Vet on wheels

Published 11:59 pm Monday, August 24, 2009

Like many medical professionals, Dr. Bob Bush makes a fair number of house calls. But unlike most doctors, Bush also has to worry about his patients shedding, barking or clawing up his “clinic.”

Bush, who is returning home to Andalusia after living in North Carolina for 14 years, has made a living in the Raleigh, N.C. area by making house calls as a veterinarian. His camper’s mobile clinic contains a microscope, centrifuge and refrigerated medicine, and so he can perform minor surgeries and also administer shots and common check-up work on dogs and cats.

“I can do routine vaccinations, heartworm tests, draw blood and send blood to labs,” said Bush, who worked in a stationary veterinary practice in Andalusia for 13 years. “I can also do very minor surgery like dressing up some small wounds, but anything else I’d have to refer to a traditional clinic.”

Bush said he made anywhere from five to eight house calls each day while working in Raleigh. For the last 10 years, he has worked exclusively in the mobile clinic, and plans to continue to do so now that he has returned to Andalusia. Bush said he moved to Raleigh initially to be closer to his children, but now that they are grown, he is returning home to be closer to his parents.

“When I first moved to Raleigh, I worked with a vet there for one year, and then spent the next four years doing some relief work off and on,” he said. “But for the last 10 to 11 years, I’ve been doing nothing but house calls. It’s a very nice option for people because it allows for them to see the vet on a flexible schedule. It’s also a very nice option for me, because I’m able to schedule the calls around my kids’ activities and coaching their soccer teams and things like that.”

Bush, who is licensed as a mobile clinic veterinarian in both North Carolina and Alabama, said he had to undergo the same inspections and certifications required for a customary veterinarian.

“I graduated with my degree from Auburn in 1980 and worked in a stationary practice off and on for 18 years after that,” he said. “Since starting the house calls, I’ve had to get periodically re-licensed. After moving back to Alabama, I had to not only get licensed once again, but I also had to have the camper inspected.”

Although Bush maintains his practice out of the camper, he explained that he does not always have to do medical procedures there.

“For dogs, I prefer to have most of their work done in the camper,” he said. “I’ve got a little formica platform and I can set them down and they’re usually pretty quiet and will let me work on them. Cats, on the other hand, in order to get them into the camper you’ve got to put them in a cage first, and then when you take them out of the cage they’re all angry and wound up. For that reason, I like to go in the client’s house to do most of the work on cats.

“I actually say my favorite place to work on a cat is in the bathroom, because if the animal gets scared and makes a mess, it’ll be easy to clean up. Plus, there’s nowhere in a bathroom for a cat to hide; because you know that if a cat can hide from you, it will.

“But it’s really based on what works best for my clients. Sometimes I’ve worked on dogs outside the camper, as well.”

Bush is married to Beverly, who works at Andalusia Regional Hospital, and they have an 11-year-old son, Cole, who is a sixth grader at Andalusia Middle School. He also has two older children, 23-year-old Rob, who works in Charlotte, N.C., and daughter Courtney Lynne, who is beginning her senior year at Virginia Tech.

Bush said Norma Riley, who was an assistant at his previous Andalusia practice, would be his assistant with the new venture, Veterinary Home Services.

“I managed to talk her out of retirement,” he joked.

Bush said business hours are flexible and “based on what the client needs.” To schedule an appointment with Veterinary Home Services, call 334-582-2255 (CALL).