Tag Archives: veterinarian

Ally In

December 8, 2017 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Like many pre-teen girls, Ally Dworak loves animals. Unlike most 12 year olds, Ally doesn’t just think about animals. She raises them, studies them, and has made it her life’s mission to create a better world for her four-legged friends.

While most elementary school students are years from choosing a career path, this future veterinarian already comes with references. She understands that it is going to take a lot of schoolwork—specifically eight years of college—to reach that goal, but that doesn’t phase her.

“I love studying science and nature, I love animals, and I love meeting new people. Being a vet is just a way to combine all of these things I love,” she says.

The title “veterinarian” could cover anything from poodles to porpoises, and Ally loves them all. She fully understands that at some point, she’s going to have to narrow her field of study, and she’s thinking about going in a unique direction.

“I think I’d really like to learn more and maybe work with wolves. There’s a sanctuary in Colorado I’d really love to visit, and maybe study at,” Ally says. “They’re so pretty, and it’s so cool how they work in ranks. I like the way they work together. They’re kind of like us.”

She really loves dogs, which is not uncommon for a future vet. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, in 2016, 65.5 percent of all private-practice vets were in companion-animal exclusive practices, and 61.2 percent of those vets were women.

But Ally’s pony, Buttercup, also needs care, and Ally might want to work with horses. Mom Shellee Dworak is helping her to figure this out.

“My mom is working to set things up for me to spend a day with a vet,” Ally says. “Dr. Michael Thomassen at Nebraska Equine Veterinary Clinic is going to let me come with him and learn what he does all day. He gives horses their vaccinations and checkups, makes sure they’re healthy before a family takes them in. He does everything and he’s really so great!”

She wanted to spend the day there last year, but Dr. Thomassen said she needed to be at least 12 before shadowing him. Most students shadow in high school. Shellee is also looking at the possibility of Ally shadowing at Ralston Vet Clinic, where the family takes their small animals.

In the meantime, the Elkhorn Grandview sixth grader has been pushing her animal care dreams along on her own. She has been a member of 4-H since starting Clover Kids at age 5, and has successfully raised, and shown, several animals.

“Last year I showed a sheep,” she says.

Actually, she didn’t just show a sheep. She won Reserve Champion Junior Sheep Lead. The champion was her sister, Kate.

This year, Ally pulled no punches. In addition to her schoolwork, family obligations, and maintaining her social calendar, she intensely prepared several animals for scrutiny.

“I showed a pig, a sheep, a goat, a chicken, and a horse. At the last minute, I decided to show my pet green-cheeked conure (small parrot), Sherbet. He won first place!”

As did her goat, chicken, and horse. It took many hours of care to prepare for the fair, including learning more about veterinary science. Aggie the pig got a hernia in June. Concerned about what to do for her ailing pig, she peppered their veterinarian, Dr. Lupin, with questions.

With the help of the veterinarian, and the future veterinarian, Aggie recovered well. He then placed a respectable third at the fair.

Ally brings out the winning spirit in her charges. Her tireless enthusiasm is as much a sight as the creatures she nurtures to award-winning health and status.

This future veterinarian is well on her way to nursing, as well as nurturing, animals.

This article was originally printed in the Winter 2018 edition of Family Guide.

Frequent Flyers

March 29, 2017 by
Illustration by Derek Joy

When the world’s elite horses (and riders) arrive in Omaha, an entourage of police and first responders—including mounted patrol—will escort them to the location of the Longines FEI World Cup. The international championship for show jumping and dressage begins March 29 and continues through April 2 at the CenturyLink Center.

European competitors depart from Amsterdam, Netherlands, aboard a chartered Boeing 777 cargo plane that takes more than nine hours to reach Omaha.

The flight requires horses to be loaded into specialized containers called “jet stalls,” which resemble an enclosed stable stall. Jet stalls can hold up to three horses. The charter flight includes a “pro groom,” nine shipper grooms, and a veterinarian—all provided by the company overseeing the transportation, the Dutta Corporation.

Horses at this elite level are well-seasoned air travelers, making the journey seem almost routine, says J. Tim Dutta, the founder and owner of the international horse logistics company.

“Horses are just like human beings,” Dutta says. “Some get jittery, some read the rosary, some like some gin and tonic, some go to sleep before the plane leaves the gate, and the rest are worried about life two days afterward. Everybody’s an individual, and we are ready for each and every situation.”

Any concerns or worries, he says, are the things that can’t be entirely controlled or predicted—such as poor weather conditions or a horse getting sick during transportation.

“You’ve got a couple hundred million dollars worth of horses on the plane, so that’s serious business,” he says. “You want everything to go smooth, and there’s always challenges. But for a guy like me who’s been at it for 28 years, and has done quite a few of them, it’s just another day at the office.”

Once the horses arrive in Omaha, they will be quarantined at the CenturyLink Center for up to three days while the USDA checks for diseases and other potential health concerns.

Veterinarian Mike Black—based out of his Nebraska Equine Veterinary Clinic just outside of Blair—says any adverse effects of a long journey would be the same for horses whether they traveled by trailer or airplane. It’s not unusual for humans and animals to struggle through temporarily weakened immune systems due to stress and long periods of confinement with other travelers.

“Whenever the animal is put under stress, it will compromise some of their ability to respond to infections,” Black says. “And a lot of horses are carriers of viruses and things. So, as they’re around other horses that they’re not normally around, then things can be spread.”

When the competition opens March 29, folks without a ticket will have an opportunity to get a closer look at all the horse-and-rider teams. The practice area will be free and open to all.

Mike West, CEO of Omaha Equestrian Foundation, hopes to create a fan-friendly and carnival-like atmosphere.

The World Cup is the first international championship of its kind to be hosted in Omaha, he says. Sure, there have been championship boxing bouts in the city. And the NCAA crowns the champions of college baseball in Omaha. But never before will so many world champions prove themselves on local grounds.

Back in 1950, when the College World Series first came to Omaha, nobody could have expected how the “Gateway to the West” would become a Midwestern sports mecca.

“They didn’t know about swim trials; they didn’t know about NCAA basketball or wrestling or volleyball and all the great events that we have now,” says West, a veteran Omaha sports-marketing professional. He previously held management positions with the Lancers, Cox Classic Golf Tournament, and Creighton’s athletics department.

The Omaha Equestrian Foundation is not only dedicated to putting on a good show. West and his colleagues are committed to continuing the city’s relationship with the FEI, the Fédération Equestre Internationale (aka, the International Federation for Equestrian Sports), the governing body for the sports of show jumping and dressage.

“We have an opportunity, but we also have an obligation as an organizer to do a good job. Because if we do a good job, we don’t know what it will lead to, but we know it will lead to something [positive],” he says.

A successful 2017 World Cup in Omaha could improve chances of the World Cup returning, along with its estimated economic impact of $50 million.

“We have to be better than anybody—by far—at listening and delivering on our promise to the fans of this sport,” West says. “And if we do, I think we’ll develop a reputation that if you want to be treated like a fan [of sports], go to Omaha, Nebraska.”

Visit omahaworldcup2017.com for more information.

This article was printed in the March/April 2017 edition of Omaha Magazine.

The Edwards and Kona the Cat

July 22, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Family is everything. Every parent knows that they would go to the end of the earth for their children and do whatever it takes to make sure that the members of their family are healthy and safe. But how do you define family? Where do you draw the line?

For Crystal Edwards and her two daughters, Veronika and Delanie, it was a question that they may have never really thought about but were faced with answering recently.

In May, 13-year-old Veronika was reviewing a paper she had just written for her English class. The theme: “Write about three things that you love.” She wrote about her family, her friends, and her cat, Kona. At the last minute— she cannot say exactly why—Veronika changed the final paragraph, in which she had described Kona as her child.

Later that night, as Kona crossed the street just outside their front door, a car sped through the residential neighborhood, ran the stop sign, and hit the nearly two-year-old cat.

Crystal, not wanting her children to see the cat in that precarious condition, took him immediately to the Animal Emergency Clinic near 156th & Dodge.

“The vet said Kona was in shock,” recalls Crystal. “His eye was protruding. It looked like he had broken bones, and he wasn’t able to stand. He was just shaking so much.”

When faced with the option of putting Kona down, Crystal asked what his chances were. “They weren’t sure but said that if he made it through the night, he’d have a 50/50 chance of living.” The veterinarian was able to establish that there were no broken bones; however, there may have been some internal bleeding, major head trauma, and a high probability that Kona would lose his right eye. A morphine drip kept him sedated and comfortable.

Kona survived the night, and while his prognosis was good, it would be a long road to recovery. Crystal would need to make some major decisions.


“I knew that the girls could have one of two experiences in this moment,” says Crystal. “They could experience saying goodbye to a pet. Or I could teach them that, because he’s part of the family…we wouldn’t be limited in what we do for our pets.”

When Crystal was a young girl, she went through a similar experience when her cat was hit by a car. “I tried with all my strength to save up for medicines and food for him and to keep him alive,” she shares. “It just crushed my soul when, a while later, I had to put him to sleep.” She just couldn’t stand to have her own daughters go through the same pain.

Crystal acknowledges that the financial aspect of Kona’s treatment was a major concern. “Money really shouldn’t be a [factor], but sometimes it has to be.” During this time, the family was in the process of moving and expecting a baby. Money, unfortunately, was a consideration; but not one that would keep the family from doing all they could to keep Kona as a member of their family.

The bills mounted up: several overnight stays at the animal hospital, eight hours in an oxygen kennel, surgeries, medicines, a wired jaw, feeding tubes, and IVs. But again, how do you put a price on family or on love? Or on compassion?

Crystal expresses her gratitude to Jon Fink, DVM, of Animal Center West Omaha, the veterinarian who helped care for Kona. “He has been phenomenal,” she says. “He would call in the evening…to see if we had any questions, and we were able to bring him in to Dr. Fink daily for a few weeks to check on [his progress].” Crystal also says that the practice was very accommodating when it came to paying for Kona’s care. “He was a really great vet to work with…very responsive.

“Pretty much, the moral of the story was we wanted to do everything we could to keep the cat alive as long as he wasn’t in excruciating pain…and not to make money an issue.”

From climbing the once-insurmountable back-of-the-couch to wrestling with his old pal and family dog, Bailey, Kona is well on his way back to being his old self. And Delanie, Veronika, and Crystal couldn’t be more thankful.