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Celebrating 30 years as a veterinarian

Guardian Animal had a birthday this past week. Facebook thought it was my birthday so a lot of well-wishers thought I lied about my age.
After all a lot of people choose to stop birthdays at a certain point. I didn’t lie about my age. I lied about my birthday. Identity theft often starts there and besides, sometimes birthdays aren’t as much fun as when we were kids.
Guardian Animal’s birthday is a lot of fun though! With your support, we have accomplished a lot in 30 years.
Speaking of support, we are looking forward to seeing folks at our sixth annual for our Guardian Animal 1-mile Paw Walk and 5K race on May 22.
I think Alan really got it set up to start at 9 a.m. this year. That means we won’t have to be up quite so early to get ready. We have a very cool race shirt idea.
Hint: if you have disliked the past year of COVID-19, you are going to want to walk, run or volunteer to get a shirt.
If you are not ready to see people yet, you can do a virtual race or just buy a shirt. We are looking to have some door prizes and while you don’t have to be present to win, you do have to pick them up within the next couple of weeks.
We plan to use the proceeds to build an additional flight cage. (The one I want will be about $3,000 or more.)
From our software program, it looks like we have seen over 37,000 animals, from A-Paul to ZZ.
Even I am surprised how many I can still name over the years. Most of these are dogs. (Our first patient was a dog that had been shot in a testicle.)
Cats and birds are the next most common pet we examine with ferrets, rabbits, guinea pigs, turtles, lizards, snakes making up most of the remaining visits. But we also have seen pigs, rats, mice, squirrels, hamsters, chinchillas, hamsters, turtles, tortoises and other pets.
I even did a EKG on a gold fish and surgery on a cockroach. (The roach did better than the fish.) During the ratite boom, we would go to the farm for ostriches, emus and rheas.
We have dewormed alpacas and llama and completed health certificates on a camel.
Early on, I would see a horse or a goat. I had intended to be a large animal vet, but the small animal owners loved my care and compassion while the farm visits were freezing and hard.
It would have been nice to have kept track of how many surgeries were done over the past three decades.
Obviously, spays and castrations, tumor and foreign body removals, bone and joint surgeries, but also suturing a cornea back together after a Rottweiler stuck her head through a chain link fence she chewed in pieces, repairing an eight-inch traumatic thoracic hernea and fixing a heart that was bad at birth.
I was a good surgeon when I graduated from Mizzou. I am a better surgeon now.
I would really like to know how many wild animals we have rehabbed and released. Barney the barred owl came with me when I left academy. He lived another decade or more at the old location.
We have had barred, great horned, screech, long-legged owls and red-shouldered, red tailed, coopers, sharp shinned hawks, osprey, vultures and a few bald eagles over the years.
We have had ground hogs, flying squirrels, chipmunks, foxes, bats, geese, turkeys, greebes, and various song birds over the years. This is all done as a community service. When you support us, you support our wildlife rehab program.
In 30 years, I know I have made a lot of lives better.
I strive to keep current and expand my knowledge and abilities.
Our capabilities in dentistry have really expanded in the past few years. Aggressive dental care means that pets have less pain and live longer.
Surgery and treatments have progressed also. Surgery monitoring is way ahead of what it was 30 years ago and Guardian Animal was ahead of the curve at the time.
Extra monitoring means that we don’t do as many surgeries as we did in a day. I can remember doing up to 12 procedures a day.
Now we try to only schedule four to keep up with all the things we do. I used some of those early skills in Africa when we (a four-doctor team) spayed and neutered 126 animals in a single day out in the sun.
I also know that I have upset some folks in my time.
Statistically, 20 percent of people will not like someone just because. Likewise, 20 percent think that I am great just because.
Neither one is totally correct for their reasons, but I work hard for the 60 percent in the middle.
Sometimes I have made mistakes, either in management or veterinary medicine or surgery.
I’m more at peace with the fact that I cannot be perfect, but I certainly still strive to have everything be perfect.
I don’t know what the next 30 years will hold.
Hopefully, a new associate that I have been mentoring will return and bring a vet friend. I know I am still purchasing new equipment (we have a new lameness stance analyzer and two new cage side monitors) and continuously looking to do better and grow.
When we started out at Guardian Animal, I didn’t know if we would do well or not. I never dreamed of our current facility with our capability.
Friends and Matt helped remodel and set up Guardian Animal. We were laying tile in treatment until the wee hours of the morning before the open house.
Now, COVID-19 delays the celebratory open house, but throughout all of the time, I have led by example.
I strive to learn something, teach something and accomplish something every day. My employees will tell you that I expect it from them, too.
I can’t wait to see what the next 30 years brings!

MJ Wixsom, DVM MS is a best-selling Amazon author who practices at Guardian Animal Medical Center in Flatwoods, Ky. GuardianAnimal.com 606-928-6566.