5 Lessons From Dr. Holgate
Because Dr. Holgate was the only vet for 75 miles in all directions, she and her husband, Elwood, had to balance work and their own needs.
Dr. Holgate is the only vet in Tuba City, Arizona and, although there are several that claim to “serve the Tuba City area,” these all involve a drive of at least 75 miles either to Page or Flagstaff.
Lesson #1: Can't Be Everything To Everyone
Dr. Holgate spends much of her time on the hill at Desert View Clinic in Tuba City, but she also took some time to go south to Phoenix and spend some time at a larger clinic to see their operation.
She explained that, “I shadowed out of an emergency clinic out of Phoenix. They saw a lot of the things that I usually see (at Desert View) and I wanted to get their perspective about emergency hours.” Basically, the clinic never closes because they run their emergency services side by side their regular vet clinic.
This operation and all the staffing to support it is much different in comparison to being the only vet within 75 miles — the only large animal provider — and doing it with two people. A few weeks earlier, Dr. Holgate and Elwood saw two lambs and a goat, plus all the spay and neuter surgeries, vaccines and emergencies. She continued with, “They (the Phoenix clinic) wanted to know how I did it, to work the regular 8 to 5 AND be available for emergencies.”
This experience made her realize that she couldn’t do everything: “It made me think about the services that I can be here for, because I can’t be here for everything for every person.”
Less #2: Setting Boundaries
Because Dr. Holgate was the only vet for 75 miles in all directions, she and her husband, Elwood, had to balance work and their own needs. They adjoined their clinic and home, which helps in some ways, but boundaries blurred at times. She added, “I have been trying to help to set boundaries for us and the business. We are now closed on Mondays and that gives us time to catch up on everything else we don’t have time for. In the past I always felt guilty not using my weekend time for myself because it was always work, work, work — 7 days a week.”
Basically, the clinic never closes because they run their emergency services side by side their regular vet clinic!
And when she reflected on all those mobile spay and neuter clinics she provided to other Navajo communities and on the lack of sleep she received, she said, “Well, I’ve done it and I’ve survived! It’s brought us where we are at right now.“
Lesson #3: Lean On Others
There is so much to do for two people and some things just don’t get done.
“We work with the Tuba City Humane Society and they really help us,” she said gratefully. Before, her and Elwood would operate the business, but also performed rescues and picked up strays or injured animals if people called them in. Now the Humane society called and said, “Hey, we can pick up that stray.” They also offered transportation to other providers that were outside of the area.
One of the rescues closed, so that was another resource which was no longer in the community. “This kind of business is so demanding,” Dr. Holgate explained, as far as finances were concerned. “This past week, we had a guy come in with eight puppies. The owner of the puppies had just died, so we took them. Normally, we can’t take all of them because we would never want to have too many and then be in a neglectful situation.” The puppies had just eaten when our staff and Dr. Holgate went to visit them. Some were resting and others were excited to see humans! She added, “They were tick infested (when we got the pups). At least they look somewhat healthy now, but we had them tested for giardia and parvo. Those tests were negative, so we got them started on vaccines.”
Dr. Holgate has had to make the best out of a demanding situation with the overpopulation of animals. Some estimates show that the animal population is 4 to 5 animals per household, meaning that there is maybe a quarter of a million on Navajo. She added, “They say there are more animals versus people in Tuba. I could probably see that." The Humane society had a few foster homes, but she wished there were more. “Financially, it takes a lot to support stray animals that come with all these issues,” she expounded. Thankfully, she wasn’t alone with helping these animals in need.
Lesson #4: Free Isn't Always Good
Dr. Holgate offers reduced rates most of the time. Through a PWNA grant, via the Reservation Animal Rescue (RAR) program and administered through the Tuba City Humane Society, they also offered spay and neuter services as well as vaccinations at a very low rate.
Dr. Holgate recently had a guy come in with 8 puppies & she took them all in!
It had always been important to her that owners bear some of the financial responsibility of their animals. She explained, “They still have to pay something. I think that is really important to the animal, because what we are working towards adds value to the animal… not devaluing the animal.” This approach may even help to change people’s thinking about how many dogs they can actually care for in their homes.
She shared that her costs for an average male dog — altering with pain meds, vaccinations, and exam — would be between $100 and $150 for everything! She added, “I’m so happy when people come in and come back in two weeks for boosters. I would say we have a 95% chance they are coming back. And sometimes they even drive from Page to get their follow up.”
Lesson #5: Take Encouragement From The Past
Dr. Holgate has faced a lot of misconceptions about her services. It could be rough doing what they do. People don’t realize that they are not a shelter and are not funded. She said, “Those are difficult things to get across, but we want to help.”
She learned that encouragement came from unexpected places when she received a visit from one of her previous educators. She explained, “My third-grade teacher came to Tuba City and stopped in! She was so happy that I’m here and doing what we do… and she told me that she was proud of me. It was nice to hear that!”