New Kid on the Block: Tribeca Veterinary Wellness

The opening of Tribeca Veterinary Wellness marks the return of Dr. Jennifer Berg to the area. After interning at the Upper East Side’s Animal Medical Center in 1997 and 1998, she spent ten years at the Tribeca Soho Animal Hospital on Lispenard. When the plan to take over the practice with two other veterinarians fell through, she waited out the non-compete agreement on the Upper West Side. She looked for years for a location to open her own animal hospital, eventually signing a lease at 256 West Street in August of 2012.

After superstorm Sandy, however, the building had to relocate its mechanicals, and the Department of Buildings discovered prior issues that needed to be addressed. Then the owner of the commercial spaces decided he wanted to sell; he hoped Berg would just walk away, but she persevered, waiting for the landlord to complete the work as required in the lease. All of which is to say it’s been a long, long process and she’s thrilled to finally be seeing patients. (Dogs and cats only, but they can refer owners of other animals to a specialist or do triage, if necessary.)

The first thing you might notice is that there are no medical tables in the exam rooms. “If the exam rooms are places where medical things don’t happen, animals can be relaxed here,” says Berg. (Owners, too, no doubt.) Big dogs are better off on the floor, she points out, while smaller dogs and cats can sit in a lap or on the table. “And anyway, the first step is to spend a lot of time talking with the owner, finding out what’s wrong so we can get on the right track. Sometimes it’s not just the pet with an issue, it’s the owners, and what works in their life. There are things that have taken me 15 years to figure out. For example, every person with a dog that’s too heavy says the dog is a picky eater: ‘I have to grate cheese over the food, or I have to switch foods a lot.’ That’s what everybody says! But when a dog is a year old, his metabolism begins slowing down, and his natural instinct is to stop eating. But people want their dogs to be happy, which means they want to see them eat.” Her solution involves putting the pet’s food for the day in a container, and no one—not the kids, not the nanny, not the dog walker—is allowed to indulge beyond that.

All three examination rooms have two doors because Berg has learned that pets are more comfortable if the owner leaves through one door, shuts it, and then the pet follows the vet through the other door. “I never knew how useful that was till I had it on the Upper West Side.” (One exam room is currently a playroom for Berg’s two kids: “When they’re old enough to not need it I’ll be ready to have another doctor onboard.”) The exam rooms link to the main hospital area, with a dentistry nook, digital X-ray room, in-house lab, and operating room.

Other knowledge gleaned from experience went into the planning of the space. Kennels are laid out so that patients don’t need to see each other, which is especially important for cats vis-à-vis dogs. There are separate rooms—quieter and less trafficked—for animals recovering from a procedure, and one can be turned into an isolation area if quarantining is necessary. “My mother is making a little peekaboo curtain so they can be undisturbed but we can still check on them,” says Berg. She also wanted the office to be high-tech, with Mac-based software so they can take photos—of the animals, and also of laminated charts (which are then wiped for reuse)—and AirDrop them into the patient’s file. She even engaged dual internet services, in case one drops out.

“I’ve heard people say they wanted to be a vet because they don’t like people,” says Berg. “That’s not going to happen. When you’re a vet, people are dependent on you—they’re fearful, anxious. That’s why it’s important to build relationships and to build a culture. I want this to be the kind of place where everyone will hold the door open for everyone else.”

Stop by the Best Friends Animal Society’s Strut Your Mutt event on Pier 26 on October 7 to say hi—Tribeca Veterinary Wellness volunteered to handle the emergency services—or visit the hospital itself during the open house on October 15 (11 a.m. to 5 p.m.).

Tribeca Veterinary Wellness is at 256 West (between Vestry and Laight); 212-732-7474; tribecaveterinarywellness.com.

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2 Comments

  1. Dr. Berg and Tribeca Veterinary Wellness are terrific. A great addition to the neighborhood and the best vet I’ve ever met.

  2. Congrats to Dr. Berg on the opening of her new office. I remember her from TriBeCa Soho Animal hospital, it’s great to have a quality, compassionate vet in our area. Wishing her good luck & hope to be seeing her soon.

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