SAVMA PHCOC "Underserved Population Externship" stipend winner
Chelsea Reaves, CSU DVM Candidate Class of 2017
December 2013 at Animal Care Center
As my first semester of vet school came to an end, I packed up my suitcase with warm clothes, my stethoscope, coveralls, and boots and headed off to Hardin, MT. I was fortunate to have met Dr. Francis through family friends randomly, and we clicked right away, so I spoke with him about gaining some experience through his practice! Dr. Francis runs a mixed animal practice, Animal Care Center, in a rural area of Montana basically on the Crow Indian Reservation. Being a Tucson native, I knew this would be a great opportunity for me to be exposed to an area with a different level of personal animal care than you mostly see in larger cities like Tucson where everything is “their baby”.
In Hardin and the surrounding areas there are a ton of stray dogs, skinny horses, and feral cats that are kind of put outside to forage for food on their own with the occasional food tossed out to them. On the contrary, there are also the family pets, ranchers’ cattle, and 4-H animals. Hardin is a beautiful area if you really enjoy the outdoors, as the Bighorn River runs right through it and there are a lot of open spaces.
Being on the reservation, there are an immense amount of strays. Dr. Francis works closely with a rescue lady, Sheri. Sheri runs a non-profit organization called Rez Dog Rescue and basically drives all over Crow Agency, Lodge Grass, and Lame Deer finding abandoned, neglected, and stray “Rez” (reservation mutts) dogs. She brings them to Dr. Francis and he works with her at discounted prices to spay/neuter, treat, vaccinate, and deworm all these dogs. Dr. Francis works to provide low cost veterinary care to the underserved area and help alleviate the rampant problem of abandoned “rez dogs”. I got a lot of experience with spay and neuter surgeries, from sedation and anesthesia, to prepping the dogs on the surgery table, and assisting in surgery. Dr. Francis also sets up spay/neuter clinics with the tribes, although there was not one during the break while I was there.