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By LeAnn R. Ralph
COLFAX — It is the end of an era, so to speak.
After owning and operating the Colfax Animal Hospital for 39 years, Dr. Bruce Buckley retired as of September 1, and the new owners, husband and wife team Dr. Austin Prichard and Dr. Nikki Prichard, took over the vet clinic on East River Street in Colfax.
The Drs. Prichard are both graduates of the University of Wisconsin School of Veterinary Medicine in Madison.
Dr. Buckley spent quite a bit of time talking with various veterinarians to find just the right fit for Colfax.
“I am confident that Nikki and Austin will do well. They have a similar practice philosophy as I have,” Dr. Buckley said.
Dr. Austin has ties to the area.
“My grandfather was a professor at Stout. My grandmother still lives on North Shore Drive (in Menomonie),” he said.
“My father grew up here. I was born in Minnesota. Grew up in Minnesota, Virginia and Wisconsin. I met Nikki when we were in vet school,” Dr. Austin said.
Dr. Nikki is originally from north of Minocqua.
“I went to undergrad at UW-River Falls in animal science with an equine emphasis. I went to UW-Madison with an open mind on what I wanted to do for veterinary medicine,” she said.
After the Prichards graduated from UW-Madison, they worked in Idaho for two years.
“I was doing mixed animal out there for two years. I did small animals, but I did large animals as well. We moved back here, and I have been practicing in Eau Claire for the past two years in small animal,” Dr. Nikki said.
“My background had originally been in dairy cattle. I went to undergrad at UW-Madison in dairy science. The first two years that I was practicing, I was predominantly doing dairy medicine. I also started doing small animal because there was a need for it in the community,” Dr. Austin said.
“I was predominantly dairy when I moved back here. Our philosophy of veterinary medicine is to provide what the community needs. Our philosophy on veterinary medicine matched up quite well with Dr. Buckley,” he said.
“We moved back here to Wisconsin to start a family. We started talking to Dr. Buckley and that was one of our goals to one day be involved in practice ownership,” Dr. Austin said.
“Once we made that connection, that’s what put us here today. At home, we have a 15 month old. His name is Logan. We live north of Wheeler,” he said.
The Prichards live in the Town of Hay River.
“We came here hoping we’d be able to see a little bit of everything but for right now we’re going to focus on the small animal, with the potential to do some exotics as well. We will have to see what happens from there,” Dr. Nikki said.
“For the first two years when you move practices or move to a new community, you end up with a non-compete, so I have a non-compete with dairy cattle. I cannot work with cattle right now, although I really do enjoy working with cattle. We are going to focus on what the community needs,” Dr. Austin said.
“We have animals of our own at home too. Two dogs and we have a horse and five black Angus heifers,” he said.
“When you apply for vet school you do not know if you are going to get in. We got in on our first attempt,” Dr. Austin said.
“I worked out in California for about four months with a place that had 11,000 Jersey cattle. Then we went to Idaho, which is the land of the mega dairies. Some of those guys are milking 100,000 cows. There are a lot of Jerseys out there because they are feed efficient,” he said.
Dr. Austin has a soft spot in his heart for Jersey cattle.
“We’re excited to get started,” he said.
“Dr. Buckley is retiring, and we are going to do our best to continue his legacy. We will continue to practice in a similar manner to keep the community clinic going the way it has been. That’s our goal,” Dr. Austin said.
Brenda Stark, who has worked for Dr. Buckley for 39 years, and Desi Kadlec, who has worked for Dr. Buckley for 10 years, will both continue working at the Colfax Animal Hospital with Dr. Nikki and Dr. Austin.
The telephone number at the vet clinic will remain the same as well.
Dr. Buckley opened the Colfax Animal Hospital in April of 1984.
At first, it was known as the East River Veterinary Clinic, but Dr. Buckley eventually changed the name to the Colfax Animal Hospital to make it easier to find in the telephone directory when people were looking for a vet clinic.
“Brenda has been here from the beginning,” he said.
Dr. Tom Harstad, who was a graduate of Colfax High School, opened a veterinary clinic in Colfax and then closed the practice in October of 1983. Dr. Harstad’s wife was from Webster, so they moved to Webster, Dr. Buckley explained.
Dr. Buckley graduated from Iowa State in 1982 and then worked in Iowa for a couple of years.
Colfax went without a vet clinic for about six months before he arrived, Dr. Buckley noted.
“My parents are from Menomonie, and they said, ‘You know, there’s no vet clinic in Colfax.’ So I opened the practice from scratch. For five years, I worked by myself, and then I hired another doctor. At one time, there were four vets here,” he said.
“In the heyday of stanchion barns, we had 110 stanchion barns we took care of,” Dr. Buckley said.
“At first it was 90 percent dairy cattle but then it slowly migrated over, and now I do 100 percent small animal. A couple of years ago, I developed arthritis and torn cartilage in my knees,” he said.
East River Street
When Dr. Buckley opened the vet clinic, the building on East River Street, which at one time had been the home of the Colfax Messenger, was wide open inside with no exam rooms, no surgery and x-ray room, no dispensary or lab and no kennels for animals.
Dr. Buckley and Brenda Stark designed the rooms in the vet clinic, and then the interior of the building was constructed.
Dr. Buckley lived in the back of the building when he first started.
The Colfax Messenger reporter told Dr. Buckley that her Shetland sheepdog was likely one of his first patients.
The dog had a tendency to break off toenails on her hind feet chasing after chipmunks and squirrels, who always managed to get away. The toenails would break, but would not break off. When the dog was brought in to Dr. Buckley, everything was still in boxes yet as he was starting to unpack, so he had to rummage around to find what he needed to clip off the painful remains of the dog’s toenail. Then he found gauze and tape and bandaged the dog’s foot.
The Colfax Messenger reporter was grateful her dog’s pain had been relieved and impressed that the veterinarian was able to accomplish the task, sitting on a box while she held the dog.
“My first surgery table was our kitchen table from our farm. That’s what I used for surgery at first. I had one pet kennel that was on wheels. And that was my only kennel here,” Dr. Buckley said.
“I used to do farm calls, and I would come in and spay and neuter after Brenda went home. I would give all injectable anesthetic at like 9 o’clock at night. Then I would do the spays and neuters. It was 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. The practice has really grown,” he said.
“Colfax has been good to me. I am glad I moved here,” Dr. Buckley said.
Mrs. Buckley, who was Terri Stovern then and also a graduate of Colfax High School, worked as a nurse in St. Louis Park in Minnesota in 1984.
“The nurses’ union went on strike, and Terri’s mother, Louise, had a heart attack. She came back to Colfax to help her mother and then started working per diem at Luther Hospital. I came in April, and Terri came back to Colfax that summer,” Dr. Buckley said.
“Terri was getting herself all dolled up to go to the Colfax fair, and her sister, Bev, asked ‘Why are you getting all dolled up for the Colfax fair?’ And Terri said, ‘You never know who you’re going to meet!’” he said, adding, “We met in the beer tent.”
“I really liked being a veterinarian. I feel lucky. I’ve had people tell me they wanted to be a vet, but they didn’t have good enough grades, or they got married. Something crops up that they couldn’t go (to school). Clients have said that to me. So I did feel very lucky,” Dr. Buckley said.
“So many kids apply and can’t get in … I feel blessed being able to be a veterinarian,” he said.
Out of 1,500 applicants at UW-Madison, there are 80 who get into a class at the School of Veterinary Medicine, Dr. Austin noted.
“The practice will be in good hands with Nikki and Austin. I think they will like Colfax, and Colfax will like them,” Dr. Buckley said.