Frannie Says: An Interview with My Dad About Mission Animal Hospital


Learn more about our current Change Unleashed! partner — and how you can help less fortunate families with pets in need of care.
This blog is based on a conversation with Ralph Bernstein – my dad and owner of Downtown Dogs and Dog’s Day Out – about our involvement with Mission Animal Hospital. Since I’m a dog, some of you may be wondering how I could conduct an interview for a blog post. The answer is twofold. Firstly, like many dogs, I’m an excellent (albeit selective ) listener. Secondly, because dogs have paws (and therefore no opposable thumbs), my mom is the typist for all the blogs my K9 siblings and I “author.” Happy reading…


Mission’s Impressive Social Return

The social return—the measured values not traditionally reflected in financial statements, including social, economic, and environmental factors—that comes from Mission’s work makes quite an impact! A 2021 social impact study showed that, for every $1 invested in Mission, there is a $4.64 social return in the communities in which they provide care. That return comes in the form of:

  • Decreasing medical and mental health care costs for pet owners because they are able to keep their pet;
  • Avoiding compassion fatigue by area veterinarians who can refer cases with limited finances; and
  • Avoiding the cost of sheltering a surrendered pet.

Frannie says, “As a former banker and a self proclaimed ‘numbers nerd’, this kind of measurable return really has meaning for my dad! I’m sure you agree that our community is lucky to have Mission Animal Hospital!”

Frannie: How and when did you become familiar with Mission Animal Hospital?

Ralph: I first became aware of Mission a couple of years after I bought Downtown Dogs, so around 2016 or 2017. I had seen a report from Global Pets saying that more than 30% of pet owners report that they have had to refuse care because they couldn’t afford it. That was heart-wrenching, so I began looking into ways that Downtown Dogs could help people with lower incomes keep and care for their dogs. That’s when I started finding articles about Mission and the incredible care they provide. I reached out to them, and they invited me to have a tour and meet some of the staff, including Dr. Sue (Miller, founder and Executive Director). To borrow a phrase from Jerry Maguire, “they had me at ‘hello’.”

Frannie: What speaks to you the most about Mission Animal Hospital’s mission?

Ralph: You know, your mom and I are blessed that we can afford any veterinary care that you or your brother Lyle or sister Helen may need. But that is not the case for many people in our community and across the country. For many families, Mission is their only hope of finding care for their pet. Each year, Mission provides over $2 million of high-quality, subsidized veterinary care. That means that 7,500 pets, from 5,000 families, get the care they need, regardless of their owner’s financial circumstances. It also means that thanks to Mission, there are 750 pets each year who stay with their families, instead of being surrendered because of financial hardship. I think the hospital’s own words say it best: “Mission provides unconditional care for the ones who love unconditionally.”

Frannie: How have Downtown Dogs and Dog’s Day Out partnered with Mission Animal Hospital over the years?

Ralph: I’m happy to say that we’ve been able to expand our partnership with Mission over the last few years.

Since 2019, we’ve been a sponsor of their annual gala, “Raise the Woof.”  Slated for Wed., Oct. 11, this year’s gala will be especially exciting because guests will get to hear about Mission’s plans for a second location in Denver, Colorado!

In 2021, we launched our Change Unleashed! initiative to raise awareness and monies for local animal welfare organizations. Each quarter, we choose a community nonprofit to partner with—and we knew we wanted to kick off Change Unleashed! with Mission!

In 2022, we were an inaugural sponsor of Mission’s summer event, “Mission Paw-Looza.” This fun event, held at Mission’s Eden Prairie location, features a fund-raising run/walk, live music, food trucks, a pet talent contest and fashion show, and a chance to meet some local pet-related companies and nonprofit organizations. I’m happy to say that we continued our sponsorship and participation at this year’s event as well.

For the third quarter of 2023 we are once again partnering with Mission to be our Change Unleashed! recipient.

Frannie: How can people join you in helping Mission Animal Hospital?

Ralph: There are three easy ways at Downtown Dogs and Dog’s Day Out to support Mission between now and Sept. 30:

  • 🐾. Round up or add an extra $1,  $2, $5 or more at checkout
  • 🐾Bring in unopened, unexpired,  non-prescription dog or cat  food
  • 🐾Shop at our lobby Change Unleashed! Barktiques, where  3% of sales go directly to  Mission

Frannie: Tell me more about your new Change Unleashed! Barktique concept.

Ralph: Change Unleashed! Barktique opened in the lobbies of both Downtown Dogs and Dog’s Day Out in June featuring cool and colorful merchandise for dogs and dog lovers. All products come only from companies that give back to pets, people or the planet. We donate 3% of all Barktique sales to selected local animal nonprofits.

Frannie: I understand you are more involved than ever in Mission Animal Hospital these days.

Ralph: Yes, I am. I’m privileged to serve on Mission’s Board of Directors as its Vice-Chair, and on several committees that assist Mission’s leadership team with planning. I was incredibly honored to be elected as the incoming Board Chair, starting in 2024.

Frannie: What else would you like us to know about Mission Animal Hospital?

Ralph: Mission doesn’t just provide care for pets’ physical health. I’m so impressed at how their staff thoughtfully considers the emotional impact that veterinary care choices and outcomes can have on a family. They provide pet owners support and guidance when they are overwhelmed with medical decisions. Mission recently announced a free, online pet loss support group that is open to anyone who is grieving the loss of a beloved pet (regardless of when the loss occurred) or preparing for the loss of a pet in the near future.

Mission is also helping to develop the veterinary care providers of tomorrow. Their Veterinary Externship Program, for senior veterinary students from schools across the country, teaches the next generation of veterinarians how to practice accessible care in a community setting. And Mission’s Junior Vets Program provides an avenue for diverse high school students from marginalized communities to work in a veterinary setting and inspire them to pursue a career in veterinary medicine.

You probably don’t know this, Frannie, but when I was in high school, I really wanted to be a veterinarian. Unfortunately, it turned out that Chemistry (which is pretty important for veterinarians) was not my long suit, so my career went in other directions. If I had known then that there would be a place like Mission, I promise you that I would have “hit the books”, mastered Chemistry, and would be working as a veterinarian at Mission today.

The advice provided is based on many years of experience as dog parents and operators of one of the largest and longest established dog daycare and boarding facilities in the Twin Cities. Always consult your veterinarian. When not sharing advice, our dog bloggers — Frannie, Lyle, and Helen — share a space with their people, Downtown Dogs and Dog’s Day Out owner Ralph Bernstein and his wife, Abbe.