Like a good mechanic, finding a good veterinarian can be a challenge. When you find one, you want to keep them. One sure sign of a well-liked, respected vet is how long they have been in business. If you don’t satisfy your clientele they will find someone who will.
Veterinarians Andy Acton and Duncan Hockley began to make their own imprint in 1992 when the pair came to the Deep South Animal Clinic in Ogema, SK. Dr. Harry Struthers, who had enjoyed a long and successful career, was ready to retire but wanted someone to take over the clinic and clients. Fresh out of Vet College, the young docs moved and began work almost immediately.
“We were going to start on Monday but by Sunday, I was on the job. My first experience at the clinic was a breech calving. The pair both lived. It was a good beginning,” recalls Dr. Acton.
Dr. Acton worked with Doc Struthers until July 1st when he and Dr. Hockley took over the clinic. “The first thing we did was to purchase a 4-H calf at the Weyburn Fair. That put us in debt, but we were 4-H kids so it was a given we’d buy one.”
Time has passed, 20 years of it to be exact and Dr. Acton is still practicing from the Deep South Animal Clinic. His original partner, Dr. Duncan Hockley is practicing in Ontario in the veterinary pharmaceutical industry. Acton and his wife, Yvonne have 2 children, Kelsey and Corin, raise cattle and warmblood horses. A number of cats and dogs also make their home with the family.
“It has been challenging over the years to build my own shoes; learning how to handle tough cases and making sure people know that we (staff at the clinic) are here all of the time for them.”
The Deep South Animal Clinic has both large and small animal clients and facilities for both. Improvements to the equipment and buildings have been a priority, so that all of the clinic’s patients receive the best possible care. “Cattle work originally got me interested in veterinary medicine, says Andy, “but the challenge with small animals, horses and some swine is like cross-training for the mind.” Each animal has their own personality, so even routine jobs such as yearly shots can be a bit of a trial. The Clinic has six trained staff to ensure an animal’s time there will be as comfortable as possible for them.
Technology has changed over the past 20 years, with the internet and cell phones making other vets and specialists available for consultation at a moments notice. This expands the ability to successfully treat animals. Along with changing technology, continuing education is equally important. Attending seminars, taking classes keeping abreast of new treatment drugs and options is vital. Dr. Acton is Board certified in Beef Cattle Practice by the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners.
My first experience at the clinic was a breech calving. The pair both lived. It was a good beginning, - Dr. Acton
While there are the times the best option for an animal is to be euthanized, there are far more examples of successful recovery from daunting odds. Dr. Acton recalls one incident, “There was a young cow that had a really nasty fractured tibia. The most logical solution says ‘put her down’ but in this case that wasn’t going to happen. We used a specially made splint, together with 27 rolls of cast material – we have splints for calves, but this was for a 1,500 lb cow. Two specialists from Kansas helped us review the digital X-rays to assess the healing, which took 13 weeks in the splint. She recovered, calved with no problem and is now an embryo flush cow.”
Another case with a happy ending involved a juvenile dog. The dog had two fractures – the ulna and radius on his front leg. He was a young dog, only 1.5 years old. The dog’s leg was pinned for 7 weeks, and then the fixation pins were slowly removed, allowing the leg to bear more weight over time. The dog has a healed leg, his owner’s are thrilled and the clinic can rest assured, knowing they have done a quality job.
When queried as to the least favorite aspect of his job, Dr. Acton sat quietly for a moment or two before answering, “When the government doesn’t give us straight answers on policies and we have to figure them out.”
Throughout the years, a number of veterinary students have gained experience working at the clinic. They have come from Quebec, Germany and Saskatoon to fulfill practicums or externships (depending on which institution they come from). This makes for a two-way learning opportunity – students come with fresh ideas and they leave with a feel for experience that comes with a lifetime of work. “I had a couple really good mentors as a student. That’s something I can’t pay back, but I can pay it forward,” states Andy.
The Deep South Animal Clinic staff: Andy Acton DVM, Karen Wagner DVM, Nicole Adair and Krysten Corcoran AHT, Cortney Eden and Crissy Webb – Reception, and Yvonne Acton, Accounting, are celebrating 20 years of service to Ogema and surrounding area on May 30th, 31st and June 1st. There will be coffee, donuts and draws on May 30th and 31st and on June 1st the Clinic will also be holding a barbeque with proceeds raised going to the local 4-H Club from Ogema and Pangman.