By Ron VandenBoom
You may not think of a cow as a very intelligent animal, but to Dr. Lisa Ritchey, an associate veterinarian at Bear Paw Veterinary Service in Havre, theyre a lot smarter than they look.
Theres a lot more to them than people give them credit for, Ritchey said.
She tells the story of the rancher who once told her how stupid he used to think cattle were and how amazed he is today when hes finally able to outsmart one.
Ritchey has learned herself how true the story is by having worked with cattle for four years in the Malta area and now as the newest addition to Bear Paw Veterinary Service in Havre, where she works with Dr. Paul McCann.
I always wanted to work with cattle, she said. I think its because we get to work with the whole spectrum from preg testing in the fall and vaccinating the animal, to dealing with nutrition throughout the winter. Then comes springtime, we get to deal with the calving process and all that that involves.
Ritcheys desire to work with cattle led her to do her internship in Malta a place she chose because she knew it was cattle country.
After graduating from Oregon State University in May 1995 she returned to Malta where she said she knew there was a high percentage of cattle work. And thats what I wanted to do, she said.
Theres nothing like delivering a live calf and you know that if you hadnt been there the calf and/or the cow would have died, she said.
Four years in Malta has somewhat mellowed her preference for cattle and today she has found she enjoys the small animals more than she thought she would.
And horses, too, she added.
About 50 percent of the patients coming to Bear Paw Veterinary Service are house pets, she said, compared to only about 20 percent in Malta.
To many people, their pets are like family, she said. Im sensitive to that.
Bear Paw Veterinary Service is a full-service facility with all of the latest diagnostic equipment including X-ray, ultrasound machines, and a machine to run blood chemistry.
Surgery is also no problem at Bear Paw. Housing is available for animals just coming out of surgery or for those that need to be kept for observation.
Ritchey did note, however, that Havre is not a large enough community to support professional specialties or provide all the treatments that may be available. So they are not afraid to refer patients to specialists in other communities if the need develops.
Other than that, Ritchey said, they will treat any animal ailment that comes through the door for horses, cows, pigs, or domestic animals.
Ritchey said she likes working at Bear Paw because it is busier than her Malta practice. Having two veterinarians on staff is also nice, she added.
Its always good to work with another veterinarian, Ritchey said. Theres always things you can learn working with somebody else.
She went on to explain that other doctors might do things a little differently especially if they have been in practice longer.
I dont think I ever want to practice alone, she said. I like the idea of having someone else to bounce ideas off of. Its really nice to discuss cases. They might have a different perspective.
Ritchey also appreciates the idea of having another doctor on staff that can share the workload, days off, and emergency calls.
Veterinarians are on call 24 hours a day for emergencies. But being able to share responsibility for emergency calls in the evening and on weekends gives the doctors a well deserved rest. This can be especially true during the months of October and November when pregnancy testing and vaccinations are taking place.
Bear Paw Veterinary Service is open from 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday - Friday and 8 a.m. to noon on Saturday.
Ritchey recommends that customers call 265-8901 to make appointments in advance to insure one of the doctors will be available.