Dr. Don Powell and Dr. Mark Johnson purchased the original Pender Methodist Church, originally built in 1902, and transformed it in to the original Pender Veterinary Centre. After months of building and renovating the building themselves, they opened to the public on Memorial Day 1971. Starting with just the two of them a few years fresh out of Veterinary School, Dr. Powell from Cornell University and Dr. Johnson from Ohio State, they saw patients and grew their clientele organically. Their philosophy, which was very different from other veterinary clinics at that time, was that they would be available to their clients and pets whenever care was needed, regardless of the time of day. They also both recognized that there is much more to just treating the pet. They believed that the person “on the end of the leash” needed just as much care, albeit a different kind, as their pet.
After recognizing that it wasn’t fair to boarding pets to be kept in the same building and spaces as sick animals, they decided to open Dulles Gateway Kennels at the current property of Pender Pet Retreat in Chantilly, VA in 1979. With veterinary oversight, Dulles Gateway Kennels was developed with the pet’s wellness in mind and was a unique offering at the time, for pets to have activity and love while their owners where away.
In 1987, they opened up the state-of-the-art veterinary hospital that everyone has come to know next to Fair Oaks Mall. They began in the new facility with 9 associate veterinarians and after adding nearly one clinician each year, grew it in to a 30+ veterinarian, 24-hour emergency hospital treating over 30,000 pets each year.
In 2007, Dulles Gateway Kennels was expanded to include our 26,000 square-foot, state-of-the-art animal housing facility, and rebranded in to Pender Pet Retreat at Dulles Gateway. With the addition of this building, the Pet Retreat now included a quiet area dedicated specifically to kitties, a full pet spa, full-service executive suites with 24-hour webcams and TV’s, 200 additional housing spaces for pups, apartments for on-site caretakers, and the most convenient perk, an on-site veterinary clinic with wellness, emergency, diagnostic, and surgical facilities. In 2017, we expanded our outdoor spaces to include a 2,800 square foot four-season pavilion for doggie daycare group play, as well as transformed all of our individual playschool yards with dog-friendly turf. These facilities combined with our 6-acre hiking trail where all of our boarding pups are walked, in addition to our onsite Public Dog Park has truly allowed Dulles Gateway to become what we feel is the next best option to having your pets at home.
“When we started Pender, we were just two years out of veterinary school, and we thought we could do it better. We thought that we could explain disease and what was going on with the animal much better than it was being explained in other practices. But we also planned on doing emergencies 24 hours a day. At that time there were no emergency hospitals in the area. You could try to find a veterinarian at night … and good luck! We decided that we would not refuse anyone, so our days ended up being very long. We were typically here 12–14 hours and it wasn’t unusual to come out twice a night to see emergencies. Now, we give assistance to animals 24 hours a day and there’s always a doctor in the hospital 365 days a year.”
—Dr. Don Powell
“My partner Don Powell and I met at a Northern Virginia Medical Association meeting. We hit it off very well; on his day off Don would ride with me and we would dream about things we wanted to do in the future. We knew we both wanted to be entrepreneurs … and we decided to form a partnership. So we searched for about a year and a half until we found a run down Methodist church that was built in 1902. We would do the painting and much of the carpentry. We would work until two o’clock in the morning in coveralls, take a phone call, take off the coveralls and put on a white coat to see an emergency. The first dog that Don saw in that hospital—the examining table was two sawhorses and a sheet of plywood.”
—Dr. Mark Johnson