Heads it's a small animal clinic. Tails it's a vet that specializes in large animals, specifically hogs. If there was a third side, it would be an old-fashioned large animal vet who works on everything, including dogs and cats.
Seems to me after looking around lately the one without a side on the coin is rapidly disappearing from the scene in Indiana. There may still be a few left, like old doc Brester in Bean Blossom, but they are few and far between. He might look at a sick cow in the morning, then give shots to a 4-H rabbit in his office in the afternoon. His equipment isn't high-tech, but his advice is still solid, and his prices are old-fashioned as well.
Recently I visited with a vet, one of the earlier graduates from the Purdue School of Veterinary Medicine, Bob Oliver, who's been practicing vet medicine for nearly four decades. The Vet School celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. The first class graduated in 1963- all males. Oliver graduated within the first 10 years.
When he first joined an old-fashioned vet practice, owned by Robert Morris, near Bargersville, he and Steve Naile, another young vet graduating at about the same time, worked mostly on the large animal side of the coin. Today, though, Oliver, who was an owner in the Franklin Animal Clinic for many years, has flipped almost exclusively to the small animal side. He recently sold his practice, but still works there three days a week. The clinic features six vets, 20 vet techs and equipment more sophisticated than what you might find at some country hospitals. If a pet needs an x-ray or an ultra-sound, it can happen at the clinic.
Why did he shift sides of the coin? Agriculture changed, and he grew older. Wrestling large animals took its toll. And in the area where he grew his practice, homes sprouted up like mushrooms. With them came dogs, cats and dog and cat owners willing to spend sizable sums of money to keep their pets healthy. Hogs and cattle moved to other locations further away.
The day I visited Bob recently, he donned a surgical mask and went to work on a pet, put asleep on a table, draped up for surgery, much like you would see in a human hospital. He had assistants, and everyone there knew exactly what to do.
After that, maybe a week later, a much younger vet, class of '97, Doug Powell, Rushville, visited a farm to perform surgeries on a few 4-H club pigs with problems. Two had only dropped one testicle. A couple more had testicular ruptures. Turns out Powell started out on the large animal side of the coin in his own practice, and has stayed there. His wife, who graduated a year later, joins him in the practice. But he works almost exclusively in hogs, and she takes care of everything else.
He's one of the younger generation of consultants, helping clients maintain herd health, practice preventive medicine, and stay away from as many crisis situations as possible. He makes regularly scheduled visits to those farms.
He put his patients to sleep and went about his business, keeping things as sterile as possible, despite working inside a farrowing barn. A floodlight gave him all the light he needed, and a board across a stall made an excellent operating table. His skilled hands went to work, performing the operations successfully, one after the other.
No doubt veterinary medicine has changed in 50 years in Indiana. But there are still dedicated vets out there who know their role. Some work on small animals, some on large, some on both. The bottom line is we're lucky to still have a school that can generate a home-grown supply of trained veterinary doctors and technicians to help take care of livestock and pets in our techno-world.
Registered users can respond to this blog.