Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Alton Veterinary Clinic, Alton NH

Last weekend was my 25th high school reunion in Wolfeboro, NH. I attended a small private school called Brewster Academy and we (me, Diedra, and Joe), decided to make a long weekend of the event and visit our old house were we grew up and meet some of our old friends from our early days.

Me and Diedra at our old house
My first stop in NH was at Alton Veterinary Clinic. Stephen Barsanti has been practicing veterinary medicine there for almost 35 years. When I was there we saw every pet within a 40 mile radius. This included horses, cows, goats, dogs, cats, birds, wildlife, and just about everything else in between. It was one of the things I loved most about being at his practice; we never knew what was going to walk-in, or be driven up in the bed of a pick-up truck.
It was simple, rural, country veterinary medicine at its finest.

Entering Alton Veterinary Clinic
I remember spring meant lots of babies of all species. Turns out I was a very devoted foster mom from the smallest beginnings. If it needed time and attention, then I was volunteering for the job. I sort of imposed myself into helping. Looking back on this I understand why it is important to keep fresh young blood and energy in your hospital. Taking care of a helpless needy babies fuels your fire to learn, and binds you to the mission of the veterinary hospital. It is the ultimate sense of purpose anyone in veterinary medicine. (I should really think about forcing my new summer interns to take a kitten for the summer. It is sort of like the high school kids who get forced into carrying a sack of flour around for the semester so they understand what proper parental care entails, not that this project ever lowered the teen pregnancy rates).

A warm "Hello!"
The three of us took a short tour through the vet hospital with Steve. Very few things have changed there. The rooms all have the same layout and the same d├ęcor. He has updated his anesthesia equipment, but I think that’s about it. The same rooms (he does have a nicer surgery room than my 5 doctor practice has) and areas are all consistent with my far visions of what I remember it to be. It is a small, happy, soulful place. I was lucky to have learned from him and I am a veterinarian in much part because of him. He still has his sweet gentle kind patient demeanor and I would benefit now from learning to just smile more often, nod, and say “OK,” as much as he does. He reminds me to not internalize, to not blame, judge, or argue. Our clients may not always listen to us, no matter how sure we are of ourselves of being right, but we don’t have to drive ourselves crazy trying to win. He reminded me to should just nod, smile and say “OK.” Seems I do struggle with trying to save everything, teach everyone, and it is exhausting to feel as if you are always falling on dumb ears. I will start practicing his “smile and say ‘OK’” more often.

Me, Steve, and Diedra
He has built a veterinary practice that is solid and a vitally important part of our old community and he is still happy, successful, and respected.
We swapped our best and worst horror stories, and reminded each other of how much has changed with the passage of decades and how much remains the same despite the worlds attempts to sway us. There were lots of kisses and hugs and smiles and I feel blessed to have friends that have guided me through the best and worst and still love me in spite of knowing all my secrets.
He is now looking towards retirement. He showed me his note for the day, (which he still writes out each morning and stores safely in his front left pants pocket). “Think about hiring a vet” was written on the 4 in by 4 in white paper. He has never had a fellow vet share his exam rooms or staff. His ex-wife and I talked about this and we both wonder how that transition will go? It is hard to share anything when you have never had to. I love that fact that I have 4 other vets around me at my practice. I can swap ideas, questions, cases, speculations, and go on vacation without fearing for my clients needs. I couldn’t be a single doctor practice and I told him that hiring a vet was a department I could absolutely give him some assistance in. I know what new vets are looking for and I know what he can offer them.
He has an apartment above the clinic. It is where he raised his first child and spent his first decade practicing. It would make a great place for a new vet school graduate. They could live there rent free and have the world’s easiest commute to work. He is also a great mentor and teacher. He has a calming smile, rock solid un-quivering demeanor, and can teach any skill to any new vet willing to try. It is a great opportunity for any new grad. He also provides a practice for them to buy somewhere down the road. (I think I will be his agent, I could totally do this!). This is exactly the job I would have wanted out of vet school.
Diedra, my sister, reconnected with Steve’s 32 year old parrot Primo. Primo was the one creature that I saw over the weekend that hadn’t aged one single tiny little bit. (If anything he looks better than I have ever seen him). But like the rest of us he has slowed a little. I remember being in the clinic with him and hearing him scream his “hello!” down the hallway, or signing his bird chants to the point of us needing to close doors and provide time outs. He has slowed his chants, chimes, demands, and harassing a tad, but he remains the effervescent social butterfly he always was.

As we sat and swapped our best cases, worst cases, drama cases, and “how the times have changed” stories I watched his teenager technician behind him clean a cage, monitor a waking patient, and clean the treatment room, and I thought of those many years ago when that was me, and I smiled quietly to myself. Seems I have come a long way too. He helped shape me into who I am, and he continues to do that to this day. I am lucky to have had the Barsanti’s as my other family, and I am happy to be following in his footsteps and forging my own path in what is now “our profession.”

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