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Local veterinarian retiring after 36 years of helping animals

TRURO - During 36 years as a veterinarian, Donna Spracklin has shared the joy of a successful recovery and the sorrow during the final moments of a beloved pet's life with many people.

Dr. Donna Spracklin has helped many animals live healthier lives, including clinic cat Xylo. Spracklin, who works at Fundy Veternarians in Murray's Siding, will be retiring at the end of the month.

Dr. Spracklin's last day of work at Fundy Veterinarians, where she has been treating animals for 32 years, will be June 30. Although there is sadness at leaving she is looking forward to improving her tennis game and spending more time with family.

Spracklin was very young when she decided she wanted to become a vet and she never wavered from that decision.

"I vividly remember wanting to be a vet since I was in Grade 2," she said. "When I started working, female vets weren't common."

She left Nova Scotia to study at the University of Guelph and worked in Ottawa for a short period of time. She returned to the Maritimes to work in Halifax and obtained employment with Fundy Veterinarians.

"I started in the Shubenacadie office and was there, working on both large and small animals, for about 10 years," she recalled. "When I was in Shubenacadie we treated animals at the park so I got to do some unusual things like vasectomies on wolves (at the Canadian Centre for Wolf Research)."

During the last few years her patients haven't been quite as unusual, although she is known to be one of the few veterinarians to treat pot-bellied pigs on a regular basis. These animals have come to Murray's Siding from all across the province to be treated by her.

"We do have some pet chickens people bring in and they're kind of neat," she said. "Each day is different.

"One of the most interesting cases I was involved in lately was when a German shepherd who had been missing for months was caught in a trap. The person that caught the dog called Elsie (DeBay, animal control officer). Elsie saw the dog's distinctive collar and knew who had lost her. The dog's leg was badly injured by the trap and years ago it would have had to be amputated, but an orthopedic surgeon in Halifax made a prosthesis."

One of the biggest changes Spracklin has seen over the years is in the way people talk about their animals.

"I remember the first time I heard someone talk about their dog as if it were their child. I thought it was extreme then, but now it's common. People are also ready to spend more money on their pets now."

The Internet has also made a big difference, and she feels that on average it has been a benefit to pet owners, providing them with useful information about caring for their animals if they check out reputable sites.

One of the areas where many people are falling down when it comes to pet care is interaction.

"A lot of dogs don't get as much one-on-one as they'd like," she said. "This means they're often not trained well. A lot of pets are overweight because they don't get enough exercise and are getting too many treats, and dental care is something that is often forgotten."

Pets are often brought in because they have ingested inedible objects such as rocks and socks, and one dog arrived at the clinic with a bucket stuck on its head.

Fundy Veterinarians is now in the process of hiring a new vet and Spracklin will soon have more time with her husband Paul Heyman and their four-legged family members: Lily the golden retriever and cats Frank and Rosie.

"On the average, vet clinics are happy places most days," she added. "Becoming a vet was the right choice for me. It's been very rewarding helping animals and people."



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