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Husband-wife vets help pet owners learn about, care for their exotic pets

"Flop" was the first rabbit to be spayed at Fox Valley Animal Welfare League's new low-cost spay/neuter clinic in North Aurora.  Veterinarians Dr. Susan Brown and Dr. Richard Nye specialize in exotic animals (photo: FVAWL).

"Flop" was the first rabbit to be spayed at Fox Valley Animal Welfare League's new low-cost spay/neuter clinic in North Aurora. Veterinarians Dr. Susan Brown and Dr. Richard Nye specialize in exotic animals (photo: FVAWL).

Dr. Richard Nye has seen it many times. He knows the effect it can have on an individual’s life.

An animal—be it a dog, a rabbit, a gerbil, even a bird—becomes a “best friend.”

“I can think of so many different stories where an animal has made a significant impact on an individual’s life,” said Dr. Nye, an exotic animal veterinarian now helping at Fox Valley Animal Welfare League’s (FVAWL) new low-cost spay/neuter clinic in North Aurora.

Earlier in his career, Dr. Nye said he made house calls to a Chicago senior citizens’ building to help elderly residents unable to visit the office or afford his services.

One resident and her little parakeet remain vivid in his memory.

“I would come every six or eight weeks to trim nails and beaks [for a woman in her late 70s],” Dr. Nye said. “It became more of a visit to her.”

After calling on her for years, Dr. Nye said he learned that she had become ill with cancer.

“She asked me if I would be the executor of her will because she didn’t have any family,” he said. “I said, ‘What does that entail?’

‘You need to find a home for my little bird,’” she said.

Sometime later, Dr. Nye said he received a call from one of the woman’s neighbors, saying that she had taken a turn for the worse and was now in the hospital.

Before going to the hospital, Dr. Nye said he stopped by her apartment to pick up her little bird.

“I put it in a little paper sack,” he said. “You’re not supposed to bring animals into a hospital. [And] the nurses all knew what I had in the bag, but they didn’t say anything.”

Once in the hospital room, Dr. Nye said he opened the bag to show the dying woman her pet.

“The little bird flew over and landed on her glasses,” he said, “and began to groom her eyebrows.

“And the tears for me started flowing. This just made her day.”

She passed away a few days later.

“It was just seeing that human-animal bond as strong as it was,” he said. “This was really her best friend in the world at that time.”


Dr. Nye, a former major league baseball pitcher and 1976 graduate of the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine, has practiced exotic animal medicine for years with his wife Dr. Susan Brown.

The couple owned Midwest Bird and Exotic Animal Hospital, in Westchester, Illinois, from 1985-2004, said Dr. Brown, a respected expert in the field of exotics, a term referring to all animals except dogs and cats.

“It was the first all-exotic animal hospital in the country,” she said. “We sold it in 2004, so we no longer have our own physical practice.”

Husband Richard says it was originally “Susan’s idea in the first place to get an all-exotic practice going.

“It was our philosophy when we started the practice to provide the very best service to the greatest number of pet owners,” he said. “So the prices had to stay in line with that.

“We started out just working part-time, and when we sold the practice, we had five full-time veterinarians, and we saw over 1,000 pet visits a month—all exotic.”

Today, although they might consider themselves “semi-retired,” Drs. Brown and Nye maintain busy schedules.

Dr. Brown has her own consulting business, helping animal shelters manage and care for exotics. She also performs rabbit spay surgeries for DuPage Animal Control and the Animal Care League in Oak Park.

In addition, Dr. Brown says she has her own behavior business where she does behavior consulting for exotics only.

“I teach people how to manage their animals and understand behavior so that they don’t have to give up the animals,” she said.

Likewise, her husband remains involved weekly with the Ness Exotic Wellness Center in Lisle.

“One of our former employees, Bob Ness, recently built his own new practice,” Dr. Nye said. “[Bob] worked for us for about 12 years, and he asked me if I’d work for him part-time.”

Dr. Nye says he “does surgery or medicine or whatever comes in the door.”


The exotic-doctor duo has now begun another phase in their career life: Dr. Brown currently spays rabbits at least once a month at the FVAWL clinic; Dr. Nye will join his wife “and hopefully some other exotic vets too” with once-a-month, or more, wellness clinics, Dr. Brown said.

“I think that it’s going to be really huge because a lot of people don’t know a lot of veterinarians who would look at their [exotic] animals and tell them about their animals,” she said.

During wellness exams, Drs. Brown and Nye will help pet owners understand and care for their pets’ health and behavior.

“[We will] give information about ways to have [the exotic animals] as companion animals, not just sitting in a cage doing nothing,” Dr. Brown said.

“That’s how I see the [exotic] wellness clinic here—a real educational [experience] to prevent animals from ultimately ending up in a shelter, the whole focus of this place; I think it’s so awesome.”


Fox Valley Animal Welfare League
Low-Cost Spay/Neuter Clinic
Exotic Animal Care

• Exotic animal: any animal except a dog or cat

• Clinic location: 11 John Street, North Aurora 60542

• Clinic phone: 630-800-2254

• Clinic services for exotics: rabbit spays, wellness clinics for all exotics

• Exotic veterinarians: Dr. Susan Brown, Dr. Richard Nye

• Clinic director: Rich Glessner (

• Website:

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