I remember being a child and running into one of my teachers at the grocery store. That same awkwardness and disbelief has filtered into adulthood when I run into one of our veterinarians in public because it's a reminder that they really do have a life outside of work; I'm not used to seeing them not in coveralls; and usually, unless it's for herd check, I only see the vet when things have gone awry.
The three vets we work with at the Barron Veterinary Clinic in Barron, Wis., have been nothing short of amazing to us, and I know their farmer-clients feel the same. There's Dr. Don Peterson, or Dr. Don for short, who has been the veterinarian of record on this farm since the 1970s. He was Sam's grandpa's vet, my in-laws' vet, and now he is our vet.
Dr. Don's easygoing and good-humored nature is enough to put even me at ease when something has gone horribly wrong, and I'm about to come undone. He has also rejoiced with us, as he and his wife were two of nearly 300 guests at our wedding, and comes bearing good news in the form of healing and confirmed pregnancies.
Then, there's Dr. Nate Carlsen. When Dr. Don is out on a call, he is the face we're most likely to see. While he usually only comes for emergencies, Dr. Carlsen exudes calm and confidence in a cool and calculated manner.
The clinic's newest large-animal vet, Dr. Lisa Hansen, visited our herd for the first time on a cold night in early December when one of my Jersey heifers went down and nearly died. She reminded me of my friends' moms from high school, and I can't even begin to explain how comforting that was. Even though saving the heifer ended up being a futile effort and we had to put her down later on, I won't soon forget Dr. Lisa's expertise and care during what was my hardest night, to date, as a beginning dairywoman.
On another night I won't soon forget, we had a cow named Harley off feed and her abdomen made the characteristic pinging noise signaling she needed medical attention. And of course, another cow named Darla was two days overdue and in labor. Because Harley was pinging, we thought she had a displaced abomasum. However, that was not the case as she had developed a wicked case of hot mastitis, which ended up being very easy to treat.
She was not the least of our problems that night because Darla was pushing her cleanings out before any calves. Since Dr. Carlsen was there, we asked him to take a look at Darla. I don't remember how long it took because it felt like an eternity, but it took all three of us to deliver twin bull calves dead on arrival.
Even the calm and tranquil Dr. Carlsen was showing signs of becoming disheveled as he had to maneuver the first twin so it was no longer trying to come out with a front leg and a back leg at the same time. It was 8:30 p.m., by the time Dr. Carlsen left, and we hadn't started milking. I managed to wait until he was gone before melting into a puddle of tears from sorrow and exhaustion.
I have a hard time when animals die on the farm even though I know it's part of life. I know veterinarians have a hard time with that, too. After all, they wouldn't have strived to get near-perfect grades in undergrad classes like physics and organic chemistry to get into another arduous and demanding four years of vet school if they didn't love animals. Our herd vets are called out at every hour to fix our broken animals, and are often beaten and bruised by the very animals they're trying to save. Yet, because they love cows, they do it anyway.
I would like to extend my deepest gratitude and respect to Drs. Peterson, Carlsen and Hansen, as well as all of the other large-animal vets, who keep our cattle healthy and strong. I can't forget my friends who are currently in vet school studying to do the very same, so I would also like to thank future Drs. O'Leary, Pogreba, Scharping, Severson and many more for devoting their lives to the care of the bovine species. Thank you all, and God bless each and every one of you.