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A caring healer

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Photos submitted A youngster gets to listen to the heartbeat of a rabbit during a field trip to Dr. Vincent (right). Little Friends Preschool visits each year to learn about veterinary medicine (below, right).

Norman Vincent knew when he was in third grade that he would become a veterinarian.

He lived on a farm with his family. One of their cows had given birth to a calf and the cow could not stand up. His dad called the veterinarian, Dr. Page, who told dad and son that the cow had milk fever. Dr. Page treated the cow and she became able to stand and take care of her calf.

Norman said to Dr. Page, "When I get older I'm going to vet school and be like you."

Dr. Page told the young boy some of the things he would face as a veterinarian.

"Some of the things Dr. Page told me were about disadvantages of being a veterinarian, but I didn't care. I still knew I was going to be a veterinarian," Dr. Vincent said.

Norman Vincent grew up in Fruita, graduating from Fruita High School in 1969. His wife Connie was from Hotchkiss, graduating from Hotchkiss High School in 1971. They met in college and married while they were in college.

Norman and Connie knew they wanted to come to the North Fork for his veterinary practice. "A small town in western Colorado is a good place to raise kids," Dr. Vincent said.

Norman graduated from Colorado State University Veterinary School in 1979. He worked for a year for veterinarians Dr. Dave Gallob and Dr. Bob Wood in Grand Junction. Both veterinarians had graduated from Paonia High School. Both told Dr. Vincent it was "always a good time to go to the North Fork."

Dr. Vincent established his practice as North Fork Veterinary Clinic 38 years ago.

Norman and Connie reared their two children -- Vickie Lucille and Andrew Lee -- in the North Fork.

"Andy lives in Peoria, Ill., and is an emergency room doctor," Dr. Vincent said.

"Vickie lives in Cañon City, teaches education classes at night at CSU Pueblo and is active with students at CSU Pueblo."

Dr. Vincent says his patients are similar to those of other veterinarians. "I see stock dogs, backyard dogs and some expensive high breed dogs." He sees cats and other pets. Formerly, he saw large animals, too, but hasn't for about the last ten years.

Dr. Vincent performs a lot of surgeries.

"I had a llama patient where I had to do a C-Section. She couldn't deliver her baby so I had to cut the baby out of the mama. After I reversed the anesthesia on the mama she stood up and started taking care of her baby.

"There were some older kids observing surgeries that day," Dr. Vincent recalled.

"Dogs get stones in their bladders and, sometimes with their human companion watching, I cut out the blood-colored stone."

He tells about Ruby, a three-legged dog.

"She had been hit by a car and the hit tore the nerve roots off her left front shoulder. The accident had happened about a week before in Grand Junction. When she came in she had a hernia in her chest and the shoulder was decomposing. She was toxic. I amputated her leg under the shoulder, kept giving her antibiotics and fluids and in time she recovered," he said.

"I do a lot of surgeries on knee caps because they pop out. The dog will be walking well within two weeks of surgery.

"I did the knees on Popis, a chihuahua, yesterday (Jan. 11)."

Dr. Vincent spoke about the nature of surgery. "When I am doing knees or a shoulder, I have to have two or three hours for the surgery. Time is needed to prep for the surgery and sometimes the surgery itself takes a longer time. It's not something I can just walk about from.

"I don't go home until everything is done, whether it is 6:00 at night or 1:00 in the morning. I still get up in the middle of the night for an emergency. There are some 80-hour weeks. I'm here early, get home late, and work weekends.

"But I'm not special. All vets do that," Dr. Vincent asserted.

Asked how he counsels the human companion who brings to him their animal when its life appears to be in danger, he replied, "A lot depends on the problem and what can be done, whether it is short-term or long-term, whether you can add comfort or can't add comfort.

"We examine our options and what outcome we can expect, whether surgery is an option or whether medications will help.

"If you have a Lab dog, whose life span is 12 to 14 years, and treatment will add two more years to its life, you may want to try for those two more years.

"But if it is cancer, we can't be sure of the quality of its life.

"Just because you can't be certain of the outcome doesn't mean you don't try," he said.

Dr. Vincent works with the CAWS animal welfare group on a regular basis.

"I treat cats with sore eyes, cats with ear infections, abdominal problems, lots of medical care, lots of surgeries," he said.

"Every other Wednesday CAWS brings two to eight animals in for spay or neuter.

"CAWS paid $500.00 for surgery on a dog with a broken leg.

"We treated Lincoln, a paralyzed dachshund, applying our laser therapy to his neck and back for a month. And one day he stood up. Sometime later his human companion sent us a picture of Lincoln swimming across a little lake," he said with a big smile.

Dr. Vincent also works with the Humane Society, Cedaredge Animal Control and other welfare animal groups. These groups pay part of the animal veterinary expenses.

"I enjoy working with these animal welfare groups and I chip in to help. I try to be as reasonable as I can but I can't give it all away," he said.

"I became a veterinarian not to be rich but because it is what I wanted to do. If a dog comes in and it can't walk, or can't eat, and I can help, that's what is so exciting."

Dr. Vincent shares his enthusiasm for the veterinary profession with others, too.

Paonia High School student Taylor Carsten currently is doing a work study program with Dr. Vincent. Taylor's sister completed the same program earlier. North Fork Veterinary Clinic staff member Marta Greer's daughter wants to be a veterinarian and she observes surgery with Dr. Vincent.

For years, students from Little Friends Preschool took an annual field trip to North Fork Veterinary Clinic. Dr. Vincent would show them surgery equipment and put a dog or cat up on the surgery table for the students to look over and ask questions about the animal.

"It's an exciting profession," Dr. Vincent says, "and it's always changing. I go back for continuing education classes every year to maintain my license. The classes are held over three to four days with two or three different seminar subjects. I like to listen to other people's experiences. Someone who has been in the profession for 40 years has a lot to talk about.

"And we veterinarians in the area get together to talk about what's going on."

Dr. Vincent works with a highly committed staff. Christy Middleton has been with him for 10 years; Nancy Middleton about 9-1⁄2 years; and Marta Greer also about 9-1⁄2 years.

Friends Preschool visits each year to learn about veterinary medicine.
Popis, a Chihuahua, who had knee surgery on Jan. 11.
Dr. Vincent and Ruby, the three-legged dog, who received surgery by Dr. Vincent after being hit by a car.
Dr. Vincent, waving to the crowd, during the 4th of July parade in Paonia.
In 2013, Dr. Norman Vincent was awarded the State Veterinary Partnership Award for his work in partnership with animal health care providers to expand the support network for homeless and stray animals. From the left are John Martindale (CAWS board member), Dr. Vincent, and technical staff Christy Middleton, Nancy Middleton and Marta Greer.
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