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A dog for every kid: Smylie Vet Clinic focuses on quality, affordable care

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

Douglas – In 1962, Don Smylie traveled from Torrington to Douglas to set up a veterinary practice, and today that practice is still going strong, with an endless stream of pets and livestock and a constant commotion in their Douglas headquarters.
    “There was no veterinarian here, so I came up and got started,” says Don.
    Of setting up a practice in a new town, he says, “You just answer the phone and start going to work.”
    Once he started he never stopped, and today he’s semi-retired but the clinic has more than enough clients to keep three other vets busy. Two of those are Don’s sons Dean and Max, and the other is Amanda Ahrens who joined the practice last summer after graduating vet school at Iowa State University.
    “I don’t work much in the clinic anymore,” says Don. “I do health inspections and help with odds and ends.”
    “Max came back to practice in 1981, and he’s been here ever since, and I graduated and came back,” says Dean Smylie, who focuses on the small animal side of the clinic. “The clinic is roughly 50/50 small and large animals, and our small animal practice continues to get bigger and bigger.”
    Dean says the large animal side hasn’t changed much in terms of numbers, because there’s only a certain amount of carrying capacity on the land.
    “We do cover more territory now, because there aren’t as many large animal vets around,” notes Dean. “We travel a long way, anymore.”
    Don says livestock production has changed a lot since he first got started as a vet.
    “When I came, everything was Hereford and now it’s mostly Angus, and there used to be a lot more sheep than there are now,” he notes. “The technology is greatly different, with better vaccines, better antibiotics, better facilities and better everything. It’s different, but I wouldn’t say it’s any easier. We can get a lot more work done than we used to.”
    Dean adds that ultrasound has also changed large animal technology.
    “We used to ultrasound a few heifers, but it was a fledgling thing when I got out of school, and it’s probably the biggest technological breakthrough,” he says.
    Dean also adds that small animal technology has changed even more.
    “There’s been a tremendous increase in technology in small animal medicine and surgery – it’s becoming more like human medicine now,” he notes, as he works on carpal fusion for a dog in the clinic. “We wouldn’t have done this a few years ago.”
    “The people are the big thing everybody likes about Douglas,” says Dean. “We have great clientele, and I’ve always felt like Douglas has a super bunch of people.”
    “I’ve always felt like a vet should try to keep his prices at a level where every kid can grow up with a dog, no matter what his parents’ means are,” says Dean. “We try to keep our prices where everyone can afford a dog, and by doing that we tend to keep pretty busy.”
    However, he says the cost of running a clinic goes up every year.
    “Our drug costs have gone crazy in the last couple years. So many drug companies are merging, and whenever they merge that eliminates a little competition,” he adds. “That’s one of the biggest frustrations for us.”
    Christy Martinez is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at

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