Practicing veterinary medicine in Glenwood has been a passion and a privilege for Dr. William Rishel.
“It’s not just a job, it’s a way of life,” Rishel said last week as he reflected on his 41-year-career at the Glenwood Veterinary Clinic that came to a close Monday with his retirement. “It’s a bittersweet-type thing. This has been my love for 41 years. It will be different, but I think it will be a good different. I won’t know what else is out there because I just don’t have time to do anything else right now.”
Rishel has been a fixture at the “Vet Clinic” since May 1973. Two days after receiving his D.V.M. degree from Kansas State University, Rishel joined the mixed animal practice owned by Dr. Charles Stoehr and Dr. Larry Stuckey. The fellow K-State graduates operated clinics in Glenwood and Plattsmouth, Neb. Early in his career, Rishel spent most of his time traveling the country roads of southwest Iowa and southeast Nebraska tending to the needs of farm animals.
“Part of the clinic history is certainly the change of veterinary medicine,” Rishel said. “In those days, it was probably 90 percent farm animals. The small animals were just a sideline. We actually would do farm calls all day and come back after supper and do some animal surgeries.”
In 1980, Rishel purchased the Glenwood clinic, where he was joined by partner, Dr. Darcey Butts, in 1984. It was during the 1980s when Rishel began noticing a change in the landscape. Agricultural property was being transformed into acreages and residential housing developments. “
The shift began to where the agricultural part was in decline,” Rishel said. “Places that used to grow cows and pigs now grow nice yards and flowers. The area has transformed from being mainly farm animals and agricultural to all the housing developments. We used to worked primarily with farm animals. Now, that has flip-flopped to mainly small animals.”
Rishel said the residential growth in the Glenwood area was beneficial to his practice. “Some large animal practitioners are in a lot smaller towns where, when the large animal goes away, there isn’t enough small animal business,” he said.
Serving the Glenwood area for four decades, Rishel has strong ties to the community and long-standing relationships and friendships with the families who bring their animals to the clinic.
“It’s the place now that the pet has equal status in the home sometimes with family members,” Rishel said. “It’s a privilege that they trust me to bring them here for their care. “I’m in the animal business, but all of them come with people.”
Rishel said he’s had the opportunity to work with dogs that have been shown at the Westminster show and horses that have won national and international recognition.
“We have the chance to work on wonderful animals, but it’s been the interaction with people that’s been the lasting thing. I’ve tried to never take for granted the privilege they’ve given us.”
Another privilege that has come with his veterinary career, Rishel said, is his involvement with the Christian Veterinary Mission. He’s participated in mission trips to Nepal, India, Uganda and Bolivia. He’s also made nearly a dozen visits to Native American reservations - Navajo, Apache and Lakota Sioux. This month, he’s spending several days at an Apache site in Arizona.
“Most of these are trips with veterinary students from around the country. It’s a great mentoring thing for the students,” Rishel said. “When we go to these places, they love their animals. We do spay, neuters on dogs and cats, horse work, cattle work. The Navajo have lots of sheep, so we do vaccinations and that sort of thing. “We work with churches and veterinarians that are on site, so we try to basically encourage them and enhance what they do.”
Now that he’s retired, Rishel will probably make even more mission trips, but he also plans to spend more time with his family, something he’s had to sacrifice for his veterinary career. Rishel and his wife, Marilyn, have two children, April and Andrew, and one grandchild.
“I have a grandson and my daughter says I need to spend time with him that I didn’t spend with her. She’s already got that process planned,” Rishel said with a smile.
Rishel said he also expects to do some non-veterinary related travel with Marilyn and catch up with some old friends and acquaintances. Rishel said the Glenwood Veterinary Clinic, now under the ownership of Dr. Melissa Harrer and her husband Shane, is in good hands.
“When you’ve been here 41 years, the reason people come in the door is because they like you and they like what you do,” Rishel said. “There’s definitely been a transition here, but I would just tell folks the quality of medicine that’s practiced here is outstanding and the young veterinarians they have here are really doing a great job. I think the vision of this clinic will continue.”