The Big Sandy Mountaineer -

Erica Chauvet: Small town Veterinarian serves Big Sandy


July 4, 2018

Erica Chauvet, is the only veterinary we have in Big Sandy. Says she's just "a girl that likes people, helping animals, and loves her family and God. Countryside Veterinary Service is located on the Chauvet Ranch just outside of Big Sandy.

She told me that she probably always wanted to be a veterinary, because "growing up on a cattle ranch with cattle, horses, my own farm flock of sheep, dogs, cats and etc. really had an influence on me." Erica went to undergraduate for four years at Carroll and then four years of vet school at Washington State University in Pullman Washington. "Being a single doctor practice has its advantages and drawbacks. I have the ability to manage my time around the family-often doing my office work in the wee hours of the morning or late at night. I like being a country town vet. It has its challenges. I think one of the biggest challenges is being a single doctor practice, with children." Erica and her husband Shane have three children, twin girls that will be five and in pre-school this fall, and a little boy who is 2.5. She has to juggle being a ranch wife, mother to three, and a vet. She has no one to take her calls for her or help her in the clinic. She has to arrange animal visit with her husband if the animal is too large for her to manage. If she's busy working on an emergency animal visit on someone's ranch there is no one to take her calls. It's difficult to have good customer service. This winter and spring she has been extremely busy. "I will never forget the winter of 2018. It presented a lot of health challenges as well as the massive snow, muddy conditions and exposure to the conditions." Imagine a vet being called out in those conditions. "Being on call all the time can get really tiring mentally and physically especially at calving when we are calving our own cows/heifers plus doing emergencies for clients. Calving emergencies can be some of the most rewarding calls though so it makes it a bit easier to crawl out of a warm bed and head to work at 3 am in a cold night. I love seeing a new calf shake his head, cough and sneeze as he enters the world following a tough delivery or c-section."

Another challenge is she not a full-service vet. She does not have any of the in-house x-ray and sonograms equipment. She can't do diagnostic testing with CBC labs of blood samples in house either and must send them off to Helena for the results. It takes two days to get the results. If she believes the animals needs emergency testing she will send them to other vets in the area, Havre, Fort Benton, or Great Falls. She cares more for the animal and wants them to get the best service possible. "I do love the fact that the veterinary community around Big Sandy is wonderful. My fellow vet colleagues in Fort Benton, Havre and Chinook and even Great Falls are wonderful-we talk often and they are great about accepting my referrals, when I have an animal that I don't have the staff or equipment to treat."

She remembers a case when a dog was brought in when she was still in Chouteau. He was sick and his GI was upset. Tests indicated he needed surgery and she could feel there was an object in his stomach as well. She removed 20 golf balls. The owner would practice golf and he would go get them.

"It's rewarding, frustrating, heart-warming and tear jerking profession-all in the same day. You'll heroically save an animal one hour, then not be able to do anything for the next. In the following appointment, you'll examine a tail wagging puppy adopted by an equally excited family.

Then you ruin your day by ending the life of someone's best friend. I've cried both tears of joy and sadness with clients all in the same day."

"I love the fact that my profession gives me an opportunity to be of service to the community and meet its wonderful folks."

Erica is one of many who help us to celebrate our rural roots. She has personally worked on my best friends numerous times.


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