Susan St. James has worked at the Park City Animal Clinic for 20 years caring for patients like Nala, the St. Bernard. (Christopher Reeves/Park Record)
Susan St. James has worked at the Park City Animal Clinic for 20 years caring for patients like Nala, the St. Bernard. (Christopher Reeves/Park Record)
At the Park City Animal Clinic, a fluffy, orange cat named Mr. Fox stands guard at the door and greets patients and their owners. He wears a yellow bandana as part of the Yellow Dog Project to warn people that do not know him to keep their distance.

"Mr. Fox supervises, because it is what he does best," said Susan St. James, manager of the clinic. "Or at least it's what he thinks he does best."

St. James has been the manager of the clinic for 20 years this month. She has a background in childcare and managerial experience at a dental clinic, but after her divorce, she found herself wondering what she would truly enjoy doing.

When her Labrador, Katie, was the loser in a fight with a porcupine, St. James said she had to call the clinic in the middle of the night. The veterinarian at the time asked St. James for her help while removing the quills from her pet, and she said a light bulb switched on in her head.

"I thought, 'I like this work. I would love to work with a vet,'" she said. "I decided to just drop in and give them my résumé, and three days later they called me and asked me when I could start."

St. James started working at the clinic for two days a week, then three and eventually became a full-time employee. She said she has seen the clinic grow not only in size but in the services offered. That includes quality of care and technological advances in medicine.

When she first started working at the clinic, she said there were no pain drugs available for cats.


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Now, pet owners are much more aware of the medicine available for their pets and want the best care available.

While technology and medicine are important in any veterinary clinic, St. James said it is patient care that matters most. Her passion for the animals that come to the clinic is apparent when she talks about the hardships of the job.

"You may have one room with a new puppy or kitten and their owners are so happy and excited, but in the next room, you could have someone losing their pet, their best friend," she said. "Being able to shift those gears and give people what they need, well, I don't know that it's a science, but you just do the best you can. It's hard sometimes, because it does get emotional."

On the brighter side, seeing people enter the clinic with their pets and become long-term clients is a joy. People and their children are not so terribly different from people and their pets, she said.

Now that she has been at the clinic for two decades, St. James said she may start cutting back on the time she spends there. However, she added that she will never completely leave, because she cannot imagine her life without that interaction. She only hopes that whoever takes over her role at the clinic loves and cares for the patients as much as she does.

"Dr. Prior says I can work here for as long as I can remember to come to work," she said with a smile. "But I hope that whoever takes over when I leave just loves it as much as I do and will be here because they want to be here. If they have that, they will be all right."

The Park City Animal Clinic will host an open house at 1725 Sidewinder Dr. to celebrate St. James and her service on Friday, May 23, from 4 p.m. until 6:30 p.m. The community is invited to attend to give their regards to St. James and join clinic employees in celebrating with cake and refreshments.