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Mobile veterinarian brings clinic to clients

Community Portrait
By: Story and photo Michael Kirby
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Every work day Ariel Menninger climbs into her truck and starts out on a day that will take her 150 or 175 miles round-trip from her home in Auburn. Menninger is a large animal veterinarian. Her specialties are horses, llamas, goats and sheep; the majority of her work is with horses. An Auburn resident since 1999, Menninger works with the Foothill Mobile Veterinarian Service which is based in Placerville and serves El Dorado County. Much of her work is carried out in Cool, Georgetown, Coloma and Greenwood, just across the river on Highway 49. She also sees a few longtime clients in Auburn. Menninger logs many miles in her mobile veterinary office because the large animals she sees in many cases cannot come to an office even if she had one. “We don’t have a hospital, we have three Ford diesels. My Ford pick-up truck is my office,” Menninger said. “We have to go to very remote rural ranches sometimes to treat animals, and if they can’t come to us we go to them. Some of the horses are down, they can’t move,” she said. Her truck is indeed a rolling vet hospital/office equipped with everything Menninger will need to treat almost every situation she will come across in a given day. Menninger carries her medical equipment, medicine and drugs in specially built compartments in a customized truck bed designed for veterinarians. Menninger was raised in Kansas and got her first horse there. “For my 12th birthday my parents bought me a horse. I was begging for years and they finally caved. I’ve had a horse continually since,” Menninger said. “I was always with my horse. It cost $135 and that included some training,” she said. Menninger, with a degree in English, moved to Davis in 1984, was waiting tables, then found a job working in the UC Davis large animal clinic, setting up for emergency surgeries from 5 p.m. to 8 a.m. Here she was exposed to veterinary students and her interest in becoming a veterinarian seemed possible. At 28, after completing her lower division classes at City College, Menninger applied to the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine. She was accepted. She graduated in 1992 at age 32 and has been a vet for the last 19 years. Very much like a people doctor, Menninger never knows what she will encounter on a given day. Appointments are scheduled for regular services and check-ups. Teeth cleanings and dental issues are routine for horses, and intestinal problems are fairly common with all the species she treats. Emergencies can happen at any time and her schedule is adjusted to accommodate the unexpected call day or night seven days a week. Most calls are routine, but many horses can be hurt running into field fences, and sometimes dogs or other predators attack goats and sheep in our rural areas. The unusual does sometimes happen and Menninger recalled that recently a horse had fallen off the Western States Trail in Auburn Lake Trails down a steep embankment and ended up stuck in an oak tree. “I was called to sedate her while she was cut out of the tree with chain saws,” Menninger said. Menninger prefers working outside with the large animals, solving the unique problems each situation brings. “I’m lucky with the job I have. The country around here is so beautiful. I get to relive pain and worry,” Menninger said. “I know what it’s like to be anxious, waiting with a sick animal for the vet,” she said.