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Growing business

by CHARLES H. FEATHERSTONE
Staff Writer | September 26, 2022 1:20 AM

MOSES LAKE — When Dick Maier started Pioneer Veterinary Clinic nearly 25 years ago, he had more than enough space in the building he owns on Sharon Avenue just down the road from Moses Lake High School.

“I built this clinic in 1999 and we moved in, in the fall,” said Maier, Pioneer’s owner and senior veterinarian. “I was a solo practitioner, I was the only doctor in this practice. This building was plenty big for me.”

Three exam rooms for one doctor was more than enough room then, Maier said. However, he always had in mind the possibility of expanding his business in the future, so when he built his current building, Maier said he had the architect design it with additions and expansion in mind. Just in case.

“We put it up as far on the front as we could, so we could push out back,” he said.

Now, however, Maier is one of four vets working at his clinic, along with a large staff of veterinary technicians, veterinary assistants and front office employees. The building simply isn’t big enough anymore, he said.

“We’ve now grown and outgrown this facility,” he said. “We’re just too busy.”

So Maier is expanding, adding three more exam rooms (for a total of six) and redoing the front area and the entrance by adding check-in kiosks and separating the reception and check-in staff from the folks who answer phone calls, adding another dedicated station to do dental work on animals, expanding the surgery facility and generally giving staff more room to work and see more four-footed - or winged - patients.

It’s not just cats and dogs, either, Maier explained.

“We do exotic medicine too. So we see rabbits and ferrets, pocket pets, birds and reptiles,” he said.

Right now, Maier said the wait time for surgical procedures, even dental work, is two-to-three months, though dogs and cats in desperate need can get seen quickly.

“If you were to try to schedule a dental today, you would probably get in at the end of October or November,” he said during a mid-September interview. “We always have a little bit of wiggle room for urgent ones, because sometimes the pets come in and they're so sore because the mouth is so bad. The doctor says you know, we really need to get this done earlier and we squeeze them in.”

While he currently has four veterinarians on staff — three of whom can work at one time — Maier said the expansion will allow for seven vets to work at the same time and two doctors to operate simultaneously.

“Hopefully we can get more doctors coming in,” he said.

However, Maier said Pioneer Veterinary Clinic is facing a problem that’s common these days — difficulty in finding qualified staff, from veterinarians to licensed technicians and assistants. It turns out, Moses Lake is a difficult place to recruit veterinarians.

“We have the same problem that the hospital has in recruiting staff,” he said. “It’s in the middle of the state, and there’s not too many people who are familiar with Moses Lake and the surrounding areas.”

Maier said there are some possibilities for developing local talent, with a staff member now in veterinary school and another staff member applying. Several assistants are currently studying to become technicians, the equivalent of a two-year nursing degree, he said. The staffing shortage is not helped by a long-anticipated wave of retirements coming among experienced veterinarians and a prediction 20 years ago — now proven wrong — that the country had too many veterinary students and too many veterinary schools.

“They miscalculated. It's the opposite,” he said.

As for the expansion itself, Maier said he hoped to be done by now, but construction work has been slow. However, no matter how long it takes, Maier will keep doing the work he loves and seeing patients.

“I enjoy this profession,” he said. “It's kind of fun.”

Charles H. Featherstone can be reached at cfeatherstone@columbiabasinherald.com.

Correction: Dr. Maier's first name was listed incorrectly in the original publication of this article. The correct name has been appended above.

Pioneer Veterinary Clinic

827 Sharon Ave., Moses Lake

(509) 765-6794

www.pioneerveterinaryclinic.com

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CHARLES H. FEATHERSTONE/COLUMBIA BASIN HERALD

Jacky Herrera holds her puppy Mila in the reception area of Pioneer Veterinary Clinic.

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CHARLES H. FEATHERSTONE/COLUMBIA BASIN HERALD

Jacky Herrera and her puppy Mila say hello to Arlo — owned by Wendy Weston (off camera) — as Herrera prepares to check out following an appointment at Pioneer Veterinary Clinic in Moses Lake last Thursday.

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CHARLES H. FEATHERSTONE/COLUMBIA BASIN HERALD

Veterinarian and Pioneer Veterinary Clinic owner and doctor Dick Maier out in front of the office he built in 1999 on Sharon Avenue.

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CHARLES H. FEATHERSTONE/COLUMBIA BASIN HERALD

Expansion work continues at Pioneer Veterinary Clinic

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