Red Deer can lay claim to the 2014 Veterinarian of the Year.
On Saturday night, Dr. John Dugan Sr. received the prestigious award from the Alberta Veterinary Medical Association at the ABVMA’s membership recognition banquet in Calgary.
Veterinarian of the Year is one of the highest awards the association can bestow on a member, and is presented to those who make outstanding contributions to veterinary medicine or veterinary science.
Dugan, who has been practising for 61 years, said he decided to become a veterinarian at age 15 while working on a dairy farm in northern Vermont, where he saw the local veterinarian perform what appeared to be “miracles.”
Dugan saw the veterinarian save a cow suffering from milk fever; successfully treat a horse with a badly swollen neck; diagnose blackleg in a deceased heifer to protect the rest of the herd; and save the life of a mixed-breed collie by amputating its leg.
“By miracle number four, I was hooked and I decided then and there somehow, someway, I’d be a veterinarian. And I did,” said Dugan, who is the veterinary surgeon at Red Deer Veterinary Clinic, at 7171 50th Ave.
But Dugan didn’t expect to be practising twice as long as he anticipated — with no retirement date circled on the calendar.
“I learn something every day. I suppose that would be the time to quit, when I cease learning,” said the veterinarian, who was given an honourary life membership by the Alberta Veterinary Medical Association a few years ago.
“I never know what’s going to come through that door. There’s all kinds of challenges.”
Animal care is a way of life for Dugan, who started his practice in Red Deer in 1955.
With an estimated 4,000 patients on file, they include families who have been bringing their pets to Dugan for three generations.
“It’s been great. It’s not a job.”
Dugan, who attends an annual veterinary conference in Banff to stay up-to-date on what is new in animal care, said veterinary medicine just continues to evolve.
But one thing that never changes is the amazing relationship people can have with their pets, he said.
“The human-animal bond is very important. For some of the older people, that’s all they have.”
Dugan was nominated for his latest award by veterinary toxicologist Dr. Robert Coppock, of Vegreville, Both Dugan and Coppock have volunteered with the University of Calgary’s Faculty of Veterinarian Medicine to interview students vying for admission.
Dugan said news of his latest award came as a complete surprise.
“You could have knocked me over with a feather. I was caught flat-footed this time.”