Fielding questions from a class of news writers at Lincoln Land Community College, Dr. Evan Kirk is asked about a cat of many mood swings.
Kirk lights up and goes into doc-mode, “Does he lay his ears back, does his hair stand up, do his eyes dilate? Does he growl or scream?” When he receives a resounding “no,” he says, “Some of that may just be him being a kitten. He’ll settle down if that’s what he’s doing. If that’s just wild kitten behavior, he’ll probably outgrow it.”
Working as one of the three DVM’s of Brewer Animal Hospital in Springfield, IL since 1990, Kirk has had many ornery experiences with customers, the most irritating being money complaints. “When you’re dealing with the public, anything can happen. People will be exceedingly rude to the staff and when the doctor comes into the room, it’s a totally different story. They may complain about money every time. When they’re seeing a doctor and we ask them ‘do you want to do this and this and this with your pet?’ they want to do everything, but then they complain about the charges to the receptionist.”
One of those charges could possibly be pet food available only at the clinic. Kirk explains the difference between their pet food and the brands at the store. “The prescription food would be different from the store. They’re only available through the vet. We got out of trying to sell dog food to people because we can’t compete with PetSmart and places like that. That’s not what we’re there for—we’re there to practice medicine, not sell food.”
Kirk never recommends specific brands to his clients. He says, “Just stay away from store brands and generic brands. Stick with a pet food that’s from a company that’s in the business of making pet food and that’s it—something that’s been around for a while and has a track record.”
The hardest thing Kirk deals with in the office is putting animals to sleep.
“The death of a pet is always really difficult. It’s part of the job. It’s just like anything else in life. You have a certain number of girlfriends when you’re younger and they break up with you and you get used to it, you know,” he laughs. Kirk notes the toughest part of putting animals to sleep—the people. For him, widows are the most emotionally challenging to deal with. “This is all she’s got left of her husband or this is all she has. It breaks your heart.”
After the pet is put to sleep, the body is most often cremated. “We have a contract with Kirlin-Egan & Butler here in Springfield and they’ll cremate them.”
Other times, the family will request the animal and then bury them in their yards.
Kirk talks about the wonders of dogs and their olfactory sixth sense. “So much of a dog’s world is made up of what they smell. Everything they see is in terms of what it smells like.” He says they can even detect certain kinds of cancer.
Cats on the other hand, have a sixth sense with smelling pheromones. “If a female cat comes in heat and goes outside—I don’t care where you live—the conception rate is pretty much 100 percent.”
Kirk lives a busy lifestyle working 50+ hours a week and also balances hobbies like reading, gardening, boating and riding his Harley.
As he stands up to enjoy his precious day off, he reminds us all that through the hard and sometimes annoying moments of working as a vet, he loves his job. He looks up as if reflecting on a precious memory and says, “I had that dream as a kid.” That dream has come true.