Leap of faith

31 May

KI0A7732

At age 35, after applying to 11 veterinary schools, Sandy Anderson took a leap of faith.

When Iowa State’s College of Veterinary Medicine notified her that she was on a waiting list for the incoming class in 1999, she and her husband, Clint, moved to Ames. One month later, she learned she had been accepted.

She had never been to Iowa before.

Both natives of Pittsburgh, Pa., the Andersons believed Iowa State was the right fit for Sandy to study veterinary medicine. And it turns out they were right. Sandy graduated with her DVM in 2003.

A lifetime ago, Sandy was a dental hygienist on the east coast. Today, she is the sole veterinary provider in Lakeside, Mont.

“We knew we wanted to come here,” Sandy says. “We like the wide open space, the beauty. We wanted air to breathe.”

There are 1 million people in the state of Montana – fewer people than the county in which Sandy grew up. She and Clint bought land in Montana in 1994 and planned to retire there. But then they thought, “Why wait?”

When Sandy graduated from Iowa State, they moved to Eureka, a tiny town in northwestern Montana. She joined a mixed-animal practice.

“I was open minded,” Sandy said of her experiences with cows, horses, ostriches, goats, pigs, mules, and ponies in Eureka.

Clint saw it differently. “Sandy was thrown to the fire,” he said.

After several incidents with large animals, including a concussion from being head-butted by a cow, Sandy decided the mixed practice was not for her.

“I like small animals,” she says. “They’re much more suited to me.”

She learned that a part-time veterinarian in Lakeside was retiring, so she bought his phone number and client list. She found a small space in town and called her new clinic the Great Northern Veterinary Center. Clint works with her in the front office.

“There’s a good quality of life here,” Sandy says. “Lakeside is a good place for us, a good fit. We’re surrounded my like-minded people.”

The couple enjoys living near Flathead Lake and their proximity to Glacier National Park.

“We try to get to Glacier as often as we can,” Sandy says. “We try to drive the Going-to-the-Sun Road in every season. September is the best time. But it’s a wonderful place to go in every season, even in winter. It’s in our neck of the woods.”

Sandy and Clint have two dogs, Teddy and Raisinet, who go to work with them every day, and they have three cats at home.

Clint says he likes to watch new clients as they look at the diploma on Sandy’s wall.

“You can just see it in their eyes,” he says. “They’re thinking….IOWA? Where’s Iowa?”

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