Photo by Don Nelson Veterinarians Terri and Dan DeWeert (with Barn Cat) volunteer their services at the Methow Valley’s two annual rodeos.

Photo by Don Nelson
Veterinarians Terri and Dan DeWeert (with Barn Cat) volunteer their services at the Methow Valley’s two annual rodeos.

Valley veterinarians are regulars at other events as well

By Don Nelson

Dr. Dan DeWeert and his wife, Dr. Terri DeWeert, are familiar faces at the Methow Valley’s Memorial Day and Labor Day rodeos.

The Valley Veterinary Clinic owners volunteer their services in case animals are injured during the competition and need attention. Dan has been on hand at the rodeos for 38 years, Terri for 23 years.

Dan has been slowed the past year by Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) — more commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease — but he intends to be at this weekend’s Labor Day rodeo. While he is no longer able to physically look after the animals, his experience will still be invaluable in determining when Terri’s help needs to be summoned.

The DeWeerts are rodeo fans, but more than that they consider it a public service to volunteer their time at such events. They’ve also helped out at other local and regional events such as Ride to Rendezvous, the Methow Valley Back Country Horsemen’s annual spring ride, and until recently the Omak Stampede Suicide Race.

Dan, a graduate of the Washington State University veterinarian school, was named the Washington State Veterinary Medical Association’s Veterinarian of the Year in 2012. He and Terri both grew up around animals, so their chosen profession had an early impetus. Dan spent time during his U.S. Air Force duty assisting a veterinarian in England, which furthered his interest. Terri’s veterinary degree is from the University of California at Davis.

The DeWeerts say the nature of their practice has changed dramatically over the years. Their “clientele” used to be predominantly large animals, cattle mostly. But as the valley’s economy and demographics changed over the years, the practice began to see more small animals and horses. Also, technological advances and the ability to perform tests and procedures in Twisp that formerly had to be done elsewhere have allowed them to be more responsive to their patients’ needs.

Over time, the DeWeerts have tended to some uncommon pets — including a cougar, leopard, camels, llamas and even a gerbil.

For the community

The DeWeerts have always regarded their time at the rodeos as something they do for the community. If they do have to treat animals — an extremely rare occurrence, they say — the stock owners pay for their services.

The animals’ owners and the rodeo competitors care about the health and condition of their horses, steers and bulls, and take good care of them. “They can’t perform if they’re not healthy,” Terri said. As for injuries, “usually it’s more cowboys than critters,” she added.

The DeWeerts have formed many friendships over the years through their rodeo volunteering, they said.

“They’ve really been a great help to us,” said Dennis Gardner, president of the Methow Valley Horsemen, the group that stages the two annual rodeos. In addition to their animal expertise, Gardner said, the DeWeerts “know the area and the people.”

The DeWeerts contribute in other important ways as well. They have always provided opportunities for interns and students interested in a veterinary career. Thirteen students who formerly worked at their clinic have gone on to veterinary school, 12 of them at WSU. “It’s been fun to see them develop in the business,” Dan said.

Staying active

Dan is forthcoming about his experiences with ALS, a progressive disease that attacks the nerve cells responsible for controlling voluntary muscles. He was diagnosed more than a year ago at Virginia Mason Medical Center in Seattle, he said, and the disease was developing before that. With treatment provided by the Veterans Administration — which has been very helpful and supportive, Dan said, despite some disparaging stories about how veterans sometimes have to wait for attention — Dan has improved his oxygen level and breathing.

The VA also provided a van that is wheelchair accessible. Dan said he was outfitted with an “all-terrain wheelchair” that has a gun rack so he can go hunting. And the DeWeerts’ home now has a backup generator in case they lose power.

Dan currently walks with the aid of a cane. He has lost some strength and balance, he said, but feels well enough to be active and has been maintaining his weight.

“I’m not going to sit at home and do nothing,” he said.

“I’ve got an incentive to keep going,” Dan added: his first granddaughter was born Aug. 2 (the DeWeerts have two grandsons).

“I’ll do as much as I can for as long as I can,” Dan said.