Animal Hospital of Donald F. Steen D.V.M.

Donald F. Steen DVM

    Growing up on a farm in south central Mississippi, my life-long association with animals began early. There were horses, cows, bird dogs, foxhounds, chickens and a cat or two, not to mention the occasional wild animal that we caught and tried to tame.

    When I was three years old, I got my first pet, a paint pony named Shorty. I remember, it was a Saturday night, and my grandfather had one of the hands lead Shorty right inside of our little country store. I was taken by total surprise, but the family had all congregated to see my reaction and I was so excited. I didn't know how to ride but they led me around a little and then led the pony and me out of the store to the mule barn to bed him down for the night.
    My dad always exercised his bird dogs on Sunday mornings before church, and he decided to let me trail along with him on the pony that morning. Things went pretty well for a while, but then one of dogs decided to nip at the pony's heels, and my dad did not have his hands on the reins, so off we went at a dead run and, of course, I came off after about 20 yards. My enthusiasm was dampened just slightly, but the worse was, that in that one incident, the pony had learned that I could not control him. After that, every time I tried to ride him he found some way to get me off his back. My uncle, a good horseman, thought he could cure ole Shorty, so he got on him one day(imagine a 180 lb. man on a 400 lb. pony, legs almost touching the ground)and the pony threw him. We Steen's don't give up easy but after a year of dumping everyone that tried to ride him and biting one uncle in the back, my grandfather suggested  that maybe we ought to trade Shorty for a bicycle before someone got hurt. Well I couldn't ride a bicycle either, but I had pushed one around one day and that was pretty fun in itself, so I agreed.  Shorty was sold and I was in the market for a bicycle.  I often wondered who the unfortunate kid was that inherited him.

    A few days later my grandfather loaded me in the car and we were off to Jackson. Now days, it's a short commute for those who live in that community, but in 1950, with almost all gravel roads that 45 miles was a journey. He took me to the Schwinn bike store on South State street, and I picked out a 20 inch, dark green, cream pin-striped, coaster-braked Schwinn Flyer. We arrived back home late that afternoon and I was beaming from ear to ear. 
 After everyone oohed and aahed over my new bike, and had gone back inside the house, I started plotting how to ride the thing. As is the case with most kids, when I tried to get on, I might go a few feet and then over I would go. I'd get up and go again with the same result. This went on for quite a while and I had my share of bumps and bruises, but little by little I was keeping it up a little longer each time. Then finally I launched, and that was a great thrill, but I had no directional control, and unfortunately the circle that I was going in was going to intersect with the sweet gun that lived in our front yard. I knew if I quit pedaling I would fall, and I did not know if I would ever launch again, so I kept pedaling hoping to miraculously miss the tree. But I didn't; I rammed in to it head-on. The impact landed me in a pile over the handlebars. I got up and shook myself off, and decided to call it a day. When I went to bed that night, I wasn't sure that I had made such a great trade.

    At about that same time my other grandfather had a big, black cocker spaniel, named Rocky that he bred and, I think showed. Rocky had sired a litter of puppies, and he presented me  with one of them, a little blonde female that I named Lady.  She was a bit of a curiosity in our community because pedigreed dogs were almost non-existent. She was a great little dog and I taught her to sit and fetch and she was just my constant companion. There was one boy in our neighborhood, a couple of years older than me, who used to try to bully me a little, but not after I got Lady. All I had to do was say "sic'm Lady" and she was all over his pant legs. He began to leave me alone and I hope I didn't abuse my new found power.  In 1950 Mississippi, rabies was a common problem and, Lady wound up being bitten by a rabid dog and had to be destroyed. It still pains me today when I think about it.

    When I was in first grade, I got off the school bus one day and saw a pinto mare tied to the hitching post outside the store. I thought I knew every horse in the community and I didn't recognize this horse, so I ran into the store to ask my dad and grandfather to whom the mare belonged. "You, if you want her", was the reply. I cannot describe my excitement. She was a full size horse and she took good care of me until her death when I was a junior in high school. At first, being only six, I had to climb into the feed trough just put the bridle on. Then I would drag her to a fence to climb up on her back. When I was a little bigger she would put her head down and I would lay across her neck and as she raised her head I would side down her neck onto her back. I always rode bareback as my folks would not allow me to use a saddle at that age. Falling off was one thing, getting hung up in stirrups was another.

    By the time I was twelve, I was the one breaking the any young horses that were born on the place. I think I got the job by default as none of the other hands around were stupid enough to climb on board. I got dumped occasionally, but never seriously hurt. That early experience with horses carried me through 32 years of working with some of rankest horses in existent and I never had a serious injury.

     My grandfather had accumulated his acreage by buying smaller farm as others sold out. The result was that our acreage was spread out over about a six mile radius, often separated by other small farms and residences. During the winter, the cattle would be brought in to what we called the "home place" and they were allowed to graze the cotton, corn, and soybean fields so they could glean any feedstuff that had been left behind. In the spring before preparations for planting could start, they had to be moved back to other acreage, usually swamps or wooded areas for the summer.  We did not have one of those large vans like you see now days so we drove our cattle by horseback down the gravel roads to the appropriate destinations. It took a couple of days to get them all situated. Any doctoring and weaning was also done at same time. These twice-a year events were just my favorite times. My heroes have always been cowboys.
   I  graduated from Pinola High School in 1964. Pinola was a great little high school. The principal, Mr. Carney Smith had only one rule "DO RIGHT", and he was big enough to lift a 17 year-old off his feet with his paddle when he didn't. My best friend and I went off to Ole Miss that fall and roomed together.  He wanted be a pharmacist, which he did vey successfully. I enrolled in a pre-med curriculum and pursued that for 5 semesters. I decided I didn't want to go to med school and made up my mind to transfer to Mississippi State and enroll in the School of Agriculture. My intent was to go home after graduation and make a place for myself on the farm, but farming was changing, and my parents were less than supportive of that idea, so when the dean of the School of Agriculture suggested I apply for veterinary school, I thought why not. I got excepted on my first application and began, what has turned out to be an  incredible journey in veterinary medicine in September of 1968.

    After graduation, I went to Houston, Texas to intern with Dr. B.M. Cooley, a noted equine surgeon at that time, and after the internship, he ask me to remain on the staff of the Almeda Equine Clinic. I spent 2 years there, before being given the opportunity by Dr. Carr Hyatt of joining the staff of the Colonial Heights Animal Hospital in Kingsport, Tennessee. Dr. Hyatt, a great veterinarian and life-long friend, provided me  with the opportunity to work extensively with surgical problems in both the dog and cat. I had some great professorial mentors at Auburn, but these two men were very important, real world mentors to me. 

    In 1976, I bought a veterinary facility that had been abandoned by the previous owner in Zionsville, Indiana, and established  a small animal and equine practice providing both surgical and medical services. In 1986, to escape the ills of the urban sprawl, I sold the Indiana practices and move to Lyndonville, Vermont. After practicing two years at the North Country veterinary Clinic, I established the Animal Hospital in 1988. I have never regretted my move to Vermont, and even though I complain about the climate from time to time, after nearly 27 years this has become my home.

    I have enjoyed a variety of interest over the years including football, hunting, fishing, skiing, canoeing, boating, scuba diving, airplanes, motorcycling, horse training, dog training, cat herding, travel, music, guitar, oil painting, house building, and family history.

    My wife and I have seven children and enjoy playing with our six grandchildren.

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