By Bill Stork, DVM

The ad read: “Two-doctor, mixed-animal veterinary practice in the bucolic hamlet of Lake Mills, seeks a Hospital Manager.”

"Our staff is dedicated, motivated and compassionate beyond all else. Must be proficient in accounts payable, receivable and payroll. Special interest, education and expertise in Human Resources, scheduling and marketing are required. Interested candidates must be self-starting."

Roughly translated, “you’re on your own”.

"Teamwork is essential." Meaning, a dog pooped in the lobby, exam room 1 needs to be recovered, the laundry needs to be changed and folded, and get line 3 before it goes to voicemail.

"Pay is commensurate with experience." (But not to exceed that of a shift leader at a mini-mart.)

"Opportunities for advancement." (Once you are proficient at all of the above, you can hold fractious cats for blood draws, and sweep the cobwebs off the front porch.)

Craigslist and classifieds brought dozens of responses, including impeccable resumés from apartment managers, appliance salesmen, and a man with an MBA from Notre Dame.

Our staff behaviorist recommended I speak with her friend, Holly, who had experience as executive director of two humane societies and had managed elder care facilities and group homes for troubled youth. Given that Mittsy has a system by which she chooses socks and scrubs each morning and her respect is an award as valuable as an Emmy, her endorsement spoke volumes. Not to mention, there were no viable options. Holly and I had lunch.

Holly had built her career, if not her identity, caring for people and animals in need. We were both. She started at 8:00AM the next day.

From that day in October 2010, until last Thursday, the job description above would describe a fraction of what Holly did for the staff, clients and patients of the Lake Mills Veterinary Clinic.

Charged with the responsibility of bringing together dynamic and multiple skills and personalities to accomplish care and the preservation and enhancement of the human animal bond, she was outwardly indefatigable and impeccably professional.

In a profession populated liberally by people who care, Holly stands out. Not only because she is a foot taller than most, but by those for whom she cares. That would truly be all creatures, great and small. Man or beast, young or old – the less able or more lonely, the deeper her concern.

Her actions speak more loudly than her deeply creased brow and easy tear. Driving for hours to fluff a pillow or deliver a hug that might ease an ache, even for a moment.

Veterinary medicine is a beautiful, if not unique, profession. We all have an opportunity to move forward by recognizing, examining, and internalizing the strengths of good people.

We are obliged to celebrate and continue the heart without end that defines our retiring office manager, Holly Houston.

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