By Pamela Dozois

Contributing Writer


The Santa Ynez Pet Hospital recently celebrated its 35th anniversary with a party in the courtyard of the hospital on Numancia Street. Dr. Bob Dean, owner of the hospital, welcomed the many guests at the Saturday afternoon event, who enjoyed food provided by the Pizza Shack, desserts from Baker’s Table, wine, and music by the Vineyard Byrds.

Having been surrounded by veterinarians his entire youth, it is not surprising that Dean found himself drawn to that profession.

“My father was a veterinarian, and I guess I wanted to be like him,” Dean said. “My father opened the first veterinary hospital in Anaheim in 1952. I worked in the clinic from grade school through college, and I also had three uncles who were veterinarians.”

Dean graduated from Auburn University in Alabama, the same university that his father and uncles had attended, with a degree in veterinary medicine and a degree in zoology. Starting in 1979 he worked for three years at the Solvang Veterinary Hospital but left in April 1983 to build his own hospital.

“I mostly deal with small animals, mainly dog and cats, but I do see the occasional turtle, rats and guinea pigs and some birds. But dogs and cats are 90 percent of my practice. Today I saw a chicken. I’ve also spayed pigs. But the thing that amazes me most are the weird things dogs eat such as underwear, socks, gravel, children’s toys – it makes this job interesting,” he added. “You never know what you’ll have to deal with next.”

Dean and Dr. Sarah Edwards work full time at the hospital and Dr. Amy Parker works part time. The hospital is open daily, including a half-day on Saturdays, and sees about 26 patients a day.

Dean photographed these clown fish in the Philippines.

Besides caring for sick animals, Dean’s other passions are scuba diving and underwater photography. He has hung some impressive photographs on the hospital walls.

“Twenty-seven years ago I returned to Auburn University to attend a continuing education conference in veterinary dentistry. I met a man lecturing on dentistry and he started showing photographs of underwater sea life. He mentioned that he was taking a group of people to Belize and asked if I was interested in coming along,” Dean said. “That’s when it all started. I had just turned 40.”

He and his wife, Joanne, who have been married for 24 years, have gone every year for the past 25 years to different places around the world with the same group of people.

Dean has swum with hammerhead sharks, turtles, and numerous aquatic creatures, photographing them up close.

“We’ve dived in the Galapagos Islands in Ecuador, and it was thrilling swimming with hammerhead sharks,” said Dean. “They are very shy creatures. They swim in schools and you look up from below and all you see are hundreds of them above you.

“We’ve also gone to Cocos Island in Costa Rica, which is called the Island of the Sharks.

“We are going to Palau, near Guam, on our next trip,” he added. “The company has a dive boat there that accommodates 20 guests and a crew of 10. Our whole group lives on it for 10 days, and we spend most of the time diving and photographing sea life.

“With the help of Joanne, my wife, who is the computer person, we create a slide show on our laptop while on board the ship.”

Interestingly, Joanne is not fond of water.

A friend took this photo of Dean photographing a school of trevally in the Solomon Islands.

“One of the first questions Bob asked me after we were married was, ‘So when are you getting scuba certified?” not ’Do you want to get scuba certified?’ I’m happy I did it because it’s a whole new world and I love it. I love to be an observer,” she said. “Out of 400 students, my instructor said I was one of his most difficult students. My job on these dives is to be a spotter. I get in the water and look out for schools of fish and then signal to Bob so he can take photographs.”

“In looking back over the 35 years practicing veterinary medicine in Santa Ynez, gratitude comes to the forefront,” Dean said. “Gratitude to the pet owners who have entrusted the care of their pets with us.  Gratitude in sharing the love of dogs and cats who enrich all of our lives so much.

“I have learned so much from these animals and from the people who love them. I also have gratitude for the people who have shared this journey with me. My wife, Joanne, who is our office manager, and has been with me the whole time; Marie Jacobsen, who I have worked with for 37 of those 42 years; Linda Leite, who has been our receptionist for 22 years; and Grace Gausman, who is a “newer” employee who has worked at the Santa Ynez Pet Hospital approaching 30 years.

“I started out with a single employee in 1983 and currently have 26. I am grateful to all the employees, past and present, for sharing the experiences and making the business possible.”