Laura Dean Bennett
If you were lucky enough to grow up on a farm in Pocahontas County, you dream of the day you can come back home and make a living here.
And it you’re really lucky, you do it.
If you are Stacy McPaters Tawney, DVM, that’s basically the story of your life.
As a young girl, Tawney dreamed about her future – as a veterinarian.
“I can’t remember ever wanting to do anything else,” she said with a smile.
Tawney comes from a family whose cattle farm in the rolling hills above Huntersville has always been one of the prettiest and best-run farms in the county.
Even with all the work that it takes to keep a farm running smoothly, it must have been like heaven on earth to a little girl who knew she wanted to continue the family tradition and also provide something that was missing for area farmers.
“Growing up on the farm, it was clear that we needed a vet,” she said. “It was always an issue that there weren’t any veterinarians here in Pocahontas County.”
“They were in Greenbrier and Randolph counties, but it would take at least an hour for a vet to get here in an emergency.”
Tawney knew she would get her veterinary degree and then, somehow, come back home to practice veterinary medicine in Pocahontas County, so she set about doing what it took to make it happen.
Tawney earned her undergrad science degree at Virginia Tech and graduated from Mississippi State University with her degree in Veterinary Medicine.
As providence would have it, she got the opportunity she had dreamed of soon after graduation.
Julie Gibson, D.V.M., of Frankford Veterinary Hospital, had expanded her Greenbrier County practice into Pocahontas County.
Frankford Veterinary Hospital was making large animal farm calls here and seeing small animal patients in their Marlinton office and it was getting busier.
Gibson found she needed to add another veterinarian to the practice.
“It was just lucky that Stacy Tawney was looking for a place to land when we were looking for someone,” Gibson said
“It’s worked out beautifully, having Stacy onboard.
“She knows her way around Pocahontas County, and all our clients seem to get along with her just fine.”
It worked out well for everyone involved.
Tawney’s patients range from dogs and cats to sheep, goats, pigs and horses and, occasionally, chickens.
And although she says that she had some difficult cattle cases this past week, her favorite patients are cattle.
“I really like working with cattle – I guess because I grew up around them,” she said.
And while Tawney is perfectly at home helping a cow through a difficult birth or working with an ornery bull, she can also wrangle some animals on the opposite side of the size equation.
She’s treated a guinea pig with mites, a duck who was hit by a car, and, perhaps her smallest patient – a baby squirrel who had parasites.
She dewormed the baby squirrel, he recovered and now he’s a pampered pet.
Her largest patients are draft horses, and yes, she laughs, “they really are gentle giants.”
Tawney says it’s a good idea for people to have a relationship with a vet.
“That way, your vet will already have a history on your animal. This is especially important when there’s an emergency, and every minute counts.”
Although she is still somewhat new to the practice, having joined Frankford Veterinary Hospital in 2016, she’s not new to Pocahontas County.
“I think it’s a plus that so many people around here know me and know my family,” Tawney said.
“It’s very rewarding being back home, practicing here in Pocahontas County among my family’s friends and neighbors.
“These are people I’ve known all my life.”
Tawney said the most important issue she wants small animal owners to be aware of right now is the prevalence of ticks.
“People really have to be aware of this problem,” she said. “Tick prevention is always important, but especially so this year.
“Ticks are already showing up on our animals, and it’s not even spring yet.”
Lyme Disease is one of the diseases that ticks carry, and it is one of the main reasons why ticks are so problematic.
“We’ve experienced a dramatic increase in Lyme Disease this last twelve months, which we think is because of the increase in the white tail deer population.”
Tawney said cats and horses can also contract Lyme Disease, although it’s rare, and there’s no vaccine for those animals yet.
She recommends that you do your dog a favor and get it a Lyme Disease vaccine.
“It’s more expensive than most other vaccines – $35 – but it will save a lot of expense and heartache down the road,” she advised.
Anyone with questions about tick prevention, Lyme Disease, vaccines or any issues pertaining to small or large animals, is invited to stop by the Frankford Vet office in Marlinton or Frankford, or make an appointment for a consultation.
“We’re always happy to answer questions and talk to people about whatever situations they have,” Tawney said.
Large animal veterinary concerns right now center around the fact that it’s calving season and time for spring vaccinations.
“Many farmers do their own cattle vaccinations,” Tawney said, “but we are doing some of them, too.”
One thing that can be tricky is client education.
“You want to do the best by your clients and their animals. You want to help them take the best possible care of their animals, whether it’s a pet or a herd of livestock.
“These farmers have a lot of money and hard work tied up in their herds,” she said.
“It’s a big investment, and it’s sometimes important for a vet to re-educate a client about something. You have to be diplomatic – knowing the best way to communicate something makes all the difference.”
She and her husband, Freddie Tawney, were married at home on the McPaters farm – the “Triple M” – and have happily settled into farming life – right where Tawney has always wanted to be.
Freddie, besides being a farmer, works for West Virginia Department of Highways and is a volunteer firefighter for Marlinton Fire Department.
She and Freddie share their home with a border collie mix named Roxie, and they enjoy the company of their two horses, an Appaloosa/Quarter horse cross and an Appendix Quarter horse.
Tawney says that she used to enjoy doing some rodeo riding, but, right now, she’s too busy to enter any rodeos.
With their jobs and the farming, there’s just not enough time.
“Right now, if Freddie and I do have any time to do anything with the horses, we like to get out and do a little trail riding.
Tawney’s parents are delighted that their daughter has come home to live and practice veterinary medicine.
Everyone knows her mother, Fran McPaters, a personal banker at City National Bank in Marlinton.
“We are just so very proud,” Fran said. “We know we are very fortunate and very blessed. It’s so wonderful having Stacy living back home and doing what she loves.”
Her dad, Sam McPaters, is retired from the West Virginia Department of Highways and is now a full-time farmer.
He also has a few nice things to say about his daughter.
“I’ll tell you, she’s very dedicated,” Sam said. “She’s a real hard worker.
“When she sets her mind to do something, she does it. And it’s just real nice to have a vet right here on the farm,” he added, with a chuckle.
Of course, dads sometimes worry about daughters getting hurt, especially when they’re “fooling around with cattle.”
Sam told about the time Stacy got caught in a cattle chute with a bull. She got out of it all right, but accidents can happen.
And her mom might not know about that story yet, so don’t tell her.
Tawney admits that the job is not without danger, and she has come close to getting hurt a few times.
“There’s always that chance,” she said. “I just try to remember to always be careful.”
She recommends that young people, who might want to follow in her footsteps, work hard in school and “definitely shadow a vet to learn exactly what it is that vets do.
“You can’t just go by those vet shows on TV. It’s not all just working with cute little kitties and puppies.
“Being a veterinarian is, for sure, a lot of hard work. Sometimes it’s seven days a week, and sometimes it means I’m on call 24 hours a day.
“In this practice, there’s at least one doctor on call 24/7. That’s just the nature of the kind of work we do.”
What is the worst part of her job?
“Of course, having to put an animal down is one of the saddest things,” Tawney said.
“I feel like my professors at Mississippi State did a good job of trying to prepare us for that part of the job, but it’s still real sad.
“While there are a lot of similarities with each situation, the needs of each client can be different.
“I think the best teacher for how to handle that kind of situation with a client is just experience.
“Like everything else, you get better as you go along.”
There is that old expression that says, if you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life.
And that seems to fit Stacy Tawney, D.V.M.
“I just love what I do,” she said. “I don’t take it for granted.
“I know I’m very lucky to be able to be doing what I’ve always dreamed of doing, back home, where I always wanted to be.”