EMILIE: Welcome to Plow and Pencil the art of American agriculture where like Ike, we recognize that farming looks mighty easy when your plow is a pencil over a thousand miles from the cornfield. The Plow and Pencil podcast will paint a picture of American agriculture. Today, we will tell the stories of the producers, the products, the policies, and the platforms that provide feed and fuel to our nation and our world. Join the movement of farmers, ranchers, and agriculture advocates plowing new ground and pencil us into your weekly podcast schedule. This podcast is brought to you by HitchPin.com. The tool thousands of farmers and ranchers are using to buy, sell, hire, and work in agriculture. Hello, HitchPin community. Welcome back to Plow and Pencil the art of American agriculture. I’m your host Emilie Fink. There’s a special bond that exists between animals and the people who love them. That same special bond also exists between veterinarians and their patients. No one understands this more than Dr. Steve Hodes. In fact, when Dr. Hodes opened his mobile veterinary clinic back in 1980, his goal was simple. Treat his patients with the same love and compassion as any two-legged family member would get from their doctor. Dr. Hodes graduated from Kansas State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine in 1979. Soon after graduating from K-State, Dr. Hodes and his wife Colleen established the homeless veterinary group and mobile veterinary service in Mine Hill, New Jersey, which eventually grew into practice with eight veterinarians serving both large and small animals. Steve and Colleen have three grown children and five grandchildren and now spend part of their year in Kansas where their son Brian and daughter-in-law Jess own and operate Hodes Veterinary Health Center in Rose Hill. In today’s episode, I’m sitting down with Dr. Hodes, who will share some incredible stories from his 40-plus-year career. And you’ll hear how the role of a veterinarian is woven throughout the tapestry of agriculture. Okay, Dr. Hodes, I like to start each of these podcasts with a little bit of ag trivia, I’m going to ask you a question that I assume a veterinarian will know the answer to right off the bat. How many compartments are there in a cow’s stomach?
DR. HODES: For four compartments.
EMILIE: Bonus points for naming all four of them.
DR. HODES: The rumen, the reticulum, the omasum, and the abomasum.
EMILIE: I put you on the spot with that question. And you’ve passed with flying colors.
DR. HODES: You didn’t give me advance warning question. And I had to pull that out because I haven’t had to answer that in quite a while.
EMILIE: Well K-State will be so proud, hopefully. Dr. Hodes, thank you so much for joining us for this Plow and Pencil podcast today. I’d like to start this podcast our viewers who are listeners who have listened to a couple of our episodes now are accustomed to me starting each of these at the 30,000-foot level. So tell me and tell our listeners who is Steve Hodes.
DR. HODES: Well, Steve Hodes is a individual that was adopted. And I like to tell people that because in the 1950s adopting children, I think was probably pretty difficult. My mother that raised me was not able to have children. She had a multitude of miscarriages. My dad and mom wanted to have a family. So they adopted me, my brother, and my sister, and we became part of a family. And it was always interesting growing up because my dad was about six feet tall. My mom was about 5’ 8”, and I’m not. And so that always people would look at that quizzically and say, what happened here? But that all said that I went to I grew up in Tenafly, New Jersey, and went on to college. And the funny thing about all that is, I was the oldest grandchild, the first one to go to college. And my grandmother, when I got accepted to Kansas State for veterinary school, my grandmother could not understand why I was going to be going to college for so many years to be an animal doctor. Why couldn’t I just be a real doctor? And so she would have these debates with my dad on with some frequency about so many years of all this investment. And why can’t he just be a real doctor? What’s this thing about an animal doctor so my dad had to kind of deal with that question pursued over time. Unfortunately, she did not live to see me graduate to see my career gets started. She passed away in 1978 or so and I graduated in 1979. And here we are.
EMILIE: So what led you to want to pursue a degree in veterinary medicine?
DR. HODES: I was an undergraduate at Ohio University. And it was a very tumultuous time, the 1970s. May 4, 1970, was when four kids were shot at Kent State in northern Ohio with Vietnam War being a contentious issue. And I was at Ohio University in southern Ohio. And after that event, they closed down all the universities in Ohio, and just send everybody home things were not under control. And we completed our quarter we were in quarters, not semesters, we completed our quarter by correspondence, we get tests mailed to us, and we took the test. And one of the things that we had to do before we came back in the fall was to pick a major. And so veterinary medicine intrigued me, which was probably a little bit peculiar because I was not the best student in high school. I didn’t apply myself I didn’t study tremendously hard. My grades were average. But to get into veterinary school was going to be a challenge, but that’s the direction I chose. And I did have a veterinarian in Teaneck, New Jersey, Dr. Bob Schomer. That mentored me and gave me advice, guidance, and a lot of criticism about certain things. But his bottom line was that every animal that came into his clinic in Teaneck needed to go out the door in some way better. And so it was always in my head that if nothing else I needed to trim the dog and cat nails. It was a small animal practice. So just people’s pets, nothing on farm animal. But it was my obligation with every patient be sure their nails are trimmed. So at least they went out of the building with shorter nails. And that was his take on things the animals always needed to go out of the building, as long as there was something that wasn’t terminal, they had to go out better.
EMILIE: So Kansas State University is where you completed your degree in veterinary medicine. So from New Jersey to Kansas, what was the biggest difference for you when you were a college-age student? What did you notice most?
DR. HODES: Well, for anybody that would be the least bit informed Kansas and New Jersey, that New York metropolitan area are vastly different places. And when I, it was done with me in steps, so I first went to rural southern Ohio to Ohio University, and I had friends that lived in Appalachia. And I saw poverty in that part of the country that I did not know existed. Coming from the New York area, in North northeastern New Jersey. My dad worked in New York City, he had a very successful occupation. And we lived in a nice house and we went to Florida for vacations. And then I find myself at Ohio University where I was encouraged to go there by some relatives. I also played soccer there briefly. And the university worked out very well for me where I majored in zoology and had this exposure to a dairy farm, got some farm animal experience, and then made the transition over to Kansas State of Manhattan, Kansas when they accepted me into the Veterinary College. My three lab partners were from, Myron was from Nebraska. Roger was from South Dakota. Tom was from Abilene, Kansas, and I was from Tenafly, New Jersey. And so the variety of the four of us, I was the variety the three of them were from more similar backgrounds. And Tom, his dad, and mom were really intrigued by my New Jersey background, and Tom’s Dad and Mom would talk to me a lot about New Jersey, when I would be at their house in Abilene for visits, for breakfast, for pheasant hunting, we don’t go pheasant hunting in New Jersey. And so the introduction to a much more rural existence in Kansas was amazing. Funny story real quick. As I did tell my mother asked me how it was going. I had to call my folks every Sunday to check in let them know things were okay. And my mother asked how was it going and so I told her told my parents about my three lab partners and I was joking with her and told her that a lot of the best students came to class, they rode horses and they would tie up the horses outside the building. And so and me I was riding my bike to class every day to conserve on expense with gas. So my folks were curious like well do you need a horse to go to classes, and no, my bike will work just fine. Well, is that suitable? Is that acceptable? I mean, you say your lab partners are all riding horses to class and I said no, no, the bike will be just fine. But I think I had my folks halfway figuring that they might need to get me a horse, which we did not get.
EMILIE: So for your Kansas, or Midwestern lab partners, what surprised them most about perhaps agriculture in New Jersey that you shared with them?
DR. HODES: Well, I was not particularly familiar with agriculture in New Jersey. I grew up in suburbs 15 miles northeast, well north and a bit east of New York City, in northeastern New Jersey, and north of Newark Airport. There were no farms. The only thing is, we had a lot of forests behind our house. And so I raised baby foxes. I had a pet turtle named Myrtle when I was a little kid that I would walk around the yard with a suction cup stuck to her shell and a rope, a string tied to it. We’d walk around the yard because I knew she liked to eat earthworms. So particularly after it rained, and there were earthworms in the grass. I could walk her around and she would find the earthworms. But that was my exposure really to animals. I had no farm animal exposure, any sort of rural exposure in northeastern New Jersey that really came with my experience in Ohio, where Maxine Behringer was the head cook at the cafeteria in the dorm that I worked at, I had a part-time job working in the dorm to make some extra money to buy things. And Maxine and I got to know each other while I was working there and she was me hoping to go to vet school. She invited me down to her farm and I became free labor for her and her husband milking about 40-50 dairy cows and they had some beef cattle and I slipped firewood and I just did a lot of odd jobs on that farm I’d get down there at 4:30 in the morning, we’d milk the cows. Bill would go drive a school bus, Maxine went to the University to work the cafeteria, and I cleaned up the milking parlor and I got introduced to raw milk in coffee that tasted like he had put melted vanilla ice cream in coffee and eggs from the chickens I would go out get the eggs and so that that was my farm upbringing was real quick in Ohio and rural Ohio, southern Ohio.
EMILIE: Okay, so fast forward and take us to post-graduation from vet school. Where did you begin your practice career?
DR. HODES: I went back to New Jersey for the reason that I had been in college nine and a half years been away from my folks all those years, for the most part, and they had a friend, the head of the veterinary clinic in New Jersey not too far from where they lived. And so he offered me a job I actually worked there between my third and fourth years in vet school, I worked at this clinic in New Jersey where we were able to go where we wanted to go those summers and not stay at the University of work at the University Hospital. And so, Doctor Borken offered me a job I took it, and it worked out exceptionally well. And in that halfway through that year, I realized that I really wanted to go into my own practice in the thing he was very accommodating. They were a great many small farms in western New Jersey where I was working. And when those people found out that I was a Kansas State graduate. They were of the assumption that I was just like this rock star animal handler and all knowledgeable about cattle and sheep and goats and I acquired the large state-owned pig operation in Parsippany, New Jersey, and 1000 pigs on the premises at any given time. They came to me and asked me to do that. So I actually developed a bit of a large animal practice on the side besides working into small animal practice, productive work and he was very accommodating. Let me do that. And then about halfway through the year, I saw I just wanted to be in my own practice. And so I branched out and bought a large Winnebago Lake truck and started making house calls. The truck was from dodging industries in Iowa. It was a brand new concept. I bought one of these trucks and started making house calls I can make farm calls. And a bit of the story is that with everybody with the farm animal aspect of it. Those people thinking I was from Kansas thought they didn’t realize I grew up quite frankly much closer to New York City than they were and that I did not have broad farm background growing up. So I just let them believe that I was a Kansas kid. And I just knew everything about farm animals and I was a graduate of Kansas State. And particularly in the earliest people were none the wiser that night I actually grew up in New Jersey, and was not this, this rural, all that knowledgeable about farm animal aspects of things. In fact, my very first large animal call in New Jersey was a horse that was having trouble breathing. And Colleen and I went to the farm. The technicians at the hospital, I worked at my Balkans hospital, they put it in a box, bandage material tape, I had a stethoscope, a thermometer, and a vial of alcohol swabs, and a bottle of Dexamethadone, cortisone, and I got to the farm, and what it turned out to be is, this horse was in a stall where they had just freshly put too much lime. And the horse went down to eat some hay and had inhaled a bunch of lime, which irritated its nasal passageways, it was just had an immense amount of mucus coming out of its nose. The people thought it was having trouble breathing, and called me. I went there, I took it out of the stall, I took its temperature, and listened to its heart. Within a few minutes, the horse was all better. They thought I cured it. And I was forever these people’s indebtedness, and they thought I just knew everything, told all their friends at the stable, how great I was with horses. I mean, I listened to the dog’s heart. I listened to the horse’s heart and took it to temperature. It’s all I did. If people thought I was just outstanding. I picked up the whole barn as a client within a few days. And it just exploded from there as far as my presumed capabilities.
EMILIE: I love it. I love all of the stories that you share. And I imagine over your career you have thousands of stories.
DR. HODES: Endless, yes.
EMILIE: So see if you can share with our viewers or with our listeners, just maybe one or two of your favorite stories from over the years.
DR.HODES: Well, probably one of my most favorite Is Mrs. Macatitian was a 70-something-year-old lady that had a cocker spaniel. And the dog was choking at night and it was midnight and she met me at the clinic and so here at one in the morning, the dog had had something stuck in its esophagus. We don’t know what it was, but we had to anesthetize the dog and I passed a stomach tube. I didn’t have any help Mrs. Macatitian helped me anesthetize her own dog. And I displaced whatever it was stuck in the dog’s esophagus into the stomach with a stomach tube. Whatever it was got digested up, I saved the dog’s life. She told all her neighbors and friends in Jefferson Township, how great I was with that. Fast forward to 9/11. And, and so 9/11. For 35 years, I took care of the Morris County Sheriff’s canine unit, and they had upwards of 15 dogs. And when the canine unit first started in the late 70s, early 80s, I was the first assigned permanent veterinarian to that canine unit by the sheriff. And Sheriff Fox at the time in 1982 told me that if this worked out well that this would be a life, lifetime appointment. And it did, it turned out to be 35 years of taking care of that canine unit till 2016 when I sold my practice, and 9/11 happened, they called me from the sheriff’s office and told me what had happened. They were going in to be of assistance trying to find survivors, whatever we would do, could do. And so we went into the World Trade Center, two days in a row. I was not at the site with all the emergency personnel and fire department, but our responsibility was to help and assist any of the dogs that were on the site, looking for survivors, and if they got injured, and actually none of our dogs got injured. But there were two dogs that had cut their feet. And one dog had something in its eye, and they belong to two other agencies and I took care of those dogs. There was no charge, of course, and I got some pretty nice letters from the personnel from those agencies. And then more recently, there was I was doing the bear rehabilitation work. In New Jersey, we have a multitude of black bears, they really become very populous. The population is very, very, very large. And part of the reason is there’s so much food available that they’re having triplets or quadruplets, and the bears are having babies like crazy. But the wildlife people brought me a bear about a 225-pound male black bear to the clinic one afternoon and we anesthetized him in the parking lot. And I was able to safely get a hunting arrow out of his head that had gone through his nose, his tongue and down into his neck without lacerating the jugular vein, carotid artery, or anything vital. And that bear lived with that arrow in its head and neck, from like October till about April, when they were able to catch them again and bring him to the clinic for me to anesthetize them and managed to safely get that arrow out of him. And then the next day, they were able to take that bear in the cage that he came in, back down to the Fort Dix area in southern New Jersey, or at least somewhere close as they need to be released back and where their territory normally is, or where they don’t know where their food supply is, they’re going to fight with other bears in the area. So it was a little bit of a project. But that was outstanding. And frankly, I was on the internet and the newspapers, it was, it was as if I had saved a school bus of kids that was on fire, the amount of publicity I got by saving that bear’s life. So that was pretty darn interesting.
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EMILIE: So one thing that I know is really important to you is talking to future and aspiring veterinarians. Tell us a little bit about why that has been so important in your life.
DR. HODES: You know, as the years have gone by, I’ve had so many kids come to the office that were kids that came from families whose animals I took care of. And these kids thought they wanted to be veterinarians. And so when you’re experiencing something pretty good, you want to share that with others and tell your stories, of course. And so over the years, there have been probably over thousands of kids that I have visited with at schools, at my office, and everything in between at for each meetings. And I just shared with them what I did, how I did, how cool it is to take something that sick or injured and hopefully make it better send it back out the door. And family just kind of thanks you. And in my case, what they end up doing many times is there is a place called Cafe Novona in Rockaway, New Jersey, which is an outstanding Italian restaurant. And so there will very often be gift certificates or $100 cash sitting in Marcos cash register waiting for Colleen in to come in for dinner. And so it’s pretty frequent that clients have bought us dinner, a Cafe Novona for taking care of their animals. So things like that, to convey that to kids that you’re going to grow up you’re going to get a job you got to pay your bills, it probably would be better to get up every day and do something you enjoy than going to work that’s just a job and hoping Friday comes real soon. In my case, for the 38 years I ran that practice in New Jersey I even went into the clinic on Tuesday my day off and went on Sunday morning to make sure everything was okay going forward into the afternoon and evening whatever staff were there if they wanted to we went out for breakfast on Sunday mornings to Traveler’s Diner after the clinic was put in proper order and so for these kids to see just how this profession can be so cool and keep you busy and pay you well and and and give you a lifetime of enjoyment although you have to get better all the time. You never stop learning every single day you try to be better than the day before but it’s like really nothing else I would tell parents at the vet school and K-State that it’s the third-best profession in my mind. And they would look at me and said well the third-best what’s the first and second? Well, that’s easy. The first for me would have been to play for the New York Yankees and not being able to do that then my next best profession, I think would have been cool to be an astronaut. And so that didn’t happen. So being a veterinarian has worked out very, very well.
EMILIE: I have to ask, so how challenging is it when your patients can’t tell you what’s wrong?
DR. HODES: It is, it’s an amazing thing, how you, for one thing with experience and time and just lots of cases, you do acquire a judgment, you acquire a sense of it all. It eventually sinks into everybody’s head to varying degrees. When you get out of vet school, you have a lot of capability, and you had zero competence. And the reason being not that you haven’t studied hard, but you have, but you don’t have the caseload experience to have that competence. And so you start seeing cases, you get better added. Doctors that I’ve, that I’ve known, have all agreed with me, and this isn’t my saying. But if you look at your patients really closely, most of the time, they will usually tell you what’s wrong with them. So it demands that your physical exam be extremely thorough, that you pay close attention, and you take a thorough history from the family, whether it’s a rancher brand new, a cow that’s not doing well, or a horse, or a dog or a cat, the family will tell you things, they live with these animals, and they will tell you things that you need to pay attention to. So I would say the most important part of the communication aspect of all this is is you need to listen way too often we want to respond to what we’re hearing too. And we and we would tend to cut people off, not listen to their whole story, not listen to what they’re saying and how they’re saying it. That’s a mistake. You got to learn to listen, listen, listen, take lots of notes, ask questions, take more notes, and ask the same questions because you’re not always going to get the same answers depending on how you ask the question. And if you don’t ask the right questions, you are not going to have the right answers to pursue what’s going on with these animals.
EMILIE: You shared a little bit about your mentors, and I am positive that you have been a mentor for, again, hundreds or thousands of individuals who are now practicing veterinary medicine. If one of our listeners today is either early or early in their career or considering veterinary medicine, what advice would you give them as they’re getting started in this career?
DR. HODES: Well, I mean, there’s there’s four things that are in me tremendously as far as what it is with veterinary medicine. And number one is you need to be there for your clients, you need to be there. And what I mean by that is when they call you, you need to try to help them. Sometimes it may just be over the phone, and you refer them to an emergency clinic. So it’s not like you have to personally 24/7 every day of the year, go into the clinic and do what’s necessary, you will die, you have to have some rest time. So but being there means you’re there at least where they can reach you by phone, you can give them some advice. And then you hopefully build up a practice that’s big enough to have associates that you could share the caseload with. And then you don’t even need to be the one that’s always on the phone with these people. But you need to be there. The next thing is the patients are coming to you out of need, they can’t ask to be with you. And so you need to be competent for your patients. That competence only comes with doing this more and more and more every day studying to be a little better at what you do. So you need to be there for the clients be competent to know what you’re doing for the patients. I would strongly urge the to be veterinarians to do whatever they can to avoid running a savings and loan operation for the clientele. Many, many clients need assistance with their bills, their veterinary bills, and there are services out there that do that properly. They offer loans that can be interest-free per period of time. These people can buy nowadays, animal health insurance, and so there are various ways in which veterinarians do not have to be a savings and loan operation. Because you are running a business and it is cash flow is is is what makes it work. If your cash flow is damaged or hampered, we’re not sufficient, your practice will not thrive, you can try your best you can be surrounded by great people helping you. But if the cash flow is not healthy, and doing well, the practice will not survive. So you be there for your clients, you’re competent for your patients, I would really try to urge you to avoid being a savings and loan operation. And lastly, there’s a big concern with a lot of students nowadays about and people in general about work-life balance. And I do think that work-life balance is important. You’re gonna have families, perhaps you’ll have children, you want to be at their ballgames, you want to go on vacation with them. But then what it entails is you’ve got to build your practice up to where you have at least an associate, so that you can go on vacation, your associate is then covering the cases, and being there for the clients and being competent for the patients. And, and so the work-life balance also entails not just your personal life, but entails structuring the practice, to where you can come and go, the client needs are addressed. And your longevity as a veterinarian will be enhanced tremendously. Because you are able to get some downtime, you can go fishing on the Florida Keys or whatever else excites you. But that work-life balance. While it’s important, I think it comes with a little bit of a caveat that as a single doctor practitioner in an area that’s difficult to have work-life balance. And the only other way that that can work is to create a co-op operation with other veterinarians in the area where you share emergency service, share-off times, you’re away for a week, and another veterinarian in the area covers for you. And so having either a co-op operation or at least building a practice up to where you can have reliable associates that you like a lot because it’s like a marriage. That’s your options.
EMILIE: Okay, I asked you about some of your favorite stories. Think about some of the more challenging ones. What were some of them, perhaps it was an exotic pet that you weren’t, hadn’t seen before. Talk to us a little bit about some of the harder cases that you’ve seen.
DR. HODES: I had three main experiences that repeated themselves with circus animals. And with being the only veterinarian in the northern New Jersey area that had a mixed practice that dealt with odd things. Actually, there were more than three. But three circus experiences that I had one was I had at Turtleback Zoo, and there was a circus one year. And the way the lions and tigers all come into the arena, they put all these cages that are on wheels in a row, and then they have doors between the cages. And the cages are all connected to one another. And all the lions and tigers run into the arena through these cages, and they run back out at the end of the show. One of the afternoons, that guillotine door that’s pulled up with a rope between the cages, the rope broke, and the guillotine door slammed down and cut the skin off the tip of a lion’s tail. And so there was about six or seven inches at least have a bloody bone exposed at the end of that lion’s tail. And that had to be removed, there was no way to suture that skin back on the skin actually was pulled off except for a tiny piece holding it on. And so I get a call I got out of the circus. And everybody’s looking at me and there are people attending the circus seeing this because there’s no way there was no privacy, no way to not to have this hidden as to what was going to going on. And so I looked at what I had to do, I had no way of sedating this lion, nor did I even know how to do it. And the lion trainers looking to me like, well, Doc, you got to fix this. And so okay, and I explained what needed to be done as the distal several vertebrae that were exposed had to be amputated. And then I could push what remaining skin was up toward the lion’s back a little bit, cut off the vertebrae and then allow that skin to slide back and hopefully have it heal as long as there was going to be skin covering over the end of the bone. But there was too much exposed caudal vertebrae to tail vertebrae to just leave it like that. So I sent the trainer’s assistant up the road there was a food store Grant Union, and I told him to go buy me a dozen boneless steaks. And he came back with a dozen boneless steaks in a bag. And we lured the lion to the edge of the cage, with the steaks because if you know about these performances, they do not feed the lions and tigers before the performance, or they would just go out in the ring and sleep after they were fed. And so these animals are hungry before the performance. And so we got all the other animals out of the way this came, this lion was isolated in the one cage and I found a coat hanger somewhere and I was able to catch the lion’s tail and pull it over toward the edge of the cage. He came to the edge and he growled at me. So I told the guy, alright, give the lion one of the steaks. I could see then that we were able to distract this lion with these steaks one at a time very slowly, and he’s scarfing them down. When he got to about the fifth or sixth steak, I was able to hook the lion’s tail, and he’s chomping down the steaks and chewing them and not paying attention to me at this point. I took the tail, and pull it out underneath the bars of the cage. And with my Wilkinson short sword pruning shears that I would use to trim like goats feet and stuff. They were very sharp. I was able to position the blade between the vertebrae up higher on the tail to right in the skin to close it. With both hands, I just clamped down, and snapped off the end of those vertebrae. The lion turned around and roared at me scared me. People are watching this. I threw the shears up in the air as a reflex because he was inches from my face. In the cage. I was outside the cage. And the shears went up, landed on a car’s windshield behind me about four or five yards behind me broke the windshield. The owner of the car was there to see this happen. The Circus assured me that they would take care of the people’s windshield. They were so thrilled that I took care of the lion’s tail. And lo and behold, that trainer called me from Canada and a few weeks, let me know that lion’s tail healed over perfectly. And he just thought that that was outstanding. The next thing was I had elephants that had to go, they were right near my office in the 80s, they had to go they were at the County College at Randolph, and they had to go to New York. Every time these circus animals had to go to another state they needed a health certificate. So I wrote health certificates for the elephant. I told him yes, I could provide health certificates but I need to come over and see the elephants. And the guy goes, will you normally examine elephants? I don’t, no, sir. These are going to be the first elephants I have ever examined. But I’m going to do my best to let you know they’re healthy. And I will give you New Jersey State Health certificates. He goes okay. And I saw I went over at about 4:30- 5:00 in the morning in the it was in spring I believe. And the sun was just coming up. So here’s his elephant sleeping. And I go over to introduce myself to the trainer. And he goes you’re the vet, and I go yes, sir. And so we walk over. And he was a very tall man. So that’s important to remember. We walk over by the elephants and the elephants are laying there sleeping, at which point when I walk over, I’m a stranger. And it’s starting to get late. They both get up there were two female elephants. They get up and they stretch and stretch some more. And the next thing you know I’m walking around these elephants I’m looking at them. At their front, I’m looking at their eyes and looking at their feet to be sure there was no evidence of any nasal discharge through, you know, through their noses or trunk and looking at their skin. As far as I could tell you for the first two elephants I ever closely examined, they look pretty good to me. I walk around the back of these elephants. When I realized they had just woken up. After anybody just wakes up and stands up we have to urinate. Well, I didn’t remember that. And I go walking behind these elephants and at which point the first one spreads her legs and gets ready to urinate and realize, an elephant is standing way higher than me. And this trainer grabbed me by my collar of my lab coat and yanks me out of the way. This guy that I just met 15 minutes ago has now grabbed me and as yanked me out of the way at which point both elephants just let loose with gallons of urine. And this trainer saved me from being from drowning and covered for one thing in elephant urine And so, you know, he looked at me and he goes, so you’ve never examined elephants before right? I said, no, that’s what I told you. And that was the truth is yeah, yeah, yeah. And he gave me that look like that stupid veterinarian, you know, like he but lo and behold, the elephants look to be fine. It was my first elephant experience. I did write him health certificates that suggested that both elephants as far as I could tell were healthy. He went to New York. I did not hear from him again, everything went well. And so my elephant experience was equally as exciting as the one with the lions. Before, previous. The last circus experience that really was a bad experience was at Mennan Arena and Morris Plains, New Jersey. The circus came every year, and they had Lipizzan stallions that were going to perform. A few years previously they had baby lion cubs that were born at that same circus. And Colleen and I took care of those baby lion cubs when they got sick with a respiratory infection in the early 80s. But then, a few years later, the same circus was in town, and Lipizzan stallions were practicing in the parking lot on the grassy island in the parking lot and the grass was still wet that morning. One of the Lipizzan stallions was going to do a Capri L which is where they jump up and kick their legs out. And the stallion did not go up straight. He went up on an angle. When he came down, he lost his footing. And he landed sideways on the curb separating the parking lot from the grassy island. So he gets up and he was kind of frantic from what I was told. And the trainer that had these stallions, he sedated the Lipizzan horse with some tranquilizer and it was Xylazine and Acepromaznie to just kind of calm the horse. So when I got there, sometime later, I’m looking at this very sedate horse that is standing and not very responsive. But he told me what had happened. Well, as time went by this horse’s gums got paler and paler. The sclera of the eyes got more and more white, and it was apparent that something internally was bleeding. By the time that was apparent to me, this horse was sedated and not able to respond to me doing anything, and the horse ended up dying. And I couldn’t have saved it. I mean, the only thing that could have been done would be an emergency transport to a surgical facility that is nowhere near Morris Plains, New Jersey. So this horse, you know was doomed from the get-go. But that was not apparent initially. So I actually spent a lot of time with that horse hoping that I could help it in some way, only to see that well it was bleeding internally when it landed on the curb. Whether the spleen, the liver was hemorrhaging. Can’t really say but it took some time. And him actually sedating it slowed down everything so that the horse didn’t bleed to death as quickly. And I was led to believe that maybe I could do something for it when I could not.
EMILIE: What would you say is the most rewarding part of being a veterinarian?
DR. HODES: The only thing that I will say that is it’s very analogous, in my sense to being a professional athlete, and that you are in a stadium, you’re so that’s your vet clinic. And people are coming to you because they want you to take care of their animals. And if you can create in a community, a sense in people’s heads, that you are the veterinary practice you are the veterinarian, your associates are the veterinarians, the people working with you are the staff of that hospital, that you are the veterinary service provider, that that community wants badly. You elevate yourself to a position where you’re no longer just a need, you’re a want. And why I put it that way is that the needs in our life are commodities. So we all go to the closest cheapest gas station that we can find to our house. And so we need gas from a car and the brand of gas doesn’t really matter. But we’re gonna go to the cheapest closest gas station to our house. And so we need gas. We’re gonna go to the clean, cheapest closest food store to our house. That’s what it needs does to you as far as a want. People want to go see Patrick Mahomes throw a football. People want to go see the Yankees play baseball. And so if you can create that level of confidence in yourself within the public’s mind, then you have created a relationship in that community. That is, is extraordinary. It’s absolutely extraordinary. And then what happened is, of course, you’re practicing for 10 years, 20 years, 30 years, they’re telling their friends and neighbors, the practice grows, because the expectations keep getting elevated. And so you do have to be a little careful that you will create expectations in people’s minds that are almost impossible to fulfill, to where you’re being there for the people, you’re competent for the animals. Your work-life balance is quite good. The quality of life that you’re able to provide to your family, including all the people that work with you, is extraordinarily good. And then like you get to a certain point in life, well, I don’t really want to retire. What am I gonna do with that? So you end up just keep working. And you’re not working because you need to work but you’re working because you just want to keep doing what you’ve gotten good at, and people so appreciate what you are able to offer. So there you have it kind of very, very analogous professional sport.
EMILIE: We’ll be right back after this break. Another happy tales from HitchPin sales. This one is from Ward H. in Nebraska, I listed three pork bundles on HitchPin. And within an hour all three had sold, I was able to meet new customers and HitchPins transaction process was simple, quick, and provided peace of mind that I would get paid upon delivery, I didn’t have to take time collecting checks from total strangers or make a trip to deposit them at the bank. If you’re looking to grow your business and get paid quickly, I would highly recommend HitchPin.
EMILIE: There’s a term that I’ve heard used in veterinary medicine called compassion fatigue. Can you explain to the folks listening today what that means and why it’s something that needs to be talked about? And not just this profession but other similar professions?
DR. HODES: Well, compassion fatigue is exactly what it says. We are in a line of work and I don’t really care if you are a dentist, a physician, an MD, a veterinarian, or a chiropractor. We are taking care of living creatures in a way that are ill, that are injured. And the demands on our expertise and on our time can be beyond what many, frankly, beyond what anybody can endure. As far as it being endless. In this day and age to have a one doctor veterinary practice or one doctor medical practice, or dental practice is exceedingly difficult, because you’re going to be limited by your energy level limited by your need to sleep limited by the necessity to be with your family, your kids, go on vacations. And so the compassion fatigue is that you just get exhausted, being compassionate, doing what people expect of you because you’ve created those expectations. And yet, you’re realizing that time is passing. And you’re not devoting time to other things in your life that are equally if not more so. Because your family perhaps is the most important thing. More so than that taking care of your patients. They both are very, very important; your patients and your family. And I do believe that your family includes those that work with you, the nursing staff, the receptionist, the high school kids that take care of the kennels and the cages and keep everything looking pristine in the hospital. Everybody’s part of your family, they all need to get their fair share of your attention and time. You become for your employees a social worker, you become a financial adviser, and you become one who loans them some money because they’ve overextended their credit cards. The experiences I have had living with and among a multitude of employees is beyond because a lot of the lot of the problems that your employees will bring to work every day you didn’t create, but they’re your family and you need to help them fix it. So compassion fatigue isn’t just a client-oriented thing. It goes down to your own family. And so you will burn out is the more simple term because I don’t think compassion fatigue and burnout are mutually exclusive. They are kind of one in the same in many respects. And in you know, we don’t just sell stuff. Selling stuff can be done nowadays over the internet. And you don’t have to be there. But selling services, you kind of have to be there, or your associate has to be there or your hospital needs to be available. Or you need to have a cooperative arrangement with the emergency clinics in the area. And so being aware coming out of school, that you don’t want compassion fatigue or burnout, because it will tremendously damage your career. Right from the get-go. I think early on in veterinary medicine, medical school, dental school, the students ought to be made aware that it is a distinct possibility that you will just burn yourself out, trying to be all things to everybody and disregarding the needs of yourself, your family those that work with you.
EMILIE: Okay, Dr. Hodes, let’s drop the landing gear. What is something that you wish everyone knew about veterinary medicine?
DR. HODES: It’s perhaps one of the hardest professions to deliberately place yourself in, it is not easy to have to know what’s wrong with patients that can’t talk. To you to know what then you must do for the clients that come to you with limited funds to pay for what the patients need you to do for them. And then very often, you have to deal with children that want to know why the family is leaving their six-month-old cat with you on a morning. And that six-year-old is going to go with his parents to school, and they’re leaving their cat at your hospital. And you got to explain to the family. Well, you know, I’m going to take very good care of Spotty here. But then the child chimes in, oh, well, why are you going to do surgery on Spotty? My parents told me it told me you’re going to do surgery. And I’ve had this discussion so many times. So well, we’re going to do surgery on spotting not because she’s sick, but because we don’t want her to have kittens. So we’re going to spay her, it’s called I’m going to do some surgery on her. That is going to prevent her from having kittens but she’ll be fine. And then I need to make real sure that Spotty is fine, that she does fine in surgery. So that’s Spotty goes home, not able to have kittens but alive and well otherwise, and that can be translated it whatever we do every day. Human medicine, dental school, attorneys, you know, the Walmart employees, they do not have those stresses and strains on them every single day. I for the most part need to be able to send my clients home with the patients a whole lot better for what I did for them. Yes, there are terminal cases. But even then euthanasia is something that has to be dealt with kindly and gently. And it’s hard. It’s very hard. Human medicine doesn’t deal with that. In Dental School you don’t you don’t deal with euthanasia. Quite frankly, if you want to be a pathologist, or go into teaching anatomy at a veterinary school as well don’t need to deal with euthanasia. But I remember Wally Cash. Wally Cash taught anatomy at the veterinary school for 40 some years had to be and maybe almost 50 years. And I would talk to him about you know why he was teaching at this point in his career because he went back to teach anatomy at Kansas State only after he was at a school a few years. And he told me that he didn’t think he had the energy to just be able to go and deal with clients day in and day out and address all their expectations satisfactorily. And teaching anatomy to veterinary students was something that he found very rewarding. So going into practice of veterinary medicine is definitely not for everybody. It is hard it is very, very hard and very different than all the other types of professions that are available to us.
EMILIE: Would you do it again?
DR. HODES: Well, not only would I do it again, but you know my expectation. I made the comment to some kids of Brian’s clinic recently that might they, “Where are you going with this?” You know, I’m working at Brian’s clinic in Andover. I said so I said to Jackson, I believe this is student’s name and I said you know, Jackson. I’m gonna do this. I’ve done this for 43 years, and I think I’m gonna do it another 43 years.
EMILIE: I love it. Thank you so much for spending time with us. Congratulations on the last 43 years. And here’s to the next.
DR. HODES: Yep.
EMILIE: Thank you.