taken up to the Gilabbey Veterinary Clinic in Cork.

The ride up to the surgery was torment enough; neither of us humans in the car could bring ourselves to look in to those implicitly trusting, big brown eyes. Zak however, was an entirely different kettle of fish, leaping in to the car with his usual vitality, convinced we were just going for a W-A-L-K (as a dog owner, it is impossible to utter or even write that specific word without the hyphens or a cursory glance in all directions to ensure that our darling pooch is not within hearing distance).

Perhaps canines, felines and the like have some particular sixth sense that we are not privy to for as we pulled up outside the Gilabbey Veterinary Clinic, a mistrustful look appeared in Zak’s eyes – ‘And what might this be then?’

After consecutively pleading (‘Come on sweetheart’), cajoling (‘I bet they have lots of biscuits’) and threatening (‘It’s for your own good you know’) – none of which worked, it was time for a canine tug-of war to remove his posterior from the back seat of the car. We (the humans) emerged victorious – and exhausted.

As he was brought in to the waiting room, everything humanly (or caninely) possible was attempted on his part to prevent us getting any further in to the room – but by sheer dint of determination, we were in.

As we took Zak into the examination room we were greeted by Tom Conway, one of the vets at Gilabbey, who couldn’t have been more patient and understanding. I think it would be fair to say that we were just as anxious as our dog and, with Zak casting suspicious looks in Mr. Conway’s direction and his owners not exactly giving the poor man an easy time of it either, it is a testament to the nature of all at Gilabbey that their priority is the well being of the animal concerned.

Gilabbey truly come in to its own at this point. Shane Guerin, who would be performing the operation, gently explained exactly what needed to be done and what aftercare would be required – all in layman’s terms. There is nothing worse than being bamboozled with scientific jargon at this juncture.

Both vets were incredibly kind to the two paranoid pet owners standing in front of them, reiterating information a second and third time just so that we would be completely comfortable entrusting our dog to their care. We needn’t have worried.

Just for your information, at this stage, Zak was quizzically investigating the surgery for any hidden perils lurking in the corners. And then it was time for the injection. Having a pathological fear of needles myself, the prospect of watching a shot being performed was not particularly my cup of tea (or other hot beverage) but I persevered and stayed with Zak as he had his injection, Shane continuously talking to Zak to keep him calm.

We bade farewell for now as we walked out of the surgery, the words ‘traitor’ and ‘abandoner’ flying through our heads, but the mantra ‘Its for his own good’ won through.

Cue hours of nervous energy before a phone call to let us know that all was well and he was recovering nicely.

Fast forward a few days and we had our dog back at home with us, with one minor adjustment: a snazzy, flexi-plastic white collar to prevent him from getting to his stitches – my dog now resembled a furry gramophone player. The journey home was not an enjoyable one as our musical-looking little friend could not turn left not right and just to make the point clear – those collars have the stopping power of concrete and can do serious damage to one’s kneecaps.

One of the key things that cannot be emphasised enough is after-care and it is an essential part of maintaining the good work that has been done during the surgery.

Gilabbey were always there at the end of the phone to answer questions or reassure us, offering sound advice and letting us know that they cared as much as we did, and do.

When we took Zak back up to have his stitches taken out, it was like getting reacquainted with old friends as Zak quite happily ambled in to the examination room to greet Tom and stood as good as gold while his stitches were removed. And now, six weeks down the line we have a gregarious German Shepherd again, who looks no worse for his ordeal.

Gilabbey do tremendous work in the area of animal care and their pride in the work is obvious. They have recently flown surgeons in from overseas when required to ensure that only the best care is provided.

They are highly qualified, compassionate and competent. But more than all of these things put together – my dog trusts them and that is worth more than all the chewsticks in Christendom.

To put it bluntly, as we left the examination room just prior to Zak’s operation, Shane Guerin told us he would treat Zak like he was his own. You can’t ask for more than that.

Last updated: Monday 25th November, 2002