Abigail Murphy stands six feet tall and eats eight cups of dog food a day. She is a high-energy Great Dane with a sweet personality who loves to snuggle on the couch with Dad.

Abigail came to the OSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital for elective surgery to be spayed and get a gastropexy (stomach tack). Large, deep-chested dogs like Abigail are at higher risk for a disease commonly known as bloat or stomach twist. Bloat occurs when the stomach expands with either food or gas, obstructing the entrance and exit. As the stomach continues to dilate, it can rotate on its axis which is a life threatening condition. A gastropexy attaches the stomach to the body wall, preventing this rotation.

Abigail’s surgery was performed by Dr. Milan Milovancev and Dr. Lea Mehrkens who are board-certified, soft tissue surgeons. They used a minimally invasive technique called laparoscopy, where a tiny camera and surgical instruments are inserted through small incisions.

The advantage of laparoscopy is less pain and quicker recovery, which is very beneficial when you have a 170-pound dog who needs to be kept inactive to heal. “It was especially challenging keeping her quiet and out of trouble because we have an eight month-old puppy who wanted to play with her,” says Laura Murphy.

Owners of deep-chested breeds like Great Danes, German Shepherds, and Standard Poodles can elect to get their dog a gastropexy, or they can minimize the risk of bloat by limiting strenuous exercise after eating and drinking, slowing the rate of food consumption, and feeding frequent small portions rather than infrequent larger portions.

Abigail has recovered from her surgery and is back to her old self. Her mom is very happy with the results. “The staff [at OSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital] is wonderful and we would highly recommend the surgery center.”

JJ works three days a week at Samaritan Evergreen Hospice. Her job description is unusual: Roll around on the floor, hand out hugs, and generate smiles. Trained as a registered therapy dog, and with seven years of experience under her collar, she is a valuable member of the staff.

Tracy Calhoun is a hospice nurse and JJ’s mom. Over the years, she has trained five therapy dogs, but JJ is special. “When we walk in to work, if someone is crying, instead of following me, she immediately peels off and put her arms around them.” In fact, JJ is off-leash all day, and decides for herself who needs comforting when.

Samaritan Evergreen Hospice provides comfort care and aggressive pain management for patients who are at the end of life. The people who work there have special training in patient care, but they also care about the families. That is where JJ is invaluable. “Very often there are not words we can say to make it better,” says Calhoun. “When someone is very emotional, spending time with JJ is much more soothing. They don’t have to talk, or assure someone they are saying the right thing. It’s just comforting.”

JJ is also an important part of a ritual of respect the hospice provides for all patients. “We have something called a ‘walk out’,” says Calhoun. “When someone dies, the staff and volunteers line the hallway as the patient leaves on a gurney. JJ taught herself to wait outside the room, then walk beside the gurney as it is wheeled to the front door. All our patients come in the front door and leave by the front door.”

JJ not only comforts patients and families, she gives staff and volunteers a much-needed respite from the demands of their jobs. “She has a big impact as a co-worker,” says Calhoun. “People can take a timeout and play with her, but there is also something about having a dog hanging out that takes the stress level down. Even if she is just being silly, rolling around on her back with a toy. It makes people smile.”

Last year, JJ was diagnosed with an aggressive form of lymphoma. Without treatment, she had a prognosis of 1-2 months. In January, Calhoun brought her to the OSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital. “I wanted all options for treatment, and the vet I was seeing encouraged me to look into OSU where they have the latest research.”

OSU has given everyone at Samaritan Evergreen Hospice an extra eight months with JJ so far. Although she has been receiving chemotherapy, JJ has remained active and happily working the whole time. “It hasn’t slowed her down at all,” says Calhoun. “There were a couple of times when she got chemo in the morning, then went to work in the afternoon. People were amazed.”

JJ will come to the end of her life soon, and will leave behind big paws to fill. “There is no way I can replicate another JJ,” says Calhoun. “She is the most intuitive dog I have ever had.”



Did you get it all? That is a critical question often asked after tumor removal surgery. At the OSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital (VTH), Dr. Milan Milovancev is addressing that question in his research on canine cancer.

Dr. Milovancev is a soft tissue surgeon who operates on hundreds of dogs with cancer every year. He also conducts research and clinical trials that focus on finding the optimal amount of tissue to remove, and the best way to tell if a tumor surgery was successful.

“I am dedicated to improving the quality of life for cancer patients by working to maximize chances of removing all the cancer during one surgery, while preserving as much healthy tissue as possible,” he says. This includes studying how tumors grow, how to plan tumor surgery, and how to best test for residual cancer cells after surgery. “Accurately determining whether or not a surgical procedure has successfully achieved local tumor control [removal of all cancer cells] is paramount,” he says, “Incorrect diagnostics in this regard may result in needless additional surgery, radiation therapy, or chemotherapy.” It also impacts whether a cancer will return.

The VTH is staffed with board-certified, veterinary specialists so Dr. Milovancev can collaborate with colleagues in oncology, pathology and radiology to design and implement these tumor margin studies. He can also invite clients whose dogs have cancer to participate in clinical trials that yield valuable data about the studies.

Doobie is a recent patient of Dr. Milovancev and that makes him a very lucky dog. Doobie’s mom, Molly Swenson, was referred to OSU by her local veterinarian because Doobie had a large growth on his nostril. Tests revealed it to be a malignant skin cancer tumor. “Surgery to remove a tumor in this location can be difficult due to the proximity to important anatomical structures,” says Dr. Milovancev. Size was also a factor; Doobie is a nine-pound Chihuahua.

Dr. Milovancev removed Doobie’s tumor and reconstructed his nasal passageways in two separate procedures, using information gained in previous and ongoing tumor margin studies. “While Doobie wasn’t part of a study himself, he benefited from the patients who have participated in these studies over the past few years,” says Dr. Milovancev. “The microscopic analysis of his tumor, and the surgical margins we removed showed that we got it all and the tumor has a relatively low chance of growing back.”

Doobie is six months post-surgery and doing great. His now-permanent grin is appropriate because his mom reports that he is a ‘happy, little dog’. Although Doobie can breathe normally, he sometimes blows bubbles out of one nostril. “I asked him if I could call him Bubbles and he nipped at me,” says Swenson, “so Doobie it will, unfortunately, remain.”

Dr. Briana Beechler (R), Assistant Professor in the Department of Biomedical Science, helps treat a rabbit at the free clinic in Nicaragua.

Although Ometepe island is a tropical jewel in the middle of Lake Nicaragua, it is largely undeveloped and very poor. Most people on the island rely on animals for food, work and transportation, but veterinary care is sparse and the animals often suffer from disease and malnutrition. That is why every summer for ten years in a row, a dedicated group of OSU-led volunteers have set up a free veterinary clinic on Ometepe.

It started with a group of three OSU veterinary students. In 2007, Briana Beechler, Austin Bell, and Sara Neilson participated in a non-OSU service trip to Costa Rica and Nicaragua. It was a good learning experience, but the trio came back with plenty of ideas on how to make it better. “We decided to start a student-led service brigade to Nicaragua,” says Beechler. “In our vision, we wanted to improve animal welfare and public health by providing educational seminars, educating local students and providing veterinary care. This required setting up a site that we returned to year after year.” Ometepe was chosen and the next year they began to execute their vision.

“We sent a myriad of letters and placed many calls,” says Beechler. Eventually she was referred to Alvaro Molina who owns the Hacienda Merida, a hostel on Ometepe. He had been looking for a way to solve the problem with stray dogs and poorly fed animals on the island, which he felt reduced tourism. “With him we set up the first brigade. He helped us arrange import permits and donated an area in his hostel for the clinic. He and his employees did all the advertising and connecting with the local folks.”

On that first “trial year” trip, the brigade consisted of veterinarian Rhea Hanselmann and seven students. The next year, Beechler returned to Ometepe as a first year veterinarian, and was joined by OSU veterinary professor Hernan Montilla, who has volunteered on Ometepe every year since. “He expanded the rural and large animal portions of the trip,” says Beechler. “His commitment has helped the success of the trip greatly.”

Initially, the service trip was supported primarily by students, with some supplies donated by local clinics and a few companies. “It was a lot of hard work by our participants to talk to people they know and get donations,” says Beechler. Now, the student chapter of the International Veterinary Students Association organizes several fund-raising initiatives, but students still hustle up donations and pay their own travel costs.

With an interest in one-health medicine and zoonotic disease, Beechler’s focus on Ometepe was working with local doctors, veterinarians and public health officers to improve human health. “The one-health movement says that animal, human and environmental health are inextricably linked,” she says. “For instance, one of the most common parasites in small animals in Nicaragua is hookworm, which can be spread to humans when infective larvae in the soil penetrate the skin. This is easily prevented by wearing shoes, yet very few children do.”

From 2009-2016, Beechler was working on her Ph.D. in South Africa, and doing post-doc work in Africa, but still helped with Ometepe long distance. Now she is an assistant professor in the OSU College of Veterinary Medicine and conducts research that focuses on animal physiology and disease as it relates to conservation or public health. This has allowed her to come full circle and join the IVSA volunteers in Nicaragua once again. “I want to get reinvolved with my new skills gained in South Africa and try to expand the public health portion of the trip,” she says. To that end, she brought along Bethany Hagen, an OSU graduate student in public health. Hagen conducted surveys of Ometepe community members, doctors and public health officers, and they hope to use the results to create a more one-health-focused link to the people.

They also met with a new veterinarian on the island. “We discussed ways in which we could work together to improve veterinary care and public health in Merida and surrounding areas,” says Beechler. “We decided on two courses of action: assisting him with training support, and creating a lab/office space so that one-health research can be conducted.”

As a founding ‘mother’ of the OSU service trip to Ometepe, Beechler really enjoyed being back on the island. “What I find most rewarding about the trip is seeing the same community members over and over again, and knowing that they trust us. One person informed us that he had been coming to our clinic for ten years with the same dog for annual care. This demonstrates how good a job the students do at working with the local people, building trust. That trust allows us to develop health-related projects.”

“I also really enjoy watching the students learn and develop into veterinarians. The trip does an excellent job of making our veterinary students feel empowered, and develop clinical skills and learn to work with clients. You can see on day one that many are nervous, that doing physical exams and making treatment plans is hard for them. But by day three or four they are much more confident. This growth is very rewarding to see.”

It’s a beautiful, sunny morning at the OSU College of Veterinary Medicine, as a small group of students set up twenty-seven portable canopies along the road leading to the horse arena. In the nearby pasture, another group of students is unloading baby goats, rabbits, and miniature horses into a newly-built petting zoo; and under a huge heritage oak tree, the pet costume contest committee is creating a runway in the grass. It’s the thirty-third annual Pet Day at OSU, and down the road a group of Girl Scouts from Troop 20519 are helping Cera Reusser set up a booth to chase away canine cancer.

Troop 20519 has volunteered at Pet Day since they were seven-year old Daisy Scouts. It is part of their service project where, under the guidance of troop leader Aaron Marchbanks, they explore their community, choose a topic, and work together to make the world a better place. One of the most important elements in the service project is that it is entirely determined by them.

The Bronze award is the highest honor Girl Scout Juniors can earn. The service project is a big part of that endeavor. “When it came time to choose a service project, animal health and welfare was a top contender. They had spent years visiting the booths at Pet Day learning about everything from herpetology to biomedical research,” says Marchbanks.

Several of the troop members had also seen the Xtreme Air Dogs dock demonstration at an OSU pre-football game. The star of that competition was Olie, an impressive black lab who lost his mother to canine cancer. The girls met Olie’s owner, Cera Reusser, founder of Chase Away K9 Cancer, and learned how the organization works to raise awareness and funds to support cancer research for dogs. They now had a partner for their next Pet Day activity.

Reusser has worked with the oncology service at the OSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital to develop and distribute materials to help owners check, identify, and treat early signs of cancer. Partnering with the Girl Scouts at Pet Day was another way to get the message out.

Troop 20519 brain-stormed ideas for engaging the public at Pet Day and decided to sign up for a booth and provide a pet salon. The big idea: While pets were being spruced up, their owners could learn about early detection of cancer, and possibly make a donation to cancer research.

The troop video-conferenced with Reusser several times to learn as much as they could about Chase Away K9 Cancer. Then, for six months, they researched safe and effective pet salon services, including hair dye, hair chalk, nail polish, brushes, bows, and the safe handling of all different kinds of pets. They also made promotional posters advising owners to regularly check their pets for cancer. Finally, the big day arrived.

Reusser, Marchbanks and the girls set up the pet salon and information booth and got to work! While Reusser answered questions about the best way to check an animal for lumps, the troop beautified over 100 pets including dogs, cats, guinea pigs, a goat and, the favorite, a ferret. “It was so much fun to watch the Girl Scouts in action, helping to spread canine cancer awareness while making the pups that came by happy in their Girl Scout Dog Spa,” says Reusser.

All the pet spa services were free, however, many people made donations. At the end of the day, the girls voted to donate their $66 in earnings to Chase Away K9 Cancer.

Be sure to check your dog on the 14th of every month! For more information, visit chaseawayk9cancer.org

When clients bring their dogs to the oncology service in the Lois Bates Acheson Veterinary Teaching Hospital, they sometimes elect to enroll their pet in clinical trials that study cancer and new treatments. The data collected from those clinical trials provides information that may ultimately save both canine and human lives.

In once recent example, hospital researchers studied 64 dogs and found a link between high cholesterol and osteosarcoma, a bone cancer that behaves the same in both dogs and humans.

“This is one of the first steps into identifying cholesterol as a potential biomarker for canine osteosarcoma,” said Dr. Haley Leeper, Assistant Professor in veterinary oncology. “We don’t have answers as to why high cholesterol is associated with this disease, but we’re hoping to advance these findings in future research.”

Leeper and collaborators at OSU and Iowa State University compared 64 dogs with osteosarcoma against two control groups: 30 dogs that had suffered traumatic bone fractures and 31 healthy dogs similar in age and weight to the animals with cancer.

Researchers found nearly half of the dogs with cancer – 29 of the 64 – had elevated levels of total serum cholesterol, a dramatically higher rate than occurred in either control population; just three of the 30 dogs with broken bones, and only two of the 31 healthy animals, showed high cholesterol. An interesting twist: the dogs with elevated total cholesterol had a median survival time of 455 days, more than 200 days greater than the median survival time for dogs with normal cholesterol.

“When people think of cholesterol they think of cheeseburgers and heart attacks,” Leeper said. “However, cholesterol is involved with many key processes and structures in the body like cell membranes, bone health and the immune system.”

“There are a lot of things we plan on investigating,” she said. “This is exciting and fascinating, partly due to the comparative medical aspects between human research and our research.”

Collaborators in the study included Craig Ruaux and Shay Bracha, colleagues of Leeper in the Veterinary Teaching Hospital, and Austin Viall of the Department of Veterinary Pathology at the Iowa State University College of Veterinary Medicine.

Rose Hardy's tiny size allowed surgeons to perform a procedure that is most often done on dogs..
Rose Hardy’s tiny size allowed surgeons to perform a procedure that is most often done on dogs.

An average horse weighs about 1,200 pounds. Rose Hardy is a mini horse who tips the scales at just 253 pounds. Her tiny size not only makes her cute, it may have saved her life.

Just like dogs and humans, horses have hip joints that consist of a ball (at the end of the femur bone) and socket, held together by strong ligaments and muscles. When those ligaments and muscles are injured or diseased, the ball can fall out of the socket and the joint becomes dislocated. It is very painful.

In a dislocated joint, the ruptured ligaments make it difficult to adjust the femur back into the correct position and keep it there (see illustration below). Often, surgical treatment is necessary. In a prodedure called a femoral head and neck ostectomy (FHO), the ball (or head) is removed from the end of the femur. Then scar tissue forms to create a new, false hip joint. This usually relieves pain and improves quality of life dramatically.

FHO surgery is most successful in small dogs, but has also proven worthwhile in larger breeds. Unfortunately, when a horse’s hip joint dislocates, FHO is not often successful because the altered joint cannot support the weight of a horse. Many times, the horse is euthanized.

In June, Roberta Hardy noticed that her mini horse, Rose, was lame and in obvious pain. She took Rose to Dr. Kirsten Mason, of Redwood Equine Veterinary Services, who took radiographs that revealed a dislocated right hip joint. Dr. Mason referred Rose to the OSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital for further evaluation. At the hospital, the equine team sedated Rose and tried to manually relocate her hip joint. As is often the case, the joint would not go back into the proper position. That was very sad news for the Hardy family, who have several mini horses that they love like pets.

The OSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital does dozens of FHO surgeries on dogs every year, but never on a horse. Because Rose is so tiny, the surgical team felt she was a good candidate for a successful FHO. Dr. Cate Hackett explained the surgery, prognosis, and long rehabilitation process to Roberta Hardy, who decided to give it a try.

The surgery went well and Reese Douglas, a fourth year veterinary student, was assigned to Rose’s case. “I was in charge of her daily care, which included preparation and giving of medications, daily physicals, walks, pain assessment, and feed preparation.” Pain management was a huge factor in Rose’s recovery so Douglas, under the supervision of surgical resident Dr. Elizabeth Collar, learned how to prepare IVs and place epidural catheters for pain medication.

Four days after surgery, Douglas was able to walk Rose out of her stall and back, several times a day. Five days after surgery, she walked Rose out the back door, and over to the north lawn so she could graze for five minutes. “She was a difficult patient to get to eat,” says Douglas. Rose turned her nose up at beet pulp and Equine Senior, so Douglas picked a pound of fresh grass every day to feed her.

One week post-surgery, Hardy took Rose home with extensive instructions for her rehabilitation, including a weight reduction diet to minimize stress on her new joint. Rose now walks for fifteen minutes, three times a day, and has been moved to a larger paddock. Her appetite has definitely improved. “Food is a good motivator to keep her moving. I walk her when the barn manager is feeding from the back of the Gator. She will eat a bit, then the gator moves forward and Rose follows it.”

The ball at the end of Rose's femur was dislocated from her hip joint.
A CT scans shows the ball at the end of Rose’s femur dislocated from her hip joint.



AcupunctureMixing traditional and alternative medicine provides the best possible treatment at the Lois Bates Acheson Veterinary Teaching Hospital


One day Richard Bullock’s best friend, a lab mix named Buddy Bear, collapsed and would not get up. Buddy’s veterinarian found cancer and removed his spleen and one lobe of his liver. Post-surgery, Buddy was listless and not eating, so Bullock took him to the OSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital.

Dr. Haley Leeper ran tests and discovered that Buddy had pneumonia and pancreatitis. He was treated and his condition improved, however the ordeal left him with some neurological issues so he had trouble standing and walking. Dr. Leeper prescribed acupuncture in his spine and rear end, and assigned fourth-year student Mallory Powers to help Buddy use a walker to get moving. “Mallory was so wonderful,” says Bullock. “She worked with him every single day, and she called us with updates. It was so exciting to see him get better every day.” Once he could stand, Dr. Leeper prescribed hydrotherapy on the underwater treadmill, and Buddy went home soon after, with advice to continue his acupuncture treatments.  “Now he walks on his own and is doing great,” says Bullock. “I swear by acupuncture; our other dog was so old, he could hardly walk, and acupuncture helped him too.”

Integrating Alternative Medicine

Veterinary medicine has made extraordinary advances in the past fifty years. Animals can now receive many of the same high-tech diagnostic and treatment options as humans. From specialty surgery, to a broad range of safe and effective pharmaceuticals, these options have provided animals with longer, healthier lives. Now, similar to human medicine, there is a growing interest in adding alternative therapy options. Some veterinarians are now using therapies like acupuncture, chiropractics, and E-stim in conjunction with more traditional medicine.

OSU Is Leading The Way

At the VTH, alternative therapies are available in many forms, and nowhere is this more visible than in the small animal rehabilitation unit.

Typically, in any given week, all year long, the hospital performs eight or ten orthopedic surgeries, most of them for dogs with broken bones or back issues. Nearly all of these cases are referred to rehabilitation post-surgery. Depending on the type of injury, age and lifestyle of the animal, and other factors, doctors prescribe a rehab program that may include massage, exercise therapy, ultrasound, hydrotherapy, laser therapy, and more. In fact, patients at the VTH seem to have more post-op rehab options than many humans. Have you ever heard of a friend or relative who regularly used an underwater treadmill following knee surgery?

Rehab Offers Many Options

The underwater treadmill room in the hospital is a busy place, handling lots of dogs with arthritis, as well as post-surgery dogs and cats. Underwater treadmills provide weight-bearing reduction while the warm water and exercise facilitates muscle relaxation and tendon stretch; they are used primarily to improve muscle strength and limb function. They also improve range of motion in compromised joints. The dogs like the water, the attention, and the treats.

Dogs also enjoy exercise therapy. Just like in humans, core strength is important in animals: it helps take pressure off the four limbs. “We use treats to make them repeat sitting and standing,” says rehab technician David Meyer. “It’s equivalent to a human lunge; it strengthens the abdominal muscles. We also do a lot of balance work on the inflatable balls and wobble boards – different ones for different functions.”

Another therapy: Cold lasers that dilate blood vessels and bring more oxygen to injured areas. “Laser therapy also creates fibroplasts which are the cornerstone of healing,” says Meyer. The rehab unit uses cold laser therapy in many patients, but it is especially beneficial for back patients.  “It used to be that six months after surgery, your dog’s condition was the best it would be for the rest of his life: if he was walking, great; if he was stumbling, or in a cart, that was it,” says Meyer. “Now we see, with laser therapy, hydrotherapy and physical therapy, most dogs recover and are back to walking within three months.”

Acupuncture For All Kinds Of Animals

Dr. Jacob Mecham has used acupuncture successfully on alpacas, sheep, dogs, cats, horses, a turkey vulture, and even a chicken. “The chicken couldn’t walk,” says Mecham. “I did one acupuncture treatment and by the next day, he was extending his legs, and by day three he was walking.”

Dr. Mecham is the OSU mobile equine veterinarian and is certified in acupuncture. He uses it primarily for pain control, or quality of life issues. “It is not a magic bullet that fixes everything,” he says. “In the past, you either did western medicine or eastern medicine, but now we integrate them to get the best possible outcome for the patient. Western medicine has so many great tools for diagnosis and treatment. Acupuncture adds another tool.”

What does he say to skeptics?  “Try it. It works.”

Dr. Mecham is also certified in veterinary chiropractics, which he most often uses for horses with symptoms that appear to be pain-related.  For example, Dr. Mecham recently treated a horse who was having trouble chewing. The owner thought he had a broken tooth. “When he came to the hospital, the students fed him a treat. The horse tried to get it positioned in his mouth so he could chew it, but ended up spitting most of it out,” says Mecham. “I had just done a dental on that horse, so I thought a tooth problem was unlikely. I felt his neck and found the first vertebrae out of alignment. I did one adjustment, gave him another treat, and he chewed fine. The students were blown away,” he laughs.

Students Advocate For Integrated Medicine

The Integrative Medicine Club at OSU is a group of students whose goal is to raise awareness of alternatives to traditional medicine. “We provide a lot of lunch talks,” says member Danielle Daw (Class of 2018). “We have brought in people to talk about Chinese medicine and holistic medicine. We had a raw food panel.” The raw food topic, in particular, pulled in a large audience, not all students.

“I took a little liberty with the club this year,” says member Lauren Clarke (Class of 2017). “I organized a raw food panel even though I knew it was a controversial topic.” The raw food panel included Dr. Craig Ruaux, a VTH specialist in gastrointestinal health, and Dr. Keith Weingard, a Portland veterinarian who is very interested in animal nutrition. “They brought up a lot of points that vet students, and the veterinarians in the audience, hadn’t thought about before,” says Clarke. “It was a really good talk because the whole audience was involved. There were lots of skeptics asking pointed questions, and people even approached me afterwards.”

For the first time this year, the club provided acupuncture demonstrations at their Pet Day booth. “A lot of people came to those,” says Clarke. “They had lots of questions about alternative medicine.”

The Integrative Medicine Club has also had an impact on Daw’s future as a veterinarian. “I wanted to do surgery for a long time, but this year I’ve changed to internal medicine,” she says. “The club definitely had an influence, thinking about the whole animal, bettering the animal’s health instead of just focusing on the disease process.”

Both Clarke and Daw will soon be attending classes in Florida to obtain a certification in acupuncture. “People in the veterinary field seem to be surprised that we offer acupuncture at the VTH,” says Daw. “I think as it becomes more accepted in human medicine, it will do the same in veterinary medicine.

The team who keeps the OSU College of Veterinary Medicine farm running (L to R): Kasey Pedder, Peter McPartlin, Ashley Silkett-Butler, and Kim Veldman.
The team who keeps the OSU College of Veterinary Medicine farm running (L to R): Kasey Pedder, Peter McPartlin, Ashley Silkett-Butler, and Kim Veldman.

On an average day, the large animal hospital houses 25-30 animals. Those animals receive stellar medical treatment from doctors and veterinary technicians, plus an extra dose of attentive care from fourth-year veterinary students. But who provides for their basic needs?

That is where Peter McPartlin comes in. As farm manager, he oversees a team of animal attendants and student workers who not only care for hospital animals, but also for the teaching herd.  “We have five llamas and alpacas here, and roughly 15 horses, and two cows,” he says. “There are 30 llamas over at RAIL [the field on Campus Way]. We have a lot of pasture for them there. The RAIL folks check them every day. If they have any problems, we pick them up and bring them here.”

A typical day for McPartlin and his team begins at 6 a.m. with the first hospital feeding. Then they clean and disinfect stalls. A couple of hours later, they can turn their attention to the teaching herd and farm chores. Afterwards, they go back to the hospital for the afternoon feeding.

Between hospital patients and herd animals, the college goes through about 72 tons of hay per year, and about 20,000 pounds of feed or grain.

Horses are, by far, the highest maintenance animals in the teaching herd. “You have a big animal that walks on four little legs, and when they are outside in a herd, they act like a group of teenagers,” says McPartlin. “They are always fooling around.”  Sometimes, that creates more work for the farm manager.

“Last month, a mare named Pearl was in a separate paddock with her best friend,” says McPartlin. “I put them there to eat down some grass. She decided that she didn’t like being there, and jumped the fence to be with the other horses.” The fence is four feet high, and Pearl is not a youngster, so she hit the fence and got a big knot on her leg. “I spent one morning fixing the fence she ruined,” says McPartlin.

The horses also get extra care for their feet, from a farrier who comes once a month, and for their teeth, from Dr. Mecham, the herd veterinarian.

In addition to animal care, McPartlin is responsible for keeping the basic operation running. He does everything from repair hoses in the hospital to changing the oil in the tractor. His team even keeps the hospital parking lot tidy.

McPartlin supervises three, full-time animal attendants and about eight, part-time student workers. “The animal attendants are my right hand; I could not do this without them,” says McPartlin. “The student workers are also a valuable part of what we do.”

Some of the student workers come from farms, and have been around large animals before. Others are animal lovers, but need more training to work with the herd. “They maybe had dogs that they loved, and they are thinking about being a veterinarian,” says McPartlin, “but I need to make sure they are comfortable working with large animals before I turn them loose in a stall. They have to be able to read an animal, and understand how it will react under certain conditions, so no one gets hurt.”

One of the things McPartlin likes best about his job is interacting with the fourth-year students on rotation in the hospital. “I walk around the hospital quite a bit, so they stop me and ask for help with the practical aspects of what they are doing. I like to show them what works best.”

His advice often deals with the nuts-and-bolts of hospital issues, sometimes literally. “We have a commercial washer that gets messed up when people leave stuff in their coveralls. I’ve always got screws in mine.  I try to remind everyone to turn their pockets inside-out before they stuff them in the laundry,” he says.

Another challenge for the washing machines is the amount of stall debris clinging to everything. “The leg wraps from the horses get full of sawdust, which clogs things up,” says McPartlin. “I saw a student in the hall yesterday shaking one off, so I stopped and said ‘Great job. That is exactly what we should be doing’.”

That kind of positive interaction with people is something that McPartlin consciously strives to achieve. He sees it as part of the OSU mission to create an environment for people to grow.

“As our society has gotten busier, we don’t always watch our words, or are not as kind as we should be,” he says. “I think when you are working with young people, it is especially important. My team and I try to ‘lay out the red carpet’ for their learning.” McPartlin also extends that courtesy to his staff and coworkers. ”Each of us has to take the responsibility to create a positive environment.”

Ron and Marlene Izatt stopped by the college to have lunch with veterinary students.
Ron and Marlene Izatt stopped by the college to have lunch with veterinary students Erika Wakabayashi, Melanie Peel, Jessica Rigling, and Laurel Anderson.

A veterinary college is chock full of people who love animals. From highly skilled surgeons in the hospital, to investigators in the laboratories, to students who volunteer at shelters, they all work hard to provide the best possible lives for animals. Outside the college, but integrally connected, is another group of animal lovers: those who work as partners by learning about college goals, and providing the missing pieces needed to reach new heights of excellence.

Ron and Marlene Izatt are that kind of animal lover. At home on their acreage in southeast Washington, they have two dogs and a horse, but in the past, they have had as many as four horses, four dogs, and four cats. It seems to depend on what their neighbors are up to.

“The neighbor’s dog brought Miss Poppy home when she was about six months old,” says Marlene. “She ran with that dog for a month or two, but because she wasn’t potty-trained, they left her outside in the dead of winter. You can’t do that with a Chihuahua, so another neighbor took her home, and I offered to potty-train her.”  One thing led to another, and Miss Poppy ended up a member of the Izatt family. Lucky dog.

Their other dog, Jackson, was dropped off at a farm nearby. “They get a lot of dogs dropped off out there, so they were going to shoot him,” says Marlene. “I went and got him and was bringing him home, driving 60 miles per hour down the highway, and the poor dog apparently thought I was going to drop him off again so he climbed into my lap . . . and he is a big dog!” Marlene took Jackson to a rescue group, but she felt so terrible, imagining him in a car headed somewhere else, she called the group and asked to adopt him. “They had already shipped Jackson to a shelter in Portland, and had him on a website for adoption, so I drove down and got him, and he’s been ours ever since.”

The Izatts also drove way out of their way to get their horse: about 300 miles to the Steens Mountains in southeast Oregon. There the Bureau of Land Management is desperately in need of adoptive families for their 40,000 wild mustangs. “I really try to get people to go there and get horses from them, because they are such awesome animals,” says Marlene.

Now the Izatts are showing their love of animals by supporting veterinary students.

Ron Izatt is an OSU alumnus, but he and Marlene were more familiar with the hospital at Washington State University, where they had received excellent care for their dog. They had been discussing ways to help support the WSU hospital, when a chance meeting with OSU Dean of Pharmacy, Mark Zabriskie, steered them in another direction. “He said, ‘But you are an OSU alumni; wouldn’t you like to help us?’” says Ron. Zabriskie gave them a quick update on the accomplishments of the OSU College of Veterinary Medicine, and encouraged them to investigate further.

“I went on the internet to look up OSU Vet Med and I was really impressed,” says Ron. After several conversations with Development Director Kelley Marchbanks, the Izatts made a decision: as part of their estate planning, they have committed funds to establish the Ronald and Marlene Izatt Veterinary Endowed Scholarship Fund, which will provide a full-ride, expenses-paid, fourth year for an exceptional veterinary student. This estate gift will have a big impact on the future, but the Izatts also wanted to help now, so they provided additional funds to support a scholarship this year.

Why did they choose scholarship funding? “Vet students have a tremendous debt, and don’t earn as much as medical doctors,” says Ron. In fact, the average debt for a graduating veterinary student in the U.S. is $150,000, and the average starting salary is $68,000. The OSU College of Veterinary Medicine works hard to provide scholarship relief for their students. In 2016, every student in the college who applied for scholarships, received some level of support. That could not have been done without friends like Ron and Marlene Izatt.