Dogs and cats, of course, but his patients also include critters like cows and horses and hamsters and snakes and rats.
Yes, even rats.
“A person’s pet is a person’s pet. You never know what kind of animal is going to capture a person’s heart,” said Dr. James Radcliffe, owner and chief veterinarian at the Town & Country Animal Hospital. “Now, when an owner of a pet rat visits the office, I am usually left alone on those appointments, but that’s OK. No matter what, the first objective is do what we can to improve the quality of life for any pet a person brings to the hospital.
“Dogs, by far, are the most popular pet in our Valley, and second are our cats. Interestingly enough, we have a large population of guinea pigs and rabbits, too,” he continued. “We see hamsters, and we see snakes and a little bit of everything else. I have one patient who has a Bearded Dragon. The notion that a pet has to be warm and fuzzy doesn’t mix with everyone, of course, so it’s always very interesting to see what pet owners are bringing to my hospital.”
It’s that kind of dedication that has led to Radcliffe’s being nominated in the American Veterinarian Medical Foundation’s “America’s Favorite Veterinarian” contest; at this time he is in second place in online voting. People wishing to post a vote for their favorite veterinarian can do so by visiting avmf.org
“It was an honor to be nominated as America’s favorite veterinarian, but I do not see it as a popularity contest on its surface. I see it as an opportunity to let the people have a say and to give them a voice in pet care on a wider scale,” Radcliffe said. “This also gives people the opportunity to take part in a charitable effort to improve pet care that is directed by veterinarians.
“It’s a great honor; it’s been a lot of fun so far; and it’s been a chance to raise money for pet owners who love their pets to take care of them even if they find themselves in a situation where they cannot afford the care their pet may need,” he continued. “What this whole contest is actually doing is creating a pool of money that can used on a local basis. This is about acknowledging that people can still get help for their pets. Just because they don’t have the resources to get the help doesn’t mean that owner doesn’t want what’s best for their pet.”
Radcliffe’s competition is from throughout the nation, including four from Florida, and two from California and Illinois. Radcliffe is the only finalist that lives in the tri-state region of Ohio, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania.
“At this point, this is not just about me, but it is about the Upper Ohio Valley. I’m the only veterinarian from this area who somehow made the Top 20, so now this is about voting for this kind of assistance to become available in this area,” Radcliffe said. “Our pets are a part of our family, and if it’s not the veterinarian who’s going to lead the pack, then who is going to?
“I realize there are many charities out there, and I know there are a lot of questions about a lot of the administrative costs with some of the charities. But this one is for veterinarian care, directed by veterinarians through the American Veterinarian Medical Association, and we like to think we have a pretty good handle not only on the rising costs but also on our willingness to help people.”
It is the inflation in medical care for pets that concerns Radcliffe, and the reason he is involved with the American Veterinarian Medical Foundation is that the organization raises thousands of dollars for care for pets whose owners cannot afford the expense.
“It’s sad to say, but veterinarian medicine is getting more expensive, and I don’t like that at all. I don’t like that people are forced to make economic decisions about a part of their family,” Radcliffe said. “This contest is about not making those people face that economic decision. Let’s be realistic about it; if people are faced with the situation of paying the mortgage or paying the vet bill, what do you think those folks are going to do?
“It is easy to get all caught up with puppies until you have 62 of them, and that was a very real situation recently in Marshall County,” Radcliffe said. “We’re not talking about bad people. We’re talking about people who got caught up in a situation, and it can happen to anyone.
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“We are very fortunate to have several great organizations in this area that help out with those situations. We have the Ohio County SPCA, the Belmont County Animal Rescue League, the Marshall County Animal Rescue League, and the people involved with these organizations want to help you before you get into those kinds of situations,” he continued. “I have worked with all of those organizations and will continue to do so as long as I can.”
Should the Marshall County veterinarian capture first place, it will be announced in September. He would receive a $500 prize, and officials of the American Veterinarian Medical Foundation would pay a visit to the Town & Country Animal Hospital for a special ceremony.
Radcliffe, though, is more excited about the possibility that such an announcement would bring positive attention to the community in which he practices.
“What we are trying to do with this is shine the light on our Valley. Should I win it would give me an opportunity to give the Upper Ohio Valley a voice,” he said. “We live good, quality lives here, and veterinarians are a part of that, and we have many, many great veterinarians here.
“This Valley is very pet friendly, and here we still have neighbors, and we still have neighborhoods,” he said. “I think if I were to win this contest, it would shine that light in a very positive sense. I would tell the world how wonderful a place this area is.”
Radcliffe realized his calling at the age of 13, and he enjoys telling the story about how he and his father came to the rescue of a steer on the farm on which he was raised.
“I grew up on that farm, and we raised cattle, and I did a lot of the manual labor because when the steers went to market, my college fund received half from those sales,” Radcliffe recalled. “One time just before one of our steers was to go to market he came down with something. He was ill and we couldn’t find a vet. That’s when my father I went to the library and found as much information as we could.
“We found the type of medication that steer needed, and after we treated him, he was back up the next morning and eating,” he continued. “I was hooked. I knew right then and there what I wanted to do for a living.”
Once he arrived at Purdue University, he procured a relationship with one of his professors, Dr. Jack Fessler.
“Dr. Fessler was a professor of surgery, and he was a firm believer that if you are going to do surgery, do no harm,” Radcliffe said. “I think we sometimes lose track of what we can do as opposed to what we cannot do. It’s about improving the quality of life for my patient. Surgery should do one of two things: maintain the quality of life for the patient or improve the quality of life for the patient.
“Dr. Fessler also convinced me that surgery is a part of what we do,” he said. “And so is pain management. That is something a veterinarian has to realize.”
His surgical reputation has attracted much attention not only across the nation but also internationally. Radcliffe, who has been involved with greyhound care at the Wheeling Island Hotel-Casino-Racetrack since 1981, now has several clients – and patients – from as far away as Canada.
“I have a great following from the Whippet racing community because of the years I have spent treating that breed after they go out and race and tear themselves up,” Radcliffe confirmed. “It started with one in the Cincinnati area who had bad damaged his leg. There were some who didn’t think his injuries could be prepared, but I was determined and that dog came out pretty well and went on to have a very successful racing career.
“I try very hard to do a good job for my orthopedic patients, and the Whippet community is very involved and very connected, so the word about that first surgery really spread and now I am honored that they come here,” he said. “They come here because they know I will listen to them, and I will talk to them about the dog’s future. I also stay in touch with those owners to make sure those dogs are doing OK.
“That’s what veterinarian medicine is all about, and that’s why some people refer to us as, ‘the other family doctor.’ Our pets are part of our family, and anyone who is a loving pet owner knows that to be true. That’s what this contest is all about – getting care for a family member even though times are economically difficult.”