BEAN BLOSSOM — For more than 50 years, the Bean Blossom Animal Clinic has been a magnet for people who love their animals, because of the doctor who clearly loved them, too.

On Saturday, Aug. 5, James “Doc” Brester closed the door to the clinic for the final time as its doctor. The following Monday, it was opened by new owners, who also operate the Franklin Animal Clinic.

Brester said he had been trying to sell the business for a couple of years.

“I don’t have any money saved, so it gives me the chance to retire with some money, and these people seemed awfully nice. My daughter was real pleased with them, so it just worked out,” he said.

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Dr. Andrew P. Mills, Dr. Amy L. Smith and Dr. Chad M. Hennessy are the main owners of the clinic. Five veterinarians will work on rotations at the practice — now called the Bean Blossom Veterinary Clinic — until they are able to hire a full-time veterinarian there.

The clinic will focus on small animals. Home visits may be added when additional veterinarians are hired, Mills said.

Mills was the doctor on call the first day of the transition Aug. 7.

“The first day was wonderful. It was great to work with the staff and meet new folks. I love to educate clients on great care of their ‘kids,’” he said.

“At Franklin, we have a rule that they are not called pets but kids.”

The staff spent the first few days bringing down supplies to stock the clinic, plus handling all the patients on the schedule.

“We knew it would be busy, but honestly it was busier than we thought,” Mills said.

“The first day I was here I went to Anna, Dr. Brester’s daughter, and I said, ‘When does it stop? How do you know when it stops?’

“She goes, ‘People just stop coming in.’”

Mills said the clinic plans continue offering the loving care Brester offered and expand on it by offering services like CT scans, X-rays, blood work with results in 15 minutes and surgeries that don’t require overnight stays.

“I am a person who doesn’t believe in leaving animals here by themselves at night. It just doesn’t sit well with me,” Mills said.

The plan is to also expand the clinic’s pharmacy to provide more treatment options for pets.

The Bean Blossom location will be the Franklin Animal Clinic’s third clinic in Indiana. The primary veterinary hospital is in Franklin with an advanced wellness clinic in Greenwood.

The new doctors plan to offer specific appointment times. Most days, cars fill the Bean Blossom parking lot as people walk around with their pets or sit outside waiting for their names to be called — sometimes for a couple of hours.

“For 15 years I’ve done appointments, and so when I come down here (and) I see these folks waiting a couple of hours, it blows my mind, but they’re happy about it,” Mills said.

One immediate change patients will notice is a $19 visit fee for walk-in customers. There will be a $29 fee for appointment visits. That fee will also cover stool exams, which cost $13 at the Franklin clinic, Mills said.

“The stool in animals can carry things that children can get, people can get, so I believe in really screening dogs and cats heavily for that,” Mills said. “We’re going to put something in that has value. It makes people feel like they’re getting something for that. They’re not used to paying an office visit fee.”

Longtime Brester client Brittany James has been bringing her four dogs from Fairland — an hour’s drive away — to Brester for 10 years, but Brester’s prices were not the deciding factor for her.

“It’s how he treats the animals. The reason he keeps them low is not because of the money, it’s because he loves what he does, and that’s why he’s been doing it for as long as he has,” she said.

After seeing the new doctor, James said she “loved” Mills.

“I really liked him a lot. I’ll probably keep coming back, because even the $20 for an office visit now is nothing compared to what some vets charge,” she said.

James said that she also liked that Mills prescribed anxiety medicine to one of her dogs.

“I am happy to see they are moving forward a little bit and keeping the prices low,” she said.

James said she wants an animal clinic that doesn’t treat her like any customer.

“That’s what I liked about Bean Blossom. Even though they’ve had such a high client base, they’ve always kind of talked to you a little bit and made you feel like this was your clinic,” she said.

Beyond the call

On the first day under the new owners, Mike Burton sat in his white Blazer outside the clinic with his “soulmate,” Macey, a 13-year-old Labrador mix. She needed to have her ear surgically drained after she broke a blood vessel because of a bee sting.

Burton said he recently moved back to Indiana and didn’t know where to take Macey. He took her to a clinic in Columbus that charged him $165 for the visit, to drain her ear and to give her antibiotics.

Two days later, Macey’s ear was swollen again. The other doctors told Burton that Macey would need surgery and that it would cost $1,005.

Besides his partner, Macey is the second-most important being in his life. “I’m not saying she’s not worth a thousand (dollars); I just can’t (afford it),” he said.

He told his sister how much the surgery was going to cost and she told him to go see Brester in Bean Blossom.

“She has 12 cats, and she has brought every single one of them out here to him to have them neutered,” he said.

The Bean Blossom Veterinary Clinic charged Burton $165 to do the surgery and for medicine.

Inside the waiting room, Linda Cross sat with her 11-year-old cockapoo, Coco, at her feet. A couple of months ago, Coco couldn’t walk, but Brester gave her a shot and put her on pain medicine and a joint supplement. The two were visiting the clinic to get a refill.

Prior to seeing Brester, Cross took Coco to a clinic in Martinsville. The doctor told her Coco would need surgery to repair torn ligaments in her knees, but Cross said she wanted a second opinion before agreeing to the surgery.

Cross paid $113 to have the clinic in Martinsville examine Coco and give her a shot. Brester had charged her $55 for a visit, a shot and medicine.

Across from her sat Kit Johnson, Paula Richerson and Kieri McClure with Rescue Ryder Canine Education in Seymour. Mocha, Fenris and Relic lay at their feet.

Mocha was there get a toenail trimming and heartworm check. Fenris and Relic were in for allergy shots. Relic also had a rash that needed to be checked out.

For the past three years, Brester has been the veterinarian for all of the group’s rescues. Rescue Ryder trains those animals to be service dogs for veterans.

“A lot of our dogs are rescued from really bad conditions,” Johnson said. Fenris was three months old and only 7 pounds. Brester saved his life when he had parvo.

“Dr. Brester always made it real easy and affordable for us to be able to vet our animals. Everything we do is out-of-pocket. We’re not funded by anyone else,” Richerson added.

Johnson said they will miss how gentle Brester was with their animals, and they hope to get that same treatment from the new owners.

“They say you get what you paid for, but he went above and beyond the call of duty,” Johnson said. “He made the drive worth it.”

‘Animal angel’

In an exam room, Joyce Lutz had 8-year-old Chihuahua Rita on her lap. Rita’s 10-year-old sister, Uggie, and 12-year-old mom, Cha-Cha, where there, too.

The dogs came from Zionsville to get heartworm shots and their toenails cut. It’s a trip Lutz has made for at least 15 years.

When it was time for one of her dogs to be put down, she and Brester cried together, she said.

“He’s an animal angel. He just loves all animals,” she said.

Lutz said she’s glad there will still be a clinic in Bean Blossom even though Brester is retiring. She said she was paying triple the amount she pays here to have her dogs treated in Zionsville.

“I’m sure it’s going to be great,” she said of the new ownership.

“I’m glad they are keeping it here, because I’ll drive down here over going somewhere else.”

Mills said his clinics practice the patient-relationship approach, or connecting with the owner first.

“I always felt that if you treat the people really well, then they just trust you and you can treat the pet really well. It’s not all about the pet. You have to take care of the people, because the people will trust you and they will communicate with you and you’ll give better care,” he said.

Brester said that’s one of the reasons he decided to go into veterinary medicine. “I just decided it’s something you can help the animal and that helps the people, so you’re doing two things at one time,” he said.

Taking care of the people also means taking care of the staff, Mills said. All of Brester’s staff will continue to work at the clinic with the same benefits and pay, including Brester’s daughter, Anna Gartner, who will be the practice manager.

“They know the residents of Brown County and we need them,” Mills said, describing the staff as a “well-oiled machine.”

Brester won’t be a stranger around the practice. He plans to continue the mow grass there. “I’ve been doing it for 50 years; I’d like to continue,” he said.

Mills said Brester is encouraged to spend as much time around the clinic as he wants.

Brester doesn’t have any big plans for retirement other than working in his garden, on his farm and possibly helping out a farm animal every once in a while. He had just captured three calves that morning, which was supposed to be his first day of retirement.

“I’ll be around,” he said. “I’m not going on any vacations. I hate vacations.”

He wants people to know how much he appreciates all of his clients, his family and his staff from over the years.

“If it hadn’t been for them, I wouldn’t be able to do it. I enjoyed having worked many days in life, because I enjoyed doing what I have been doing. Some people can’t say that, but that’s thanks to the clients and my staff and my family,” he said.

Does he agree that he’s an “animal angel,” though?

“No. I’m just a man,” he said. “I just got lucky to do something for 50 years that I enjoyed.”

Bean Blossom Veterinary Clinic hours

The Bean Blossom Veterinary Clinic will have a rotating roster of five veterinarians specializing in different areas including orthopedics, dentistry, exotic animals and complicated medical cases.

The clinic is now open Mondays through Fridays from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturdays from 8 a.m. to noon.

Emergencies will referred to the Franklin Animal Clinic, the primary veterinary hospital, when possible.

Plans are in the works to offer appointments in the future for a $29 fee to reserve spots. The clinic now charges a $19 visit fee.

The Bean Blossom Veterinary Clinic is at 4915 State Rd 135 North.

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Suzannah Couch grew up in Brown County, reading the Brown County Democrat. A 2013 Franklin College graduate, she covers business, cops/courts, education and arts/entertainment.