Veterinary clinic at 'tail' end of its lifespan
Dr. Na-te McFarlane (left), veterinarian for the Fort McPherson Veterinary Treatment Facility, draws blood from Murphy, a 4-year-old mixed breed dog during an examination Feb. 10. Murphy's owner, Lt. Col. Melissa Nelson (right), a retention officer with the Army Reserves Careers Division, U.S. Army Reserves Command, has been a regular at the clinic for four years. The clinic will be reducing most of its services after Feb. 24.

Life may get a little "ruffer" (rougher) for pet owners on Fort McPherson and Fort Gillem with the scheduled reduction of services offered by the Fort McPherson Veterinary Treatment Facility.

The facility will cease offering diagnosis, vaccines, heartworm tests and the sale of pet products after Feb. 24, said Capt. Margaret Carl, doctor of veterinary medicine and clinic officer in charge.

The reduction of services is due to the upcoming closure of Fort McPherson in September 2011 as part of BRAC.

"We were planning on closing in 2011," Carl said. "This is much earlier than expected." The news wore heavily on customers, many who have been using the facility for years.

"I've been coming here for a while. The docs here are great and the service here is fantastic," said Stas Preczewski, vice president of academic and student affairs, Georgia Gwinett College. "I'm really sorry to see this close."

Preczewski, a retired Army colonel, was at the clinic Feb. 10 with his dog, Toby, a 1-year-old rescue dog from a Gwinnett shelter, to get treatment for a rash on Toby's skin.

Preczewski also regularly visited the center for Toby's annual shots and checkups.

"You want to keep your dog healthy. He's part of the Family," he said. Strong bonds were created between a number of customers and the staff at the center over the years, causing some additional sadness at seeing the facility close.

"I'm going to miss the people, the Soldiers," said Dr. Na-te McFarlane, veterinarian for the clinic. "A majority of the people I met here were good."

McFarlane, who has worked at the center for five years, described those years as a "real good experience" that opened her eyes to many things about the military.

Although her job was to look at animals, she also got to look beyond her perception of the Army as one large entity and see it as more of a collection of unique people.

"I got to see people on an individual level," she said. "I've met some honest, genuine people (from) generals down to privates. I admire all who serve."

In addition to her memories, McFarlane said she'll also hold onto the accomplishments she was part of during her tenure, such as starting a spaying and neutering program.

Carl, who has been at the facility since 2008, had her own share of special memories, such as finding an abnormal heart murmur in a pet while mentoring a student and alerting the owners of the potentially fatal factor so they could take necessary actions.

Despite doing such important work, especially when it saved or improved an animal's quality of life, the facility was able to charge a nominal fee compared to outside veterinary facilities, McFarlane said.

Those financial savings, along with the bonds formed with veterinarians at the clinic, will be missed by 1st Sgt. Alan Nelson, first sergeant, Army Reserves Small Arms Readiness Group, 84th Reserve Support Command, 70th Training Division, and his wife, Lt. Col. Melissa Nelson, a retention officer with the Army Reserves Careers Division, U.S. Army Reserves Command.

The couple, who have been using the facility for four years to receive shots, health certificates and routine care for their dog, Murphy, were present Feb. 10 to get vaccinations, heartworm medication and to pick up Murphy's records.

"I'm going to miss it," Melissa said of the clinic's services. Although the center will be closed most days after Wednesday, Carl said she hopes to offer some services. "I hope to continue to provide exams," Carl said, adding she hopes to be able to schedule one day a week to give physical exams and provide health certificates.

More-specified care will have to be provided by an outside veterinarian.

"I'm thinking of doing Mondays," Carl said, although adding it will depend on when she has time from other duties. Such appointments will be available to anyone with an ID card that says "access to medical care," Carl said.

In the meantime, people can still go to the center to get their pet's records and purchase remaining pet care products, such as heartworm prevention medicine, flea and tick control medicine and shampoos. Patrons may also be able to make vaccine appointments for next Tuesday and Wednesday, although Carl said most vaccine appointment time slots have been filled.

No matter what happens Wednesday, the days before were filled with pride at a job well done. "It's been a pleasure serving everyone," Carl said. "I'm glad to have been able to provide discounted health care, especially in this economy."

Page last updated Thu February 18th, 2010 at 15:07