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two clinics, one goal

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NASHVILLE – The air is very businesslike, with occasional whiffs of large animal, as one is led through a tour of the Nashville Animal Clinic.
Dr. Robert Bonner was able to take time for a tour and interview recently, speaking about the operation founded by his business partner, Dr. Russ Smith in 1984. The busy facility is filled with people and animals efficiently being seen and tended, while the well appointed lab, surgical theater, examination rooms and pens are filled with calm and paced activity.
Bonner explained that he joined the practice in 2005 after graduating from veterinary school at Oklahoma State University. The Murfreesboro alumnus said that he had also studied poultry science at the University of Arkansas before getting into veterinary medicine.
He and Smith are currently looking for a third doctor to add to their practice, he noted, saying that their work, especially with large animals is keeping them out in the field every day. Smith said that the partnership, and the urge to expand it, are pragmatic measures: “It’s way more efficient, more time off, and the physical plant of a clinic is the really expensive part,” he explained, saying that by inviting another veterinarian to use their facilities, costs are reduced for all while work can be spread around.
And there is a lot of work. Bonner estimated that they see a new animal every 15 minutes in the afternoons – and that is after the mornings, when the clinic will have as many as five surgeries scheduled and as many as 200 cattle may have been examined in the field. He noted that they keep a pair of fully outfitted service trucks, and they see a lot of use. In addition to the weekday work, he notes, “There’s not a weekend goes by that we don’t each get called out several times.”
When not in the field, the two doctors see large animals in a thoroughly modern setting, with several pens both open to the elements and climate controlled, as well as a hydraulic squeeze chute, which can fully control even a very large animal with minimal effort from the doctor. “The hydraulic chute is really an important safety measure, because a lot of the animals we see are sick and not happy. A 2,000 pound bull can get a bit rowdy when he’s not happy,” Bonner stated, explaining that they can even tilt an animal 90 degrees and perform surgery in the chute.
He estimates that they can hold roughly 20 cattle in their pens, and work a larger number through their chute and corral with animals coming directly off stock trailers. He said that though they work with more cattle, they also see many horses, sheep and goats in the livestock end of their business.
But their clinic is much more than just a large-animal practice, and Bonner explains that they have space for 17 large dogs and about the same number of smaller animals at one time. They are able to specialize there as well, offering orthopedic surgery where many veterinarians are not able. He mentioned that they have a good x-ray machine, one that was used by Howard Memorial Hospital until they replaced it, as well as a surgical suite that has equipment used in a human hospital until acquired by the animal clinic.
“Not a lot of people think of that – that there are all sorts of specialized vet clinics,” Bonner said, explaining that they receive referrals from many local clinics, and in turn have to send some of their patients on to specialists in other areas.
The group in Nashville are able to perform X-rays, ultrasound examinations both in the clinic and in the field, extensive laboratory testing, and endoscopy for all but the smallest animals – but some patients require even more technical care.
“I was very glad when I got here and Dr. Smith was already interested in and doing orthopedic work. I’m glad that our interests went together so well,” Bonner stated.
But more than their specializations, one quickly realizes that it is the energy of the two doctors that drives the Nashville Animal Clinic as they end the interview to go out to care for a hound and two cats that come in. The intense but controlled pace that they set allows them to care for a huge number of animals each day, and likely will for years to come.

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