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71-year-old veterinarian loves his job

By Carol Stender

Date Modified: 04/04/2013 7:33 PM

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FERGUS FALLS, Minn. — At 71, Ken Greiner could retire, but the Elbow Lake veterinarian wonders why he should.

He just plain loves his job.

Griener grew up on a farm near Morris. His constant companions as a boy were his dog and a horse. When the school's athletic director suggested he become a veterinarian based on Greiner's high test scores, he knew he'd found his career.

"I believe that we are sort of predestined for things," Greiner said. "I really believe that. I realized, after talking to the athletic director, that it was something I wanted to do, and here I am. I feel fortunate that it happened."

He attended the University of Minnesota.

When he learned that Elbow Lake was in need of a vet, Greiner jumped at the chance.

"They tell you shouldn't start your own practice fresh out of school —but I did," he said.

He founded the Lake Region Veterinary Center in 1967.

The center's first location was on Main Street and offered challenges. Four veterinarians worked in a 1,400 square-foot building, he said. Parking was an issue. Often the veterinarians' trucks were double-parked on Elbow Lake's main drag and there wasn't a place to keep large animals.

He recalls bringing a cow to the clinic in a trailer. After unloading her, Greiner tied her up in the back of the building. Problems ensued when the cow got loose and headed directly towards Mrs. Thornberry's flowers. Greiner soon got a visit from the town's police officer telling him he needed to take care of the cow.

In 1976, Greiner built a new clinic located on the east side of Elbow Lake. The modern clinic had ample room for large animals and an area for small animal care.

His daughter, Kendra, had intended on a journalism career, studying at the University of Minnesota Morris until she was half-way through her first semester, Greiner said. She called home and said she was changing her major to pre-vet. She joined the practice almost 13 years ago and is co-owner.

"They also said I shouldn't hire my daughter," he said. "I did and it's been great. She has seen her dad through all the craziness of a veterinary practice and to see her follow something like this for a career is so positive."

The Lake Region Veterinary Clinic has four veterinarians and six technicians and added a site for equine at the Red Horse Ranch north of Fergus Falls.

Red Horse Ranch officials contacted Greiner in late fall, telling him they wanted a veterinary presence, Greiner said. He started caring for horses at the site in January.

"If a horse comes in that's lame, I can evaluate it, looking at the rider and the horse in the arena," he said. "When you have snow, it's a challenge to see what's really going on. With this facility, it's easier to spot trouble with a saddle or if there's something else bothering the horse."

An Andalusian is among the first horses at the site for breeding purposes, he said.

Assisting Greiner at Red Horse Ranch is Sarah Shuck. The Erhard native is a University of Minnesota-Crookston student completing a business minor through the college's online courses. She'd like to be a veterinarian, but says the high cost of college — around $50,000 for a four year degree and another $100,000-plus for veterinary school — are causing her to have second thoughts.

As she considers her options, Shuck is gleaning insight for her mentor, Greiner.

"I just don't give up," said Greiner as he examined one of the horses. "I am an eternal optimist. I feel that if there's something wrong with the horse, it's up to me to find it....there is so much magic that's come out on how to care for the animals, but veterinary medicine, like all medicine, is a science. It's a basic prototype you have to follow and sometimes its a little hard. When you look at a horse, you have to look at what's going on. You have to look at what it's being fed. You have to look at its environment. What about the owners? Is the animal underweight or overweight? You can't just treat the backache. You have to look at what is causing it. You have to look deeper."