Animal Haven Veterinary Clinic is located across the road on the west side of I 25 just north of the California exist on the way out of town. Their motto is “Caring hands of all creatures great and small”. The facility is run by Dean and Pepita Wilkinson. El Defensor Chieftain visited Dean in his office to find out more.
Question: How long has this facility been in operation?
Answer: Just over 20 years when we first opened.
Q: How did you come to open the clinic in the beginning?
A: That’s a long story. We actually helped build the other place.
Q: Having worked with animals in two different facilities, what drives your passion for helping our four legged friends?
A: There are certainly a number of reasons. In the large animal section maintaining a healthy food supply and economics for owners and the creatures health. On the small animal side it’s about maintaining companionship for our clients with the pets. But the main reason I do this is about education. Helping to educate people on how to care for their animals so they can be with them longer.
Q: What is your most frequent type of clientele?
A: Small animals. Dogs and Cats are the most common.
Q: What types of treatment does your facility provide?
A: General medicine. Surgery, ultra sound, x-ray, diagnostic laboratory, general health and preventative procedures. We also do podiatry for the larger animals.
Q: How big is your staff?
A: It has varied from six to seven throughout the years. They are not required to be licensed. My wife Pepita and I are the two licensed veterinarians here.
Q: Why should somebody come to your facility?
A: Because we always do the best job that we can. The animals that come in we genuinely care about and promise to do the best job with the equipment we have to help take care of them. Animals can’t do it themselves and sometimes owners are unaware of proper care so hopefully we are the go between and an aide with our treatment. Our knowledge tries to fill in the gaps for our patients and owners.
Q: Were you born and raised in Socorro?
A: No. I was born in Clayton, New Mexico. When my wife and I graduated veterinary school we partnered with the person who nows owns Ark who asked us to come down.
Q: Did you ever have aspirations outside of being a veterinarian?
A: Yes. I originally wanted to work with wildlife in some type of park reserve management role before making my way to vet school. I was always drawn to animals.
Q: How did you and your wife meet?
A: We were attending undergrad school in Las Cruces and tending to cows. Pepita wanted to be a vet since she was around 12 years old. Then we went to school in Fort Collins.
Q: Having lived in multiple cities, why did you decide to settle down in Socorro?
A: You want the whole story (laughs). There have been a lot of things but right now its the fact that I teach at New Mexico Tech and I love teaching. Anatomy and environmental physiology, neuroscience, psycho biology of sex and disease and developmental biology to name a few of the courses. I’ve been there since about 2013. Working with young minds and inspiring them to better themselves and learn more about what is going on around them.
Q: How does the dichotomy of teaching while also owning this veterinary clinic work?
A: Late nights and long days. That’s it. Obviously the summers are a bit less crammed when the kids are out of school.
Q: Looking back to what brought you here, would you change anything?
A: I probably would not have gone to vet school. Veterinary medicine is fascinating and great. Helping animals comes with a great deal of satisfaction. Veterinary business is not. Running a small business is a very challenging task. I probably would have been a teacher from the start somewhere. But in no way do I regret going to vet school.
Q: A few random questions, what is your favorite movie and why?
A: “The Jungle Book”. The original animated Disney one. I like the songs, silliness and laid back low-key type of demeanor.
Q: What is your favorite book and why?
A: As a child my favorite book was “Island of the Blue Dolphins” because of the serenity and the working with animals while depending on them for your survival. But as an adult I can’t really single out one that stands out. I suppose “The Bible” if that counts.
Q: So you are a religious man?
A: I try to be. I was raised Catholic. My belief is that everyone needs some religion in their lives.
Q: If you could live anywhere in the world other than Socorro, where would it be?
A: I’ve never been to Switzerland but I always thought that I would enjoy living there. People just seem to be happy there in general. I’m not a cold weather person but it seems as though everyone tends to get along from an outsiders perspective.
Q: If you could change anything about Socorro county, what would it be?
A: The education system. I think that is where everything starts and if we are better educated with parents more involved in school that results in better students. When the kids are invested in learning, the better it is for families and for the community.
Animal Haven is open Monday-Saturday or by appointment. To schedule a visit give them a call at 575-835-3545 or visit their website at www.animalhavensocorro.com for more information.