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Tuesday, March 02, 2004
2004 Progress Edition
Veterinarian changes with the times
BY CANDICE NOVITZKE / THE CHIPPEWA HERALD
LAKE HALLIE -- Charles Arntson hasn't just been a veterinarian for 34 years. He's also a pet owner willing to do just about anything to keep his companions comfortable.
"Our children are grown up and gone now, so our dogs are our children," Arntson said.
He and his wife Mary live with a blind 13-year-old Yorkshire terrier, Nellie, and a 9-year-old bulldog, Bud. Nellie has memorized the layout of their house and can find her way around and jump up on her favorite chair.
"I think her quality of life is there, and she's adapted to her environment," he said. "It's sometimes a challenge, but she's worth it."
Practicing veterinary medicine was always in the back of Arntson's mind, but he didn't embrace it at first.
"I must have known because in ninth grade I picked veterinary medicine to research for an occupation," he said. "Afterwards I thought, 'I'll never do that,' but one thing led to another and pretty soon I was doing it."
He graduated from the University of Minnesota, and has been helping people keep their pets healthy ever since. For the past 13 years, he's practiced veterinary medicine at Kindness Animal Hospital in Lake Hallie.
Receptionist Shari Hause has worked at the clinic for 5 1/2 years, and says Arntson chose the right profession.
"He really loves what he does for a living," Hause said. "I think he has a great relationship with the animals he treats and the clients that come in."
It's also apparent to his clients that he cares about their pets.
"To me he's a 21st century St. Francis of Assisi," said Marlys Larson of Lake Hallie. "He goes above and beyond."
Arntson treats multiple stray cats that Larson has adopted. On several occasions he's made house calls for Larson, to make treatments less stressful for her and the cats.
Besides dogs and cats, he cares for the health needs of quite a few birds.
"I try to do any animals people want me to look at," he said. "I enjoy that part of it. Birds have their own unique set of problems different from dogs and cats."
He has treated hamsters, ferrets and reptiles for pet owners. White Pine Wildlife Rehabilitation sometimes brings injured wild animals for Arntson to examine. He's seen a porcupine, loon and baby owl.
A loon mistook an icy blacktopped country road for water, and ended up not able to take off after landing.
"It was just beat up from the road and dislocated its toe," Arntson said.
A baby great horned owl fell out of its nest but was otherwise in good shape. It was returned to the nest and the mother claimed it, he said. Another happy ending.
He's seen the attitudes of pet owners change for the better over the years.
"People are much more willing to have tests done on their pet than they used to," he said. "I think people are more bonded to pets than ever before. Pets are in the same category as children for many people."
But the job still has its difficult parts. It's tough for Arntson to recommend second choices that don't cost as much if owners can't afford the best treatment.
"Some things you know should be done but can't be," he said. "That's the disappointing part of the job."
When pets don't survive, he feels the sting of loss.
"Sometimes you do everything you possibly can, but it's not enough," he said. "That's hard. As a pet owner myself, I can relate to the distress."
Modern technology has made certain things about Arntson's job easier today than when he first became a vet.
A processor develops and prints x-rays in three minutes. Instead of examining blood samples by hand, they're placed in a digital reader and a computer reads the information.
Veterinary medicine has also advanced, and there are more recognized diseases as well as complicated techniques to counter them.
"You need the technology just to keep up," he said.
Wellness testing is another new trend, as is preventive dental care.
"Sometimes I'm a veterinary dentist!" Arntson said with a chuckle.
One issue that remains challenging is the few pet owners who insist on letting their pet reproduce.
"A lot of people have the impression that if they have one litter, they'll be a better pet," he said. "But I disagree with that. I try to point out that there are many unwanted pets out there."
More people these days are keeping pets on a leash, in part because of laws. Arntson's glad fewer pets are being injured in accidents.
"I used to see a lot more broken legs," he said. "We still see them, but not nearly the number that we used to."
Arntson also uses the Internet to help him diagnose difficult cases. He can post images of an animal's condition to a specific web site. Specialists and veterinarians around the country view the photograph and offer their suggestions.
"I've been able to figure out a lot of cases using the site," he said.
He also enjoys taking digital photographs of happy pets before owners take them home.
"You get satisfaction of restoring a pet back to their health," Arntson said.
Reach Candice Novitzke at firstname.lastname@example.org.