Local vet retires after more than 40 years, ND native comes home to practice

Dr. Charles Uecker started West River Veterinary Clinic in Hettinger in 1954.

Posted March 7, 2014

 

By JAMIE SPAINHOWER

Record Editor

 

Dr. Charles Uecker started West River Veterinary Clinic in Hettinger in 1954. He was joined in practice by fellow University of Minnesota alum, Dr. Donald Safratowich at the clinic on Aug. 1, 1973. “Saffy” has been on the job since then, enjoying every day of work.

“The decision to retire was not an easy one,” he said. “I just feel the time is right.”

Working as mainly a large animal vet, over the past 40 years he said he has enjoyed all of his time at work, and will miss the staff and people the most.

“Probably the biggest changes I have seen over the years is preventative herd health with the vaccination programs,” he said. “We also don’t have the OB problems we used to have.”

In great part he gives the producers credit for much easier calving seasons, and more education has become available over the years about breeding.

“We probably see 1/10 the problems we did before. The spring of ’74 was the busiest season we ever had” for obstetrical problems, he said.

One of the most unusual things about the vet clinic was asking producers to bring their animals into the clinic, rather than have the doctor make house calls.

“One day Dr. Uecker drove 440 miles and said that’s it,” he recalled.

It took a little bit of getting used to, but soon producers realized the advantage of having their animals taken care of in a state of the art clinic, and having a vet there to help instead of out in the country somewhere.

Dr. Safratowich said he met his bride of 39 years, Eve, when she came in with her brother with a cow having calving problems.

“Her support and encouragement have been with me every step of the way,” he said.

Not much on traveling, Dr. Safratowich said he plans to continue to do the things he has always loved, including hunting and fishing.

“My six-year-old granddaughter is coming to stay for a week on Saturday,” he said with a smile. “I’m going to start off my retirement introducing her to the joys of ice fishing.”

He and Eve have two children and four grandchildren.

“My son told me once, ‘Dad, I hope I find a job that makes me as happy as yours does you,’” he said.

 

New addition to staff

Dr. Lindy West is the newest face at the clinic, having started in January and her main interest lies in equine care.

“I attended vet school at Kansas State, three years of undergrad and four years of vet school,” said the Menoken, N.D. native.

She has been practicing for the last year and one-half in Iowa. She and her husband, Steven, knew they would eventually be coming back to North Dakota, where they both have family.

“I had been here when we were visiting, and when an opportunity came up they called me,” said Dr. West.

Although the weather isn’t a surprise for her she said the dynamics of the clinic are much better.

“Before it was long hours and not much help,” she said. “The staff we have here is amazing.” There are currently five veterinarians on staff.

Dr. West looks forward to expanding the equine (horse) program already in place.

“Right now I pretty much have free rein on what I want to offer, and am excited to move on new ideas,” she said. “I also look forward to meeting more people and becoming more involved in the community.”