Streeter Mosaic

Travels With Kathi #15 – Reflection

 

Reflection

Certain events in our lives give rise to reflection.  As I get older nearly everything gives rise to reflection.  But I think all of us have experienced how the birthday of a child seems to stimulate at least a small trip down memory lane.  Children’s birthdays have always been my historical marker, how I recall when we took a special vacation or got a new car.  “Matt was in the first grade when I got the red vet truck” or  “Julie was in the third grade when we went to Disneyland.”  Well last month I received a major life reminder.  My son Matthew turned forty!

 

As I drove to Matt’s home outside Canon City,  my mind was reflecting away.  Matt was born in 1976, a bi-centennial baby, in Stillwater, Oklahoma.  I was attending veterinary school at Oklahoma State University.  It was a busy time.  My obligations kept me away during many of the difficult times associated with a newborn.  After graduating from veterinary school, we moved to Colorado and I have practiced veterinary medicine since.

 

My daughter Julie and son Matt grew up as veterinarian’s kids.  The nice weather months of the year, because of the nature of the business, found me working long hours and many weekends.  The winter months were routinely slow for veterinary work, and therefore more time for family activities, but also less discretionary funds for those activities.  These phenomena of less time more money, more time less money are a common problem of many small business owners, especially those who have businesses with a significant variation in seasonal activity.  I have always wished I had given my kids more time, and I remember at the end of the summer there would always be a pledge from me to spend more time the next summer.  My kids were asked to live in a world of wait ‘til next year.

 

Don’t Blink

As I neared Canon City the radio in my car blared in the customary fashion.  You see I like to feel the music as well as hear it.  Kenny Chesney’s song “Don’t Blink” suddenly roared from the radio as if someone was sending this personal message to a father on a mission to wish his son a happy 40th birthday.  The song starts by describing an interview of a man on his 102nd birthday where the centenarian is asked his secret for longevity.  He says,  “don’t blink.”  As I look back on my life and think about my son’s life, I realize I blinked.  My children have children.  My children now face those same problems of managing their families’ lives.  I am sure I am a role model but maybe not such a positive role model.  Some might say I was dedicated to my job; others would say I was a work-a-holic.  Both are probably true.  Nonetheless, I had blinked.  A very special time had passed in both my children’s lives as well as my own, and we can never go back!

 

Today, both my daughter Julie and my son Matthew are outstanding adults, each living productive lives.  Both are wonderful parents, and I am extremely proud of them and their families.  Their success may be a tribute to the rule children grow up inspite of parents as often as because of parents.  The good news is these two young adults don’t seem to have any residual negative effects from my absence.  But I still have regrets.

 

 Turning a less –than- perfect into a positive is still possible.  As a member of the “olders” we have an opportunity to improve the life of the “youngers” by sharing our life experiences.  Maybe “youngers” can be spared some later life regrets by learning from our regrets.

   

One absolute truth is there are few perfect situations in life.  Some days are great, some are terrible, but most days are somewhere in between.  And while we are living them, we can’t always be sure which are the good ones and which are not.  But upon reflection, we can see how on some not-so-great days we had experiences that become some of the essential pieces that create the complicated, beautiful mosaics that are our lives.  Ultimately, every day has the potential to be a good day, and if we blink, we may miss a really great one.

compassion fatigue

Travels With Kathi #14 – Compassion Fatigue

 

Compassion Fatigue

Our stated goal for “Travels with Kathi” has always been to bring our clients a realistic view of the life of one veterinarian as he and his wife- technician, go about their daily tasks.  One comment we frequently hear from clients relates to our treatment of horses where the outcome is ultimately not happy.  Clients communicate their doubts they would be able to handle those situations.  All such cases are difficult, but some are especially memorable.

Easy Jet

The first such case I remember actually occurred during my first year of practice during my internship at Colorado State University Veterinary Teaching Hospital.  We had a racehorse that had fractured several small bones in his knee.  This young stallion was a son on the famous racehorse Easy Jet, and the staff at CSU performed a surgery to attempt to fuse the knee so this horse could breed mares.  The injury had left the knee unstable so our patient had to be continually confined in a stall and the leg had to be supported with several external support devices.  The largest problem normally encountered with such cases is controlling the behavior of a young, fit stallion.  This young horse was just the opposite.  Over the several months I was involved in the care of this young horse, I never saw him not taking care of himself.  He would lie quietly in his stall while we adjusted the wraps on his knee.  This horse quickly won the hearts of all the female students, and though the guys were a little hesitant to admit it in 1979, we all loved this very special horse.  After several months we took radiographs of the knee that clearly showed the bone was breaking down.  The salvage process was a failure.  He had to be put to sleep.  It was a dark day in the clinic.  We all felt a very great loss.

 

Old Friend

I remember another special case, a grey middle-aged Arabian gelding that belonged to a couple who were good friends of ours.  We had gone on pack trips and trail rides with this great little gelding.  So when he became very sick with a liver disease,  we quickly started intense treatment at the home of our friends. For several days we ran large volumes of intravenous fluids into this sick gelding while the four of us had a picnic under a shade tree.   Within a few days our patient was much improved and I foolishly predicted a complete recovery.  The next day we arrived for our evening treatments to find our old friend severely foundered.  Foundering after enduring a severe illness like he had usually was a harbinger of a bad outcome.  Over the next week he became more painful.  We had the conversation regarding what was the best thing for our little friend.  We decided to give him one more day.  The owner left him near a pond because the ground was soft there.  The next day Kathi and I arrived to make the hard decision.  Our patient was nowhere to be seen.  He had walked out into the deep pond and drown.  We were crushed.  We couldn’t imagine a worse outcome.

 

Worries

All of our patients are special to us.  But there will always be those cases that are particularly difficult.  We try to balance difficult outcomes with good ones.  Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.  Kathi and I are lucky such cases are somewhat rare in our practice even though as long as we practice there will always be those special cases.  We also have developed life skills that help us deal with such cases and the emotion associated with them.   There is a term that defines a condition created by constant exposure to such high-stress situations, compassion fatigue.  This condition applies to both human and animal caregivers.  Symptoms associated with this condition are detrimental to caregivers living a happy life.  Examples of job descriptions where a larger number of nurses are susceptible to compassion fatigue include providing hospice care.   People working in humane society facilities are also susceptible to compassion fatigue.  I worry about our staff at LEQMC who work with the intensive care patients because many of these equine patients have protracted illnesses.  I also worry about our younger staff members who deal with many more stressful situations associated with forming new lives while also dealing with difficult veterinary cases.  We all have to be aware of the existence of compassion fatigue and address prevention strategies.

 

Veterinarians do deal with personal stress as we offer our patients the best veterinary care we can.  It is a difficult part of practice.  As with most things in life the best help I can give others struggling with hardships is often a small bit of understanding along with a generous dose of kind words.

Chevy trucks

Travels With Kathi #13 – Pick Up Man

 

Pick Up Man

After nearly ten years of employment at Littleton Equine Medical Center, Kathi and I are about to make a huge change.  Our lives won’t be the same.  Change is not easy for Kathi and I but it is often necessary.  In life old friends sometime must be left behind as we move forward.  Such is life!

 

What’s our big change?  Our mobile veterinary unit will have the pickup replaced by a new Chevy pickup.  People with a life are saying what’s the big deal?  And many women might say “oh that must be a guy thing” and maybe it is.  But an honest person can’t deny how big a part of the American lifestyle the pickup truck has become, especially in the west.  Since the first factory assembled Ford pickup came off the assembly line in 1924, the American people have been mesmerized by this vehicle.  In the month of December, 2014, over 720,000 pickups were purchased in the US in only one month!   And if that doesn’t convince you of the social significance of the pickup, hundreds of songs have been composed with the pickup being a significant part of the song.  What’s more American!   (One of my favorites is “Pickup Man” performed by Joe Diffie in the 1990’s.)

 

Personally pickup trucks have been an important part of my life.  My mother and dad brought me home from the hospital on my birthday in a pickup.   I think I was wrapped in swaddling clothes.  I learned to drive a pickup at the age of ten.  I went on my first date in a pickup.  There have probably been other firsts that are best left untold.  More importantly is the association between pickups and veterinary medicine.  In 1960 a small company in Iowa produced the first fiberglass mobile veterinary hospital unit.  These units you have all become so used to seeing have allowed us to practice an acceptable level of veterinary medicine at my clients’ homes.  And yes, I went on my first veterinary call with Kathi in a pickup.

 

Pickup trucks have always been at the center of my universe, and especially my veterinary universe.  Our veterinary truck transports Kathi and me from the structure of the clinic, a typical doctor’s office, to the place where the life of our equine clients happens.  We feel this is so special to be able to practice veterinary medicine in this manner.

 

So what does a new pickup mean to me?  It means Kathi and I get to continue to do what we love to do in the manner we love to do it.  We are starting a new chapter in this new pickup.  Our journey is not completed quite yet.

Travels With Kathi #12

Travels With Kathi #12 – Life Lessons

 

Life Lessons

Our schedule included an appointment to check a twenty-one year old Arab gelding for weight loss.  As soon as the name of the owner came up, a smile came to my face.  In this business there are special clients with whom we have a special history and therefore special fondness.  This client was one of those.  We had been involved with her thru good times and hard times.  She and I had shared that unenviable bond of caring for a beloved spouse as they struggled through the torture of cancer treatment.  During those times she would lift me up with her positive attitude, her all things are possible attitude.  So as we treated her animals for what might be a serious problem she would be treating me by her example.  It seemed like a perfect synergism to me.

 

As I got the news she wouldn’t be present and learned the reason for her absence my heart dropped.  She was now in her eighties and was not able to care for her place or for her animals.  She had moved to an assisted living facility out of town close to her son.  I immediately wondered why she had not called me, we could have helped with anything .  Didn’t she know she had been there when I needed help?  No, she probably didn’t.  Then I recalled how we used to verbally spar.  She would kiddingly tell me how she was on a fixed income and couldn’t afford a large vet bill.  Then I would tell her I hadn’t planned to charge her at  all, and she would get all worried I really wasn’t going to charge her.  She wouldn’t have asked for help because she was too proud.

 

As we pulled up to her house, we were met by a neighbor who must have convinced our old friend it was all right for her to help in exchange for keeping several animals  there.  The old gelding had lost a great deal of weight even though I could find no obvious cause.  Hopefully he would respond with just the addition of a special diet.

 

As we drove out the narrow trail back onto the asphalt roads that announced our return to the rush of our modern society, I felt a hole in my life.  This lady was my life guide through the adversity of medical challenges and the adversity of aging.  She had been such a dedicated volunteer, a great asset to our community through her seventies.  At my age I needed an example to show me life would not end at eighty. A light came on in my mind.  This great woman had given me an invaluable life-lesson.  She had shown me how to raise people up in hard times.  She taught me this lesson while I thought I was helping her.  She taught by example.  Now it is my turn to carry on for her.  I hope the Lord has given me the heart and intellect to carry on for her.  I couldn’t bear the thought of letting her down.

Sinkhole Rescue #11

Travels With Kathi #11 – Sinkhole Rescue

 

Sinkhole Rescue

It was the 11th of November. Sunrise illuminated six inches of new wet snow. We
had finished the day before by treating a senior Arab mare that had suffered with
unrelenting colic. I got an early call regarding the mare that required me to make a
slippery drive to her barn to attend the mare’s passing. The day had to get better for
Kathi and me. It wasn’t long before that premise was proven to be quite incorrect.
On days such as this one most of our appointments usually cancelled and
rescheduled on a nicer day. This was the case for most of our calls until we got The
Call. One of our long-term patients was a twenty-five year old part draft gelding.
His owner was out of town, leaving the house sitters to call for help. This gelding
had managed to work both his hind legs into a sink-hole created by a water leak in
his stall. He was down and unable to get up because both hind legs were buried in a
thick, wet clay up to his tail and belly. As we headed out the door I feared we were
about to undertake an exercise in futility as we attempted to extract a 1600-pound
horse out of a four-foot deep hole through a four-foot wide stall door. It was
obvious we would need some form of tractor or machine to have any chance for
success.

 

Fire and Rescue

It had been recommended the caregivers summon the fire department for
assistance. So as we pulled up the presence of two fire trucks in front of the barn
was a welcomed site. The firemen had pulled one truck equipped with a winch up to
the barn door. We squeezed our way between the fire truck and the barn door and
moved to the second stall where our patient was located. The information we had
received from the clinic regarding this call did not prepare us for the sight in front of
us. Our old friend was stretched out across the stall so that his head struck the stall
wall while his hind legs were stretched out behind him as they disappeared through
the stall mats into a thick bed of clay beneath the stall mats. Our tendency was to
stand there and try to figure out how this happened, but there was no time for that.
Our patient had been in this predicament for hours and continued to throw his head
against the solid stall wall as he futilely tried to stand up.
The firemen were true professionals. We brought our knowledge of the horse as
they brought their knowledge of rescue to a rapid formulation of a plan. We decided
to reposition the fire truck so as to use the winch to pull the horse through the stall
door into the run outside the barn. We moved buckets and metal panels and
removed snow preparing for our attempt at removal as we waited for Dr. Elliot and
Dr. French and his assistant to arrive with a rescue sling we had at the clinic. Our
patient was sedated to keep him as quite as possible while we attempted to pull him
out. Dr. French had been present at a horse extraction in which a strap was run
across the withers before running the two ends through the front legs. We quickly
hooked the winch line to the two straps that had been thusly placed on our victim
and applied a pull as we monitored the effect we were having on all his body parts.
This exhausted gelding slipped out of his mud bath and into the outside run so
incredulously easy that we all looked at each other in disbelief.

There was little time for celebration. As our firemen crew loaded up their
equipment, received our heart-felt appreciation, and returned to their on-call post,
we sat out to administer all meds and fluids needed to give our patient the best
chance to overcome the trauma associated with his mud bath. We spread hay over
the area and attempted to prop him up to improve his respiratory function. The
plan was to build him up with our treatment to maximize his strength he needed for
him to stand. If he were unable to stand, all our effort would have been for naught.
Experience offers the advantage of furnishing memories of positive outcomes on
similar cases. Conversely, experience brings memories of futile attempts. As we
attempted to persuade our old friend to rise, his inability to stand was
disheartening. My experience was not good for animals of his breed, age, and
weight. I communicated to the owner our chance for success was much less than
50:50 as the time he had been down became longer. Our treatments continued but
the chance of those treatments making an extreme positive effect became less likely.
I asked the owner to weigh our possible options and try to make some decisions as
to where she wanted to go from here.

 

Friends and Neighbors

We received a call from the owner. She had contacted friends and neighbors to
mobilize a large group of helpers and a loader, a type of tractor, to attempt to lift her
old friend. This seemed to be such a simple, logical approach. But the moment of
truth comes when the animal is lifted so his feet hit the ground. Will he stand and
bear his own weight or just hang in the sling, that moment defines success or failure.
If he didn’t stand the game would be over and we would have lost.
We summoned Dr. Mullen and asked Dr. Elliot to return from the clinic to offer
expertise with veterinary care. After they arrived we installed the rescue sling and
attached the sling to the loader. The loader slowly lifted our friend. There was a
point where he was frightened by the loss of control of his movement. As soon as he
could get his feet on the ground, he stood in a stilted, wobbly stance. The gelding
looked even larger as he hung there under the loader as the loader was now
elevated some twelve feet above the ground. We all stood there collectively holding
our breaths.
As soon as the gelding became stable standing in the sling, Dr. Mullen and Dr. Elliot
completed an exam and determined there were no injuries that were not evident
while he was down. Our biggest concern was muscle damage from having been
recumbent for that amount of time, and the effect damaged muscle components had
on his kidneys. Catheters were used to run IV fluid into him as rapidly as possible.
Other treatment was started to stabilize the patient. As time passed, the support
offered by the loader was reduced until our friend was standing on his own with the
sling acting only as a safety net. He continued to improve over the next hour until
we decided to transport him into the clinic for further treatment. His trip to the
clinic was uneventful.
The whole crew, the neighbors, the friends, and the loader operator, the firemen, the
veterinary technicians, and the veterinarians, we all had the feeling of being part of a
team that had been victorious. We had made a difference on that cold, snowy day.
We had potentially saved a life. And best of all, our old gelding friend continues to
do well with his recovery.

 

Good Endings

Later that evening after Kathi and I had treated our stiff muscles with ibuprofen and
the warmth of our home had finally chased the last remaining cold from our bones, I
reflected on this day. This day had started so badly with an old horse with a
problem we most often can fix, but for this horse we couldn’t. Then with the help of
some firemen, neighbors and friends, and a exceptional veterinary staff, and of
course my exceptional wife, we saved an old horse that had very little chance for
survival. And maybe more importantly a group of young veterinarians added to
their book of experience a successful rescue of a down twenty-five-year-old part
draft horse gelding. So if any of us get a call on a down draft horse tomorrow we
will tell the owner we remember this day, and if the owner so directs, we will
attempt to get the animal up. Quite possibly we will be unsuccessful. Our job is to
give the best care possible no matter what the chances of success are. That’s the
deal. But today had ended up a good day. We need a day like November 11th once
in a while.

Sinkhole rescue - After

Recovered and doing well!

Code Black

Travels With Kathi #10 – Code Black

Code Black

The month of September brings the season of new shows on the local television stations.  One of the new dramas is “Code Black”.  The premise of the show is to follow trauma and drama in an emergency room in Los Angeles that routinely becomes so busy overwhelming the ER’s capacity to treat patients, reaching a level of activity called “Code Black”.  Kathi had always been an “ER” fan during the very successful run of 15 seasons ending in 2009.  The promotional adds for “Code Black” looked like it was “ER” on steroids.  So as the day for the airing of the first episode came Kathi and I decided we would be part of the original audience.

The previews of “Code Black” prepared me to offer aid to my ER- junkie wife .  Over the years I have learned to anticipate a problem Kathi would probably have watching this show, she would forget to blink.  Kathi gets so wrapped up in exciting shows, she frequently holds her eyes open for extended lengths of time and later suffers from dry eyes.  This represents an intensity I have not encountered in others.   I gathered up a bottle of eye drops and placed it next to Kathi’s TV-watching chair.

The show certainly furnished a great deal of action.  We were hardly introduced to characters before the ER was overwhelmed reaching Code Black status.  There was hardly time for the staff to reflect on their successes and failures.  I never thought I’d say it, but the commercials were somewhat welcomed as a break for needed functions (of course I mean applying eye drops.)  There is certainly an attraction for many of us for this excitement created by crisis even if the scenarios are imaginary.

If Yogi Berra were a veterinarian he would probably say veterinary medicine is 10% science, 85% cleaning up, and 50% pure terror.  The terror is most frequently encountered in the midst of facing emergency situations.  And yet those emergencies have been the part of the practice of veterinary medicine that Kathi and I enjoy, almost crave.  These calls give us the opportunity to make a difference for animals and owners.  Making a difference doesn’t always mean all results are positive, but may mean delivering peace of mind about difficult decisions.  Making differences brings passion to the job for Kathi and me.  And passion is what keeps us getting in the truck day after day.

Each animal, every client, all appointments are very important to Kathi and I.    All are part of the mosaic that makes up veterinary practice for us.  Our lives are the summation of all the parts.  I’m glad our vocations bring us passion.

Generations

Travels With Kathi #9 – Generations

Generations

We were on an emergency call treating a mare displaying signs of colic several weeks ago.   We were accompanied by one of the younger veterinarians who work at the clinic.  Typical of the young veterinarians at LEQMC this doctor was very intelligent, very capable at all procedures performed on this mare, and very polite to the clients and fellow veterinarians.  After we completed one of the necessary procedures the client, who was nearer my age than my fellow veterinarian, commented how pleased she was with the treatment we had provided.  New graduates are now trained to treat the basic colic differently than I was trained in the early days.  This client had had horses for many years and had become accustomed to her horses being treated more like I had grown up treating colics.  She was more comfortable with older methods.  As we discussed the differences in treatment methods, my young associate made the comment the difference in technique was largely generational.

 

Generational.   Treating a colic as I was used to was generational!  Just what did it mean, generational?  I have treated hundreds of colics during my career.  I have confidence in my ability to access physical signs and treat appropriately.  Should I be so confident when employing my generational approach?  I could ask my young associate what she meant by the comment, but I’m sure my question would embarrass her.  She is very intelligent so I am sure her assessment would be fair but she is probably too polite to tell me if her answer was negative.

 

Doubts

Shortly after Kathi and I left our single-veterinarian practice to join Littleton Large Animal Clinic, I experienced personal doubt regarding certain ways I approached veterinary cases because my techniques were sometimes different than those employed by other clinic veterinarians.  I asked one of the practice owners if I should change my routines to perfectly match others at the clinic.  He asked me three questions:  how long had  I practiced, if I had what I thought was at least average success with cases and had we had a successful practice with satisfied clients.  I answered in the affirmative to all questions.  He said it seemed obvious to him I shouldn’t change unless I thought any of the different approaches were worthy of change.

 

Here’s a fact of life:  change is inevitable.  Most of change is good, but not all change is welcomed.  During all the years I have pulled my veterinary coveralls on and put a thermometer and stethoscope in my pockets, I have witnessed both good and bad change.  Some turn out to be fads that are discarded in a few years but all of us have to face change and either accept or discard it.  From time to time all of us need to pause from our daily toil and honestly evaluate our ability to properly perform the duties of our vocations.  This is a healthy part of personal growth, the way we stay current and propagate life-long improvement.  I am grateful for that comment on that summer day from a representative of the future of my profession, my young colleague.

 

So were my methods generational?  Maybe, and many of my practice habits will probably not change.  But on this day I prefer to focus on trans-generational habits.  Habits all veterinarians at LEQMC have:  Prepare ourselves to be current on available technology that is used daily in our profession.  Take that knowledge to our patients, the horses, as we provide to our clients the best service we possibly can.  Be the best veterinarian I can be.  That’s trans-generational!

Travels With Kathi #8

Travels With Kathi #8 – Dr. Google

Dr. Google

During my years practicing veterinary medicine I have always preferred radio and television as the primary source for current events. As many people have switched over to the digital age and are relying on the Internet for their current events, call me a somewhat reluctant participant. So when I heard Google was considering changing their name to “Alphabet”, I began to ponder the impact Google has had on our lives, and on veterinary medicine.

Why would this company want to change its name, a name that has become listed in dictionaries as the definition of the product they provide? Company spokesmen say a change would prevent their operation from becoming outdated similarly to the name IBM. Was IBM’s decline due to the name or their decline in innovation? Oh well, I’m just a veterinarian.

The Origin

Where did “Google” come from? One version is it came from the misspelling of the word “googol”, a word coined by a 9-year-old boy to represent the number formed by 1 followed by a hundred zeros. Others say it came from the British slang term “throw a googly” which means to ask a hard or unanswerable question. Or maybe it came by merging the words “go” and “ogle”with ogle being a desirous look or stare. I guess naming a social phenomenon is just like naming a dog or horse. The only problem is, the originators couldn’t look up the definitions of words on Google.

The Experiment

What is the impact of Google on veterinary medicine? A significant number of clients call their veterinarian after consulting with Dr. Google. It seems reasonable I should try to understand potential problems that may be created by Dr. Google referrals. So I created a test; one Google search was “strategies for winning chess matches’; the second was “strategies for healing horses with laminitis.” The first represents a situation where I personally know a little about chess, but by no means know enough to be consistently successful. The second represents a subject where I have a lot of experience and have spent a great deal of time understanding the condition. The chess question hopefully will allow me to use Google to solve a problem at the same level my clients find themselves. The laminitis question allows me to understand what is available to my clients on Google searches

The chess “google” presents a good review of the rules of the game and defines terminology. Most posts attempt to organize a player’s thought processes and divide the game into parts then present strategies for each part. The posts do not provide experience or judgment. One must learn to recognize the opponents’ strategies in order to win.

The laminitis “google” also presents a general understanding of what laminitis is and a list of terminology. The search does not present a way to define the severity of the disease or how the severity defines what treatments are needed. There is a need for experience and judgment to develop the most appropriate plan for an individual horse with a very individual group of symptoms.

Conclusion

After reviewing the strategies for winning chess games, I have a better knowledge of rules and strategies. However, I am a very average player. After reviewing the search on laminitis, I recognize Google is a very good source for general information.
However, there is not a good strategy for treating a particular horse.

The best use of the internet for formulating plans for your horses’ health might result in relying on your veterinarian to identify the nature and severity of the problem followed by utilization of Google searches to help you understand the findings and stimulate questions to be addressed by your veterinarian. Try to identify certain web sites that have reliable information on all questions. Such a list would include veterinary schools and good equine programs. Don’t be afraid to ask for recommendations from your veterinarian.

The Internet is also a good source for veterinary newsletters. Have you heard of the LEQMC newsletters?

Travels With Kathi #7

Travels With Kathi # 7 – Happy Birthday America

Happy Birthday America

This spring nature has created beauty that is unparalleled in my memory.  As we drive through the countryside on our calls we marvel at the magnificence of this great land, of America the beautiful.  This being the month of the birthday of this great country, it seems only fitting to spend a little time reflecting on what we as Coloradans have right in front of our eyes.

 

Old Pike

A very familiar description of our view out the truck window is presented in the song “America The Beautiful”.  Katherine Lee Bates, an English professor at Wellesley College, a liberal arts college located just outside of Boston, composed the words to this famous tune.  In 1893 Ms. Bates had come to Colorado to teach a summer course at Colorado College in Colorado Springs.  While in Colorado Springs she took a trip to the top of Pikes Peak.  The trek was made first in a horse-drawn wagon and for the summit by riding mules.  One can only imagine the wonder she must have felt upon reaching the top.  A resident of Boston certainly was not used to the panorama stretched out before her, not to mention the pure glee she must have felt having survived a ride up this great peak on a mule!  Upon her return to the Antlers Hotel in Colorado Springs she is said to have penned the familiar words in this song.

 

The view Professor Bates had to the north and east on that day in 1893 was an early view of the same land Kathi and I have driven for the last thirty-five years as we have practiced veterinary medicine.  So in tribute to the beauty of this year and the birthday of this great nation, I would like to describe for you the 2015 Veterinary America The Beautiful Road Tour as is created by yours-truly.  These are only a few of my favorite “Scenic Overlooks.”  So I will recount my “Best Of” list.

 

Daniels Park Road

The first is my “Best place to watch a sundown”.  Take Highway 86 south of the clinic past Sedalia a couple of miles and turn left on Daniels Park Road.  Continue on Daniels Park up the hill and follow it to the left.  There is a parking area and picnic area on the left side of the road.  This facility is located on Wildcat Point, a part of Denver’s Daniels Park.  This park was founded in the 1920’s, and includes some 800 acres.  Wildcat Point had earlier been called Riley’s Hill and had been an overlook for many folks who have gone before us including Native Americans, outlaws stalking stagecoaches on the road below, and the frontiersman Kit Carson.  Kit Carson is said to have built his “last campfire” two days before his death in this park.  This last campfire came to be known as a symbol of the end of expansionism into the west and is memorialized by a monument in the park.

 

Once you reach the parking area you will see a picnic pavilion made of large stones.

Walk past the pavilion and proceed to the to the edge of the steep decline.  Prepare for a gasp as you discover the panorama before you.  You can see beyond Long’s Peak on your right to Pikes Peak on your left.  This year the shades of green pastures and forests below are truly magnificent.  To the left of your overlook is The Sanctuary Golf Course where the cart paths are so steep extra-powerful golf carts must be used.  Also, the castle at Cherokee Ranch is visable on the left.  The castle was built in 1926 and was originally named the Charlford Castle.  The castle was designed using details of both British and Scottish castles.  Tweet Kimball purchased the property in 1954 and changed the name to the Cherokee Castle.  The property is now a part of a Conservation Easement.  Kathi and I have had lunch and dinner with Tweet Kimball at the Castle during the time we worked on the ranch animals.

 

Mother Nature furnishes the big show at the park.  Plan to arrive in time to enjoy the view, but be sure to be present for the sunset.  As the sun passes behind the mountains, shadows slowly creep up the ridges and valleys until the bright light is replaced with purple hues.  This purple hue is the origin of Katherine Bates words in America the Beautiful, “purple mountains majesty.”   The origin of those words was only a few miles south of where you are sitting, from a view seen from the top of Pikes Peak.

 

West Cherry Valley

The second overlook is “The best place to watch an afternoon rain shower.”  From the town of Sedalia, go west on Highway 67, then left on Perry Park Road or Highway 105.  After you travel around eleven miles, watch to the west.  Just beyond Dakan Road, you will be able to see the Front Range with West Cherry Valley between you and the mountains.  You can also see the rocky spires jutting skyward as they surround Perry Park, the same type of rock formations seen in the Garden of Gods Park in Colorado Springs.  Find a safe spot to pull your car to the side of the road and prepare to wait.

 

The storms march across West Cherry Valley from west to east.  The clouds are often at or below your level on or near Perry Park Road.  Most storms produce lightning and liquid curtains of rain.  During the winter, snow showers replace the rain.  The shear marvel I see displayed by Mother Nature in this beautiful valley is very special to me.

 

Greenland Road

The third scenic overlook is “the Best place to imagine being a cowboy or cowgirl.”  Drive south of Castle Rock on Interstate 25 about ten miles.  As soon as you drive past the Larkspur exit, start paying attention to the view on the east side of the highway.  The terrain switches to magnificent mesas surrounded by scattered trees and heavily grassed areas in multiple valleys.  Exit I-25 at the Greenland Exit.  Greenland Road is appropriately named with large meadows of native grass perfect for cattle grazing.  Drive down the road about a mile and pull over at a safe spot.

 

As you look to the north and east, you are treated to the view of a carpet of perfect native grass leading your eyes to picturesque tall mesas.   Scattered about the grass meadows are black and brown dots that actually are cattle grazing.  This scene brings to mind the immensity as well as the great beauty of western America.

 

Best For Last

The last overlook represents “the Best place to start a new life.”  This is a personal one, and strangely enough it is a cemetery, the Spring Valley Cemetery.  Drive south from Franktown eleven or twelve miles to East Lorraine Road.  Turn to the right or west.  Travel about a mile until you see Spring Valley Road.  Go north less than a mile to Spring Valley Cemetery on the right.  There you will find a small community cemetery and a small chapel.  Kathi and I attended a country church organization that held services in this chapel.  So when we got married, we held the ceremony in this small chapel, and thereby started my Travels with Kathi.  Based on our experience, I can’t imagine a better place to start a new life.  If you walk along the roads in the cemetery to the southeast corner you will pass by several of our former clients’ graves, one a member of my list of heroes.  And if you look to the south and west you see a great view of Pikes Peak, the origin of observations that led to the words in America the Beautiful.  All these facts coming together at a cemetery, although seemingly unlikely, define the special nature of this place to me.

 

Every day I recognize how lucky I am to live here in Colorado.  Luckily I am able to travel this land and observe it in its seasonal changes.  Take the opportunity this year provides to see this country and its unparalleled beauty, America the Beautiful.

 

Don’t you wish you could see this land as Katherine Lee Bates saw it in the 1800’s?  I sure do.

Travels With Kathi #6

Travels with Kathi #6 – Wearing Out

Wearing Out

We had a valued client who was a farmer south of town.  He was in his eighties and worked his farm until a few months prior to his passing.  One of his sayings that were a favorite of mine was, “I don’t mind wearing out but I sure didn’t want to rust out”. The implication was a few of his neighbors had set around and rusted out from disuse instead of wearing out from many years of hard work as he had done.  I have always wanted to do the same, wear out not rust out.  As I continue to age I have found I am wearing out a little sooner than I had planned.

 

But wait!  I am living in the twenty-first century where the possibility of receiving bionic replacements is a reality, not just a fantasy on Star Trek.  So about two years ago I started to make plans for some updates on my aging veterinarian body.  My plan was to replace a knee that had received a pretty good injury from a run-in with a sixteen hundred pound dairy cow some twenty years ago.  Today all trails to major surgery lead through physicians with specialty training on every body system that may show any suspicion of having a problem.  Most of us do not have in our phone’s contact list a specialist for all branches of human medicine.  My contacts now have a list of many.  After visiting several specialists, my to-do list had grown, and many more visits to my staff of doctors were necessary.

 

My purpose is not to promote sympathy, however if it makes you feel better, I will accept it.  What this process did do was allow me the opportunity to view the plight of a client in an office of medical professionals, an office much like our office at Littleton Equine Medical Center.  I would like to share my impressions.

 

Impressions

So, what was I expecting when it came to doctors?  When I was in my twenties, there was a show on TV about just the physician I was seeking:  Marcus Welby, MD.  Dr.Welby was an older doctor who frequently received patients in his home, always made correct diagnoses in a timely manner, and the client got well while showing great appreciation to Dr. Welby.  I also remember another TV show during the days when I was in my forties about a doctor named Doogie Houser, a sixteen-old doctor who was a child prodigy.  As I started the process of obtaining appointments I found if I could wait ninety to one hundred twenty days I could get an appointment with Dr.Welby.  However, with my schedule restraints I got appointments with Dr. Houser, an individual one-third my age.  In fact, almost all the medical staff seemed to be either Dr. Housers or classmates.  I hoped they all had good relationships with their grandparents.

 

I found as I investigated the doctors with whom I had made appointments, those who were staff members in practices with good reputations had great credentials.  There was an obvious correlation between the reputation of the practice and the qualification of the doctor.  That made sense.  Good practices were careful to include only well -trained, competent clinicians within their staffs.  This reminded me of how thorough the staff of Littleton Equine Medical Clinic is as we ad new staff and the annual group of new interns.  I am also very thankful for the reputation of LEQMC and the natural appeal of our practice area that make it possible to attract such a large group of great candidates for these positions.

 

Conclusions

The ever-evolving technology and rapid improvement of remarkable equipment have made it much more efficient for human doctors to practice in larger groups.  There are fewer doctors who offer medical care similar to that portrayed in the Dr. Welby TV series.  However, today’s practices with their well-qualified staff offer great care for a seasoned veterinarian like yours truly with a few worn parts.  I’m satisfied Dr. Houser can handle the job.

 

Now back to LEQMC.   There are many well-qualified veterinarians in Colorado who practice great veterinary medicine.  At LEQMC we are lucky enough to have the technology and well qualified staff that allow us to offer special diagnostic techniques to the great veterinarians practicing in this region.  It is true LEQMC is a large practice group, and it is natural to worry about such a facility being too large and impersonal.  I am very proud to be part of such a great practice that blends a good number of Marcus and Mary Welbys with new staff additions of competent, caring individuals who assure LEQMC will continue to offer excellent veterinary care.  I look forward to working with our new group of excellent interns who are hand picked from a very large pool of excellent candidates.  I can assure all that every staff member at LEQMC is dedicated to delivering the best service to all our clients, Marcus Welby-type service.

 

Let Us Know

You can be a part of our quest to improve veterinary services while nurturing that special personal service.  Call or e-mail the clinic with any critiques or suggestions you might have.  Such input is greatly valued.