Taking humane services one step further

Published 12:44 pm Sunday, March 1, 2009

Her email alias is Critter Fixer, but after meeting Dr. Michelle Johnson and some of her devoted clients, one realizes her compassion and skills far exceed that slangy phrase.

She has, however, seen her share of critters in need of fixing during her 10-year career. Beyond every size of dog, including a 200–pound Great Dane and cats, she also mentions exotics such as turtles, snakes, rabbits and lizards, plus “one duck with a fishing hook in its beak,” she said.

This March marks her fourth year traveling in her mobile animal hospital to nearby towns of Alabaster, Pelham, Briarfield and Montevallo, where she performs routine vaccinations, pre-surgical wellness chemical checks, blood work, dental services and perhaps, most significantly, euthanasia.

Families experiencing the trauma of losing a beloved pet, often to old age, are given the opportunity to say goodbye on their own terms, in their own home if they choose or in the mobile unit.

Lauren Yearout, who currently assists as vet tech, first met Dr. Johnson when euthanasia was needed for her own dog who had a brain tumor. Yearnout said Dr. Johnson is the equivalent of a human nurse.

In the rear of the mobile hospital is the area where Dr. Johnson addresses soft-tissue surgeries –– neutering and spaying, tumors, lacerations, exploratory surgery and minor bone repair. X-ray equipment, a digital processor and oxygen are on board, as well as a portable x-ray machine that can be taken to the animal to prevent further injury from moving it.

Veterinary medicine is a second career. Dr. Johnson’s degree is from Tuskeegee University and she previously did emergency care in standing clinics in Colorado and Montevallo.

“Medicine has always interested me and I am a real lover of animals,” Johnson said. “I can’t imagine any work more fulfilling. I wake up looking forward to every single day.”

Dr. Johnson allows owners to observe their pet’s surgical procedures. She recently home-nursed Barnabas, a Mastiff with inoperable cancer. When it became evident nothing more could be done and his family said goodbye, Dr. Johnson drove away with Barnabas in the front seat and his head on her lap. “That is an example of when I cry with my clients,” she said. “It’s not always about medicine, it’s being there for the owners.”

Dr. Johnson and husband, Henry, have a 3–year–old son and two rescued dogs, a Great Dane and a Sheltie, and three cats.