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Bricelyn vet has many animal tales

By Staff | Jan 26, 2009

It is not love at first sight when an animal looks you in the eye, especially if you are a veterinarian.

Jack Peterson can attest to the truth of this as he admits some of his animal clients decide to go to the other side of the pasture when they see his truck coming.

Thankfully, the lanky, laid-back Bricelyn veterinarian grew up with animals and has always had a special touch when working with and caring for them since his love for them dates back to his childhood and school years.

“I had an Ag teacher at Garden City High School who recognized my skill with animals,” recalls Peterson. “He also was my FFA advisor and had watched me show cattle. He highly recommended I study veterinary medicine. From his army years, this man had some inside information about the veterinary medicine issue. With his guidance, I wound up at Oklahoma State with a basketball scholarship and worked toward my degree in veterinary medicine,” says Peterson of his career journey.

“I wish I could go back and thank him for being such a wonderful influence on my life,” says Peterson as he recalls some of his ‘vet tails.’

He has enjoyed the work ever since he first began practicing medicine in Iowa.

“After two years in Iowa,” says Peterson, “Dr. LeRoy Nelson contacted me. He needed a partner in his veterinary business in Bricelyn and knew of me since my wife was raised there.”

Since 1960, farmers from northern Iowa, Albert Lea, Minnesota Lake and the area between Bricelyn and Blue Earth have worked with Peterson. His name has become synonymous with horses, rodeo and roping, in addition to veterinary medicine.

When he first began, he said there were a lot of farms in the area. The farmers always raised milk and beef cows as well as pigs. Now, the old family farm no longer exists and the livestock industry has changed.

“Because this area has such rich farmland, farmers are using the land for grain crops. They can’t afford to pasture good land,” he says.

“In the 1960s, I worked with a high percentage of cattle and pigs. I used to do sheep too. They are the farmer’s ‘lawn mower’ but aren’t my favorite animal, partly because they give up so easily,” he says before explaining “a sick sheep is often a dead sheep.”

“The trend today is in dogs and cats,” says Peterson. “One doesn’t see many cattle in the area anymore. The biggest herds around here probably range from 100-700 cattle and there are very few of those,” states Peterson.

The primary services Dr. Peterson provides at the Bricelyn Veterinary Clinic are surgical procedures such as spaying and neutering, administering vaccinationsand de-horning cattle. He also performs tumor removals and amputations as needed, but says all his surgical cases go home immediately. He does no boarding at the clinic.

“I refer all the x-ray duties out too, because the cost for supplies is greater than the demand here,” he explains. However, he does carry antibiotics and many other supplies for people to purchase when they are needed by the animal owners.

Growing up with animals has helped in his job, says Peterson. He particularly enjoys working with horses and cattle. Presently, he works little with swine and states he doesn’t miss the hog dust at all, since it is quite dangerous to a person’s health.

“Horses are not the average vets favorite, unless you have a bond with them,” says Peterson. “They are more powerful, quick and dangerous than most of the other animals veterinarians see,” he says.

“Some horses you have to be afraid of,” says Peterson, who personally owns six horses. “Horses know if you are a horseman or not and they behave accordingly when approached,” he says.

“I recall going to a farm once and the guy explained to me that his horse usually went absolutely nuts around vets. He thought our encounter would end up by being a small war. He couldn’t believe it when I worked with the horse and had no problem,” confesses Peterson.

But he also can relate stories of panicked horses running over their owners and tangling with him as well.

An enthusiast of Dr. James Herriot’s book series “All Creatures Great and Small,” Peterson says they are medically authentic as well as being entertaining. He also could write novels about his experiences over the years.

For instance, one could be entitled ‘Dr. Jack and the Psycho Cow,’ It is about a widow lady who milked cows with the assistance of her son. Her cow developed milk fever and passed out. Even though the woman knew there was something about this cow not liking strangers, Dr. Peterson was called. While Peterson was administering an IV to the animal, it rose up, knocked the son into the wall, ran down the widow lady and began pounding on the widow by butting her with the top of her head. The ‘psycho’ cow then chased Peterson down. He was able to grab her by the halter and in her panicked state she hoisted Peterson from the floor to his feet before he was able to control her.

Then there is the tale about the guy with the slow accent who lived near the Kiester hills. It could be called ‘Junkyard Mama.’ Dr. Peterson says he often got calls during calfing season from this guy and knew he would need a horse in order to track down the birthing cow. Indeed, he wound up chasing down the animal who ran through a stream and junk piles before Peterson was able to rope it. He then tied the cow to a tree, performed a c-section, sewed the cow up and watched as she walked away abandoning her calf. Still looking at the wacky situation, Peterson noted another cow walking up and adopting the calf with no questions asked.

Another story Peterson could write is ‘The Great Escape.’ This incident took place several years ago when David O’Rourke was loading about 100 head of cattle into a truck. For some reason, the cattle got away and were roaming around I-90. Peterson and several other horsemen came to the rescue riding horses and roping the escapees. Unfortunately, many of the cattle were roaming the countryside all summer before finally being captured by the horsemen.

An accomplished artist, Peterson recreated the action surrounding ‘The Great Escape’ by making pencil drawings of the event. He says this was his way of reliving it, since he didn’t have a video camera with him at the time.

He recalls how his horse overtook one of the steers by I-90 before he could rope it. A tremendous impact resulted as his horse and the steer began to fight while he tried to remain in the saddle.

Probably the most memorable and highly publicized case he has been involved with was seven years ago. A Minnesota Lake horse had contracted Eastern Equine Encephalitis, a mosquito-borne viral disease which is very deadly and can be transmitted to humans.

“I was called to help determine a diagnosis. It could have been rabies or West Nile. Diagnosis is a team thing, but I had to guide them and give them my suspicions in order to speed up the actual diagnosis. I sent blood samples to the University of Minnesota who determined this was the first case of Eastern Equine Encephalitis ever to strike Minnesota. The horse died, but fortunately there was not exposure to people,” recalls Peterson.

Other trends Peterson and his Surgical Assistant and Business Manager, Lori Olson have observed in recent years is keeping exotic pets such as bobcats and skunks.

“I discourage exotic animal treatment,” says Peterson. “Years ago it was a cool thing to de-scent a skunk and try to raise it as a pet. Unfortunately, all skunks look alike, so one never knew if the animal had been de-scented or not, plus skunks carry rabies. It was a dangerous pet to keep.”

He says animals are unpredictable and can be dangerous, so he questions why anyone would deliberately own a nasty animal.

“I can work and deal with Pit Bulls,” says Peterson, “but it doesn’t mean they are safe to others.”

Vaccines and new antibiotics are definitely the greatest advances in veterinary medicine Peterson has seen in his years in business.

In addition to the decline in farms and livestock, Peterson notes he started with about 20 distributors. Now he deals with about five, due to company mergers in recent times.

He also used to drive a lot of miles to treat horses. Now people are bringing them to his indoor arena. Richard Bergsather, a retired Telex employee, assists Peterson with some of the horse work.

Peterson has also been injured on the job, but shrugs it off as simply being in the line of duty for a veterinarian.

“I have enjoyed the variety of my work,” says a reflective Peterson. “I don’t think I have ever been bored, because there has always been something different happening with the animals.”

“I still have a story to tell my wife every night.”