by Steefenie Wicks Sausalito Historical Society
Sally Stanford was a madam, a restaurateur and the mayor of Sausalito. In her memory, the City of Sausalito commissioned a drinking fountain in 1985 to honor Sally and her dog Leland. The fountain was constructed by local potter Eric Norstad, its basin inscribed with the words “Have a drink on Sally.” The runoff pours into a lower basin that reads “Have a drink on Leland,” for the dogs visiting the site at the Sausalito ferry landing.
This fountain pays tribute to the fact that dogs in Sausalito have real personalities. And so do the veterinarians who care for them. The Sausalito waterfront has one of those veterinarians with a very distinct personality; his name is Dr. Steven Egri.
Dr. Egri was born in Hungary; he was raised in Buffalo, New York and went to veterinarian school in Italy. The university medical program in Italy was five years long with a series of oral exams that tested his knowledge of Italian, which he speaks, reads and writes.
Dr. Egri has been practicing his skills as a veterinarian on the Sausalito waterfront since 1990. He says that when he returned from Italy he ended up in Virginia, where he took his national boards, and then worked as a veterinarian for cats, dogs, cows, horses and chickens. He returned to California to take the State Boards, and while staying with a friend in Mill Valley, he discovered that there was room for another veterinarian in Sausalito. Dr. Egri decided to stay in here, thus beginning his career as a waterfront veterinarian.
Listed in town as a Marine Veterinary Specialist, he finds that over the years he has worked on most of our 4-legged friends, but not many seals have made it to his door.
“I have worked on a few wounded seagulls that people will find and bring here,” he states,” but that’s nothing compared to the many times someone will come get me and say there’s a dead dog in the parking lot. I walk back with them so that they can show me the dog. I walk over to the animal, lean down get close and say, ‘get up.’ Most of the time, the dog just sits up looks at me like ‘why did you wake me,’ then takes off looking for another quiet spot. But it’s good that people come to get me because you just never know.”
Dr. Egri’s patients are not only from the Sausalito waterfront but also from San Francisco and the East Bay -- two locations where he worked before he opened his practice here. When asked what is the difference in a city practice vs. a waterfront practice he will tell you it’s the house calls, because house calls on the water mean that you travel by boat. Most of his waterfront house calls have to do with sick or dying pets that can’t be moved so he goes out to see them.
“When you have a cat or a dog that can’t be moved, you have to go to them and tend to them along with the owner,” he said. “Compassion is a big part of what I do. So if a pet needs to be euthanized, I’ll go out, administer the treatment, and then sit with the owner until I feel the time is right for me to leave. It’s like you want someone to be with you when you have to say ‘goodbye.’”
When asked if he has seen any changes on the waterfront with people and their pets he smiles. “When I first came here the dogs roamed free. They were not on leashes; they seemed to know each other’s territory. Now that’s changed, I think for the good, because it could make for thrilling times if you got caught near a dog fight, with no owner to yell stop!”
Dr. Egri tries to make his services available 24 hours a day. You can phone his office or send him a text, which he will answer. “The calls vary from ‘my dog or cat has swallowed something strange’ to ‘my dog is stumbling around disorientated.’ To this I reply ‘please check and see if a pot stash has been left on the floor: if it has, pick it up and keep an eye on the dog if he continues his disorientation I’ll drop by.’ When I don’t get another call, I know they have taken the pot away so the dog can’t eat any more of it.”
He continues with, “The thing about being local is that you get to see generations of not only animals but also the people who have owned them. Since I have worked here, I have seen some remarkable animals owned by remarkable people. Take the dog named Little Bit who was this huge Doberman; or Wig Wag, who fathered many dogs on the waterfront that looked like him, short with stumpy bodies and legs, that are still around today. Then there was Tess, a beautiful Samoyed/golden retriever mix that had 10 puppies; I took care of them after their delivery.”
In Dr. Egri’s office, the first thing you notice is the lack of advertisement. He will be the first to tell you that he does not sell food or drugs nor does he advertize them in his office. He feels that what he does is offer a service and try to answer questions, if he can’t answer people’s questions, then he wants to be able to point them in the right direction to find that answer.