Colleen Retz recalls growing up in Kansas City where she first discovered her love for horses. "I was obsessed," she admitted with a smile.
As a youngster she worked at a stable and learned her way around horses until her family could afford to buy her "an old broken down horse from the race track and ever since there has been no turning back."
Today, Retz has turned that passion for animals into compassion as a veterinarian working with Animal Health Center, 508 N. Main St. in Sikeston. As part of her job she has developed the Animal Health Center's first equine ambulatory mobile service, taking her skills and equipment into the field, literally.
Retz attended the University of Missouri-Columbia doing her undergraduate studies in animal science and receiving her doctorate of veterinary medicine this year. In August, she joined the Animal Health Center where she works with Dr. Stephen Williams, Dr. Becky Smith and at Charleston with Dr. Jim Pratt.
Her interests in large animal medicine, particularly with horses, and the Animal Health Center's reputation for quality small animal care, Retz said made going on staff seemed like the right move. "They offer a quality of medicine and a good clinic atmosphere that I wanted to be a part of," she said. With her equine ambulatory mobile service, Retz has everything she needs to treat her patients on site. "The truck is loaded with everything needed - the medicine, the equipment, even a portable x-ray," said Retz.
Retz explained much of the services she provides to horse owners involve meeting daily needs, such as vaccinations. However, her current case load includes working with a lame horse and another suffering from an eye tumor while earlier this summer she cared for a horse, now recovering from a mild case of West Nile Disease.
"The demand is greater than I expected," said Retz. "The more I'm out, the more I realize the need for a veterinarian specializing in large animals and willing to go out to the animals." Her animal clients, she added, includes all large animals like cattle and some not so large, such as goats.
When not in her truck traveling to work with an animal in need, Retz works with smaller patients, such as cats and dogs.
Her advice to owners of pets, whether large or small: Prevention is the key to good animal health. "I always go back to the old saying, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Good preventive medicine will leave an animal in much better health than trying to treat something after the fact," she said.
Along with her new career as a veterinarian, Retz is balancing her life as wife and new mother. Retz is married to Matt Retz, who farms in New Madrid County. The couple has a six-month-old daughter, Megan.
Retz, just like her veterinarian counterparts at Animal Health Center, is on call for emergencies. While she takes part in the rotation at the animal clinic for small animal emergencies, the staff turns the calls for horses over to her or horse owners call her directly at 380-9898.
Animal Health Center is open from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday, on Tuesday and Thursday's from 7:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. and from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays. In addition to her mobile practice, Retz works at the Charleston satellite clinic on Thursdays.