The bonds that tie

The bonds that tie

Married veterinarians share their experiences about life as couples and professionals
Aug 01, 2010

National Report — Who better to understand a veterinarian's work day than a spouse who is also a veterinarian. But is too much togetherness a good thing? Several veterinarians weigh in on working together and having a life outside of the office.

Take Drs. Tom and Karen Mertaugh of Michigan.

A lot has happened in the almost 30 years since they met at the College of Veterinary Medicine at Michigan State University.

Not only did they establish the Animal Medical Center of Traverse City in Michigan in 1982, but they also have two children, a llama, horses, goats, dogs, cats, a cockatiel, one sheep, numerous fish, chickens and roosters.

"Since my wife Karen has always been my best friend, it has always been great to be with her working throughout the day," Tom says. "It is really nice to be able to talk about difficult cases or problems after a crazy day."

The Animal Medical Center of Traverse City offers everything from routine check-ups to radiological and diagnostic procedures.

"The best thing about our practice is that Karen and I have always believed that the client's animals are always treated just like our own," he adds.

And while Tom handles the PennHIP end of the practice — he is certified to take distraction radiographs of canine hips — his wife Karen takes care of the business part.

Before establishing their joint practice, the Mertaughs worked for separate clinics for a year after graduation.

"It was so much better when we struck out on our own and started our own practice," Tom says. "Everything we did, we knew it was all going into our business. It has given us great satisfaction, a wonderful working environment and a good living."

Drs. John and Avi Blake also met in school at the UC-Davis School of Veterinary Medicine.

"We were not necessarily unique thinkers, being one of at least four married couples generated by our class," John says.

While they both chose veterinary medicine, the Blakes followed different paths in school. Avi studied to be an equine practitioner, and John became a small-animal veterinarian.

"In fact, we never were on clinics together and studied with different groups," Avi says. "In many ways, we were not in school together, but had similar experiences while we were dating."

For the past 2½ years, John has worked in industry (Bayer) following 11 years in small-animal emergency and general practice. He works in new product development.

"The work requires the integration of my clinical and business backgrounds," he says. "Basically it starts with examining clinical problems facing pets and their people, and working with a diverse group of people in an effort to address these needs."Avi focused on her equine studies.

After her internship, she worked for a racetrack practice and then had her own ambulatory equine practice — pleasure and performance horses. She now writes and edits for veterinary journals and has written science education modules for a State of Kansas e-learning program.

"I think that being in the same profession has been an advantage for us overall," John says. "Aside from facilitating our meeting, being in the same profession has given each of us the flexibility to support each other's career shifts. And even when we both were in our internships and would talk about our cases all the time, our duties were sufficiently different that it was not a problem. She was sewing wire cuts and anesthetizing horses for colic surgeries while I was seeing cats in renal failure."

John says he is happy to report that he is the best trained bucket holder his wife has ever had.

"And I have enjoyed good conversation and a beer with more than one of her clients while she was repairing a wire cut on a field call," he says.

Avi agrees. "He is an excellent bucket holder. He follows direction well."