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Tansy, my miniature pinscher mix, needed surgery last month. My tawny seven-pound female puppy had started bleeding abnormally and showing signs of pain and discomfort. Seeking the opinions of vets in my area, I was told by two offices that she probably had ovarian cysts and would need a hysterectomy.

Additionally, Tansy was born with an umbilical hernia that I was told early on would need to be repaired and could be done while already under anesthesia.

I live in Alpine, and so far I have been taking my puppy to see a couple different vets in East County. One was quite friendly and took a lot of time explaining to me the procedure and why it needed to happen. He had a nice demeanor, but my dog wanted to bite the heck out of him since she is terrified of vets. It was difficult enough trying to get her temperature taken.

After a long struggle, I left the vet’s office with a $65 fee for the consultation and a printed quote for the surgery — $450, not including tax, medications, bandages, or the cost of the dreaded cone. I was looking at a $500 bill that I could no way afford. Then a friend suggested that I take Tansy down to the vet in Tecate, where he and his neighbors in Campo regularly take their dogs.

Consultation room

My friend made a phone call for me and inquired about the fee for the same procedure: $79, plus a $65 consultation fee. So, I made an appointment for as soon as possible and showed up at the clinic just a few days later.

The fact that I could get my puppy taken care of at a price I could manage was a huge relief. But, the night before the surgery, I started panicking: What if they don't know what they're doing and botch the surgery? What if she contracts a horrible disease while she's there? What if saving 400 some odd dollars costs my puppy her life?

But Tansy groaned in pain through the night, so the next morning I took her down to Tecate for her surgery, as scheduled.

Tecate is an easy in. There are a couple of ways to get there. If you live in East County it's quicker to take I-8 east toward El Centro, get off at Buckman Springs toward Campo, then take a right on SR-94; 13 miles later, turn left toward Tecate on SR-188. Or, if you’re on the west side of San Diego, it's closer to take the SR-94 through Jamul and drive toward Campo on a windy mountain road for about 21 miles until you'll turn right onto SR-188 toward Tecate. Either way, you'll be winding through scenic country roads, looking for the sign that says Tecate and points to a little offshoot road that is SR-188. Drive down it a mile or two and you're in Tecate.

Tecate is a quaint town with friendly people and little hustle-and-bustle. It’s easy to drive there, but you can also easily park at the border, pay $5 for the day, and walk in. We chose to drive in, taking the border entry road, Lázaro Cárdenas, down through the first light and then a right on the main drag named Avenida Benito Juárez. One light and two stop signs down the avenue there is a Pemex gas station on the corner of Pdte. V Caranza; the DIPET'S clinic is on the left.

Inside DIPET's

My first impression of the place was that it didn't look very glamorous from the outside. Upon entry, I could see there was a dog-sitting service, a pet store, an adoption area, and a grooming service adjoined to a light-filled sitting area. I was worried that my little min-pin would put up her feisty defense act and start snarling, but we were greeted by a friendly and easy-going hispanic lady who politely introduced herself with a firm handshake and led us into the appointment room.

I'd brought along my friend, who speaks fluent Spanish; I could not have communicated with the rapid-Spanish-speaking assistant with my poquito español. But I was told there are English-speaking employees who work there Monday through Saturday from 8:30 a.m.-5:00 p.m.

Tansy was a little fearful, and the smell in the place was somewhat disconcerting but I stuck to my resolve. The young vet assistant greeted Tansy with a chirpy and cheerful, “*Hola, Mami…que linda!" and opened her arms for Tansy, who walked right into them, tail slightly wagging.

The veterinarian, Maria Eugenia Gonzalez, another nice lady, introduced herself with the same exuberance and joined us in the appointment room and told us about the services she provides.

Besides doing preventative maintenance for teeth and simple orthopedic surgeries, she said she volunteers two hours a day, five days a week, to the local animal-control office for spays, neuters, vaccinations, treatments, medications, and euthanasia.

Within minutes, Dr. Gonzalez assessed the same thing that the two American vets had diagnosed. I was so relieved!

We were told to come back in six hours, so we left the office and ventured into the town. Walking around Tecate is a pleasure. People are friendly, you are not getting harangued by tourist vultures, and it's fairly quiet. Within short walking distance, you'll find lots of nice shopping, a cool swap meet, restaurants, coffee shops, the Cinepolis movie theater, and the Caliente Casino at the intersection of Blvd. Nuevo Leon and Blvd. Encinos. The town square, located on the border-entry street (Lázaro Cárdenas and Avenida Benito Juárez), also provides a nice place to relax, listen to street musicians, and check out vendors.

Breakfast, shopping, espresso, lunch, and more shopping later, we went back to get my little girl. The office was getting busy by that time. We were led to the recovery room where Tansy was sleeping in her crate and I was told to gently pick her up and take her in my arms.

She was a little groggy but happy to see me and seemed no worse for the wear. They assured me that everything went fine, showed me how to clean and bandage the wound, gave me instructions on medications, and set me up with a cone and all the medication needed. I walked out of there with a bill of $120, total, and an appointment to get the stitches out ten days later.

Crossing the border back to the U.S. was more time-consuming than coming in, but a cakewalk compared to crossing from Tijuana.

It's been two weeks since Tansy had her stitches removed. She is fully recovered and all is well.

M.V.Z Maria Eugenia Gonzalez; mvzmargulez@hotmail.com

Tel (665) 655-7563 (from U.S., dial 011-52-(665) 655-7563)

Not an advertisement; an endorsement of the vet's services by a freelance writer

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