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Meet The Team
Dr. Susan Bonilla, MS, CVA, CCRP, CACP Veterinarian
During my last year of Vet School my oldest dog, Ruffles, started to suffer from arthritic pain. Unfortunately, due to her advanced liver disease she could not take traditional pain medications. Even when I tried other types of pain medications, it would agitate her liver. Stephen and I were devastated that we might be forced to put our beloved dog down because she was in chronic pain. How can I, studying to become a veterinarian, be out of options to help Ruffles? Was I really going to put her to sleep not because of her liver shutting down but because of arthritic pain? I was distraught that I ran out of options to help my own dog.
Thankfully, my clinical year of Vet School was at the University of Florida where I was introduced to a vast range of complimentary options that would be able to help Ruffles. It was at this point I decided that I wanted to be an Integrative Veterinarian. I would use all my training learned in Vet school but also offer complimentary treatments such as acupuncture to all my patients.
Upon graduating Vet School, I fed my passion for complementary care and continued my education in integrative options. Over the course of a year, I became certified in acupuncture from the Chi Institute and canine rehabilitation from the University of Tennessee. Most recently, I became certified in animal chiropractic from Options for Animals Chiropractic College.
I am so happy to be able to offer all my patients advanced medicine while also offering complimentary options. And Ruffles benefitted from all of it! She lived a beautiful and pain-free life for 20 years and 3 months!
I have had a love for animals for as long as I can remember. At a very young age I was introduced to the family dog Bandit, who was the most handsome Siberian Husky I have ever seen. I was known to show him my love with hugs and kisses, which at times I would go a bit overboard. When I was 3 years old, I gave one too many kisses on the nose and it resulted in me being bit on the face. Not once, did my love for Bandit go away. A few years after the accident my parents surprised my older sister and I with a Golden Retriever puppy named Brandy. I honestly didn’t know how much I could love a dog until Brandy came into my life. She wasn’t just my dog or my pet, she was part of the family. Whenever I needed her, she was right there by my side with those big brown eyes looking up at me. After she passed away, I didn’t know if we would get another dog and that’s when we found my Cheddar Bear. Cheddar stole my heart from the moment we rescued her. She’s 7 now and I couldn’t imagine my life without her. So when someone asks me “is that your dog?” I simply say no…that’s my best friend, my baby and my whole world.
Upon graduating from college, my parents allowed me to have my very own dog. I have always had family retrievers and after the passing of our black lab Maggie, I decided I wanted another golden retriever. The first time I saw Summer I found her sleeping in a little pile huddled up among her brothers and sisters. She was shiny and golden and looked like the cutest hot dog bun. Despite my first impression, I decided to hold a couple of her other siblings but once I lifted her up she picked her little head up and let out the most adorable tiny, puppy squeak. I was hooked. From that moment on, she has had me wrapped around her paw. She was my best friend and confidant when I moved away to a new city to start work and has been by my side for a lot of life changes, including my decision to leave my career in sports medicine and move into the veterinary field. She is now a great, big sister to her brother Griffin and has been a sassy, beautiful part of my life for 6 years.
After recently relocating here in 2014, I was working at a local veterinary clinic. This is where I met her, a shy, malnourished, starved, flea infested and very broken 12 week old puppy. A local rescue group brought her in on emergency. One of her front legs was broken and shattered, one of her leg bones exposed and she had a severe infection in her leg. She was the saddest sight I had ever seen in my 12 years as a vet assistant. As I held her for the doctor to examine, she looked up at me, wagging her tail and trying to lick my face. Holding back my tears, I thought to myself this is the saddest puppy I have ever seen. The pain she has had to endure in her short life is unbearable, yet she is wagging her tail with what little energy she has left and licking me. She is truly an angel! Her prognosis was poor and the chance that she would survive surgery was not good. I unfortunately was scheduled to leave the next day for a family vacation; she was all I could think about. I told her before I left that I would be back for her and she would be coming home with me. 10 days later she did just that and we named her Lacey. Her right front leg and shoulder were amputated. Later, we would have surgery done on her left front leg to allow it to grow as this was affected by her previous injury. Lacey now runs like the wind, smiles as bright as the sun, and can dig a hole faster than any of her four legged big sisters with what we affectionately refer to as her “shovel”. Along with her 2 big Labrador sisters, Lacey loves her cat family and her daddy too, especially Tito, our sphynx cat which is her BFF.
After a year of marriage, my husband and I decided that we wanted to add a dog to our two-person family. I had grown up with many different dogs and other animals, but this was going to be my husband’s first pet. Having had a couple of boxers growing up, I knew this would be the perfect first dog for us. We decided to go through a breed rescue and were soon told about a boxer girl that had been returned to the rescue and was staying at a boarding facility. She was originally rescued from a puppy mill situation and was awaiting her forever family. My husband and I made the 3-hour drive to pick her up from the boarding facility. As soon as the staff brought Peaches out, her little nub began wagging and she greeted both of us with kisses. We knew she was finally coming home. It amazed me that a dog with such a horrific past could be so loving and eager to please. Shortly after we adopted Peaches, we decided to foster another boxer, Oliver. They became fast friends and he helped to ease Peaches’ separation anxiety. We knew he was now the other missing piece to our little family and he became our foster fail. Even though he had been abandoned at the shelter, we could not let him go. I’m thankful every day for the two wiggle butts that greet me at the door and continue to teach me about compassion and forgiveness.
I have always had a connection and love for animals. Growing up we had family dogs. They were my best friends and I loved them dearly but I always saw them as “the family dogs.” It wasn’t until I was 19 when I got MY first dog. Nevada was a Standard Poodle and a very quirky one at that. When we was two he developed bloat and had to be rushed in the middle of the night for an emergency surgery. It wasn’t until that night that I truly understood the responsibility of being a pet parent and loving a dog as if it was truly my own child. I am now proud to say that I am not just a dog owner, I am a pet parent who would do anything for my fur babies.
Growing up on a farm helped me realize my great love for working with animals. Over the years I have had the blessing of sharing a home with everything from hamsters to horses, and just about everything in between! At a very early age I knew I wanted to continue having these wonderful creatures in the center of my life’s work. I’ve always had a habit for trying to “rescue” animals I thought would have a disadvantage in trying to find a home. Whether it was as a child, determined to take home the most colorless, plainest Betta fish no one would possibly want in order to save it from it’s tiny bowl on a store shelf, to a teenager in highschool trying to scrape together my part time job money to buy promising horses left behind at busy auctions. I am always so pleased when I meet clients and other individuals that choose to help an animal in need of a happy, loving home through adoption or rescue!
At the hospital I previously worked at, one of the doctors brought in a very sick puppy she rescued. This puppy had a lot of health problems and complications including the inability to use its hind legs. The doctor was leaving soon for a week trip and needed a temporary caregiver. I jumped on the opportunity to help. By the end of my week with him, I realized that I wanted to see this puppy through to recovery and when the doctor returned I became his permanent caregiver. Day by day his strength grew as did my love for him. When it was time to find him a furever home, I always seemed to find an excuse for why each one wasn’t good enough. How could I trust someone to continue to put as much love and devotion into caring for him as I did? The puppy was still very sick with a long road to recovery and a potential for future health issues. I couldn’t live with myself if I abandoned him because he wasn’t the picture perfect puppy. He was my puppy and I named him Turtle.
I have always been that person pets gravitate toward, especially the ones that “never go up to new people”. This quality is what brought our middle fur-baby, Scrappy, into our home and hearts. I found Scrappy abandoned on the street, malnourished, and completely matted and filthy. That first night with us, Scrappy slept in the washroom, I slept just near to the room so she would not feel alone. When Dr. Bonilla checked on us in the morning, Scrappy had made her way to me during the night and curled up comfortably next to my head. From that moment on, we have been inseparable.
Our Mission Is Integrative Pet Healthcare
Conventional veterinary medicine focuses on treating acute disease and multiple symptoms, with an emphasis on episodic care — restoring your pet to a previous level of functioning. This model of pet healthcare has been very successful over the years due to continued advances in medical research, pharmaceuticals, and treatment procedures.
However, this pet healthcare model is not without its drawbacks. Its emphasis on episodic care means treating pets only when they are sick, which creates a reactionary system of healthcare. Time and effort understanding the underlying causes of disease and its prevention are unfortunately pushed aside in favor of sick care. This model, like a sick pet, is out of balance.
Integrative pet healthcare restores this balance. It does not just focus on symptoms, but puts the pet at the center, addressing the real causes of illness while promoting wellness and maintenance of health. By definition, integrative pet healthcare strengthens the bond among veterinarian, pet, and pet parent, focuses on the whole pet, is evidence based, and
utilizes all appropriate therapeutic approaches (both conventional and complementary) as well as veterinary specialists to deliver optimal health and well being.
At Passionate Paws it is our mission to practice integrative medicine in partnership with you to provide the safest and most effective healthcare plan uniquely designed to treat your whole pet, not just the disease. You will never find a one-size-fits-all approach at Passionate Paws.
Passion: Be passionate in all you do.
Empowerment: Know you can solve the problem at hand.
Learning: Push the boundaries of your knowledge.
Education: Teach others.
Innovation: Do not settle for complacency.
Community: Reach out to those around us.
Respect: Our pets, pet parents, environment, and one another.
Fun: Remember to have it, this is the greatest job in the world.
Passionate Paws Animal Hospital was founded in 2016 by husband and wife team, Stephen Bonilla and Dr. Susan Bonilla, and located in Waxhaw, North Carolina. This hospital represents 8 years of planning, starting the day Dr. Bonilla began veterinary school.
Everything the Bonilla’s have done since 2008 has been in careful preparation of one day opening their own small animal hospital.
Their passion and drive is infectious and inspirational and their attention to detail is well received. It can be seen in every inch of their hospital from design to patient care to pet parent service.
The Bonilla’s eagerly await meeting each and everyone of your pets to provide them with the care they deserve.