Tails of a Dream Come True
When we are little, we often have lofty dreams of what we want to be when we grow up – whether it’s an actor, an astronaut, or a professional athlete – but by the time most of us reach adulthood, few continue to chase these dreams.
Darcee Munsterteiger, veterinarian and co-owner of Northern Plains Animal Health, is one of the few who never gave up on her childhood dream.
Growing up on a beef farm in central rural Minnesota led to Darcee’s dream of becoming a large animal vet. “I was a tomboy, and I loved being outside,” she said. “It was right up my alley.”
However, the path to becoming a vet was far from an easy one. Eight years of rigorous schooling coupled with the hefty cost caused Darcee to second guess herself and change her major a couple of times during undergraduate school. But she kept reminding herself to hold onto her dreams, and went back to pre-vet.
When she applied for vet school, she was accepted on her first try. “It was a challenge, but obviously it was meant to be.”
Darcee met her husband, Greg Adolf, at school. Since he is from Bismarck, North Dakota, the two settled on eastern South Dakota as their stomping ground in order to be closer to both of their families. After they both graduated, they were fortunate enough to work in the same clinic in Milbank for a while. She stayed there doing large animal vet work for both dairy and beef cattle until she was six months pregnant with her first child. “Then life made some changes for me,” she said.
Darcee and Greg’s next goal was to be independent and own their own clinic. After doing lots of research, they came to the conclusion that Aberdeen offered the best of both worlds: it had a small-town feel, but with both small and large animal clientele.
Now all of Darcee’s days are filled with a variety of appointments with all kinds of creatures, big and small. No day is exactly like another.
One of the biggest challenges of Darcee’s job is trying to find the common ground between both of her clients. “In the small animal veterinary world, you have both a patient and a client,” she explained. “My patient is the four-legged animal that comes in, but I also have a two-legged client attached. Your level of communication and psychological help always differs with both of those.”
The diversity between the animals and people is also what makes Darcee’s job so interesting. Whether it’s adults bringing in their pets for appointments or children taking tours of the building, she is constantly meeting new people and animals.
However, the joys of the job do not come without sorrow. Without a doubt, Darcee says the hardest part of her job is dealing with the end of life experience. “Some of us start out thinking we can handle this job, but your compassion level just continues to grow.” She often forms a personal connection with the people and animals she works with, which makes it even harder. “I will say I’m probably one of the biggest softies in this clinic. Sometimes I go home at night and have to have a good cry about what happened during the day.”
Although chasing your dreams may sometimes seem impossible, Darcee encourages other aspiring vets not to give up. She says the best way to prepare is to spend time with a vet or at a local clinic to make sure the job is actually the right fit for you. In addition, she expressed the importance of taking a business class. “Greg is electrical engineering, and I was in vet school all the way through,” Darcee explained. “We were two very educated people who wanted to be veterinarians, but knew nothing about running a business. Take advantage of your time as an undergrad and take some business classes.”
Above all, Darcee believes in being honest and upfront with her clients. By providing quality service that is both compassionate and ethical, she is able to help out countless clients who continue to come back to the clinic, which is without a doubt her favorite part of the job. “You know if you’re helping the animal, you’re helping the person too.” // –Becca Simon