Working the herds along Big Creek
By DIANE GASPER-O'BRIEN
Brandon Weidenhaft said he knew when he was 7 he wanted to be a veterinarian when he grew up. His 11-year-old daughter knew even sooner than that.
So by the time Weidenhaft decides to start slowing down, maybe Taylor Weidenhaft can take over for her dad.
A family can do things like that when they own their business.
That's the main reason Weidenhaft starting looking for a location to start his own practice after learning the trade under seasoned veterans at two local veterinary clinics.
After graduating from Kansas State University in 2001, Weidenhaft worked at Hillside Veterinary Clinic and Hays Animal Hospital for 11-plus years before opening Big Creek Veterinary Services in Hays in the fall.
"I was wanting to have an opportunity to move up," he said. "Everything comes at its due time."
Weidenhaft was looking for some land on which to build when he ran across a piece of property on U.S. Highway 183 Bypass.
Not only was it a good location, just a mile south of Interstate 70 Exit 157, but it also would allow easy access for large animal trailers. And the main building on the property once had been a veterinary clinic owned by the late Dr. Keith Kingsley.
It didn't take long to figure out a name for the family's new venture. Weidenhaft's wife, Julie, is a registered nurse at Hays Medical Center but also helps out at the clinic when needed.
"I thought about my name," Weidenhaft said of a name for his practice, "but we're just 50 yards from Big Creek. It seemed a natural."
Weidenhaft and his staff of four opened in mid-October, and he has been building on his future -- and Taylor's as well -- ever since.
Neither dad nor doctor has pushed his daughter to follow in his footsteps, Weidenhaft said. It's been her idea since he took her with him to work when she was in preschool. Now, the clinic is one of Taylor's frequent hangouts.
"I had to tell her there were certain words she would hear that she couldn't use in preschool," Weidenhaft said with a smile. "I told her those were words to use only when she and Dad were together at work."
Weidenhaft's main interest out of college was working with horses and artificial insemination, and he even worked in Florida, doing performance evaluations on race horses, for a short time during college before deciding to work closer to home. Weidenhaft grew up in Stockton and his wife in Logan.
"I've become kind of perceived as the large animal vet," he said. "I've done a lot of herd work and vaccination (of) calves and cows, have a lot of cow-calf clients."
However, he also cares for small animals, too.
In fact, the animals featured on the practice's new interactive website -- www.bigcreekhays.com -- are a pet dog and cat. The clinic even offered a "pampered pet day" for Valentine's Day when owners could bring in their dogs for a bath, brushing and nail trim. Pets even could have their nails painted, as well as bows and ribbons for the females and bowties for the males.
The clinic, which originally was built as a family home more than 35 years ago, even includes a "quiet room" for clients whose pets are undergoing end of life care.
"I thought it would be a nice service," Weidenhaft said of the peaceful room with curtains and a couch for a homey feeling. "Thankfully, we don't use it very often."
The Weidenhafts live on the north edge of Catharine, a small town northeast of Hays. But Weidenhaft said it's a 10-minute drive for the doctor who still does "house calls" and offers 24-hour emergency service.
The clinic has room to board a few pets in a building that includes a large animal working facility, and the 2-acre lot also allows room for expansion.
"There's room for a large animal barn if (we) want to do that," he said. "It's not a finished work by any means."
It's a place where Weidenhaft now is comfortable staying put, and maybe even welcoming a new vet to his clinic 15 years or so down the road.
Whether Taylor travels that road, Dad knows he made the right choice.
"I will never quit being a vet," he said.