Arrival of another vet thrills farmers

Heather Latter

With the arrival of veterinarian Dr. Jon Fistler to the Rainy River District, area farmers are pleased to see the return of full-time large-animal service here.
“We’ve gone from virtually no emergency service to a choice of two on-call, so we’re totally thrilled with this development,” enthused Tom Morrish, chair of the local vet committee.
Dr. Fistler is the second large animal vet to begin practising in the district since June, when Dr. Marialisa Laurella joined Dr. Dan Pierroz at the Nor-West Animal Clinic here in Fort Frances, offering services for both large and small animals.
Dr. Fistler, who moved to the district from Minnesota, is working for Dr. Bobby Egli of Hillcrest Animal Clinic in Dryden.
“I’ve had three good large-animal jobs that I lost due to downturns in the dairy economy in the U.S.,” he explained, referring to why he wanted to relocate to Canada.
And in moving to Rainy River District, Dr. Fistler remains close to his two grown daughters who live in Duluth while helping fill the need for veterinarian services in this area.
The vet committee had been looking to recruit a large-animal veterinarian to the district for the past five years.
And while other veterinarians have filled in by scheduling visits here, Morrish said it’s the emergency services the farming community has been missing.
“It’s quite critical, especially at calving time,” he remarked. “And now, hopefully, we have it covered from two angles.”
While Dr. Laurella is fresh out of veterinary school and perhaps up on more current practices, Dr. Fistler brings 21 years of experience.
“About six years ago, I did work in International Falls, with satellite offices in Baudette and Warroad, and I filled in [at] those offices,” Dr. Fistler noted.
“I was doing farm calls,” he added. “It’s very similar south of the river, north of the river.”
Dr. Fistler is qualified to practice all types of veterinary medicine, but large-animal is his passion. His father was a mixed practice veterinarian, with his clinic attached to the house, so he grew up with an interest in animals of all kinds.
Dr. Fistler graduated from the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine in 1990 and has been working in Wisconsin and Minnesota, practising equine medicine in Cloquet and making calls into Duluth, Superior, as well as Virginia and Hibbing.
He has extensive experience in equine medicine, and is proficient in bovine medicine and surgery. He also enjoys working with elk, red deer, buffalo, sheep, goats, pigs, and exotics.
“I just hope to do everything that needs to be done,” Dr. Fistler said, noting he currently has a mobile unit and will make farm calls as required.
He will return weekly to the clinic in Dryden to stock up on medicines, vaccines, and supplies, but hopes in the future to set up a storefront here.
“For the last eight-10 years, there has been very intermittent large-animal vet service in the Fort Frances area,” explained Dr. Egli.
“People would call me up and I’d run down there occasionally for emergencies and other large-animal calls.
“But it’s two-and-a-half hours’ drive there . . . and it didn’t seem to work out very well.
“But that’s where the demand is right now for large-animal,” added Dr. Egli, who had been asked by Dr. Fistler to sponsor him during his cross-border relocation process.
Meanwhile, Morrish said the local farming community certainly feels there is room for two large-animal veterinarians in the district.
“The problem with large-animal with one vet, it’s 24 hours, seven days a week on-call situation,” he explained.
“So the fact we now have two vets splits that up and makes it a much easier load, which makes it better for them and better for us.”
Morrish added if one veterinarian is unavailable in an emergency, there will be someone else to call.
“I think this is the answer we’ve been looking for,” he remarked. “It’s quite a sigh of relief.”
Dr. Fistler will be available from Monday to Friday from 8 a.m.-5 p.m., and from 8 a.m.-noon on Saturdays. He will be offering on-call 24-hour emergency service, as well.
For appointments, contact Dr. Fistler at 276-2685 or the Hillcrest Animal Clinic toll-free at 1-800-465-7223.
Dr. Laurella, meanwhile, will continue to schedule routine large-animal calls on Tuesdays or other days by arrangement—and also is available after-hours for emergencies.