Caring for all creatures

Stribe retires after 39 years at Webster City Vet Clinic

-Messenger photo by Adri Sietstra
Dr. Richard Stribe is retiring from the Webster City Veterinary Clinic after 39 years. His last day was Saturday. He’s pictured with the office cat, Marvin.

WEBSTER CITY — “I just knew that’s what I wanted to do,” said Dr. Richard Stribe. “The vets that came out to the farm — they were probably some of the few educated people you saw on the farm.”

Stribe, 68, a veterinarian at the Webster City Vet Clinic, is retiring from the profession after more than 39 years.

“I just tell people it’s time,” said Stribe. “My wife and I want to do some fishing — a lot of fishing — and we want to do a little bit of traveling.”

His love for animals began as a kid growing up the farm.

“I always liked the livestock and the dogs and the cats,” said Stribe. “I knew in junior high, that’s what I wanted to do.”

“I remember going and visiting our local vet with my mother to see what went on there,” Stribe said. “I even remember writing a letter to the dean of vet school to find out what courses I should take in high school.”

Stribe was raised in Manning. He attended two years of country school and graduated from Manning High School, before heading to Iowa State University in 1967. Stribe did both his pre-vet studies and vet school at ISU. He graduated from veterinary school 1974.

Before coming to Webster City, Stribe worked at a clinic in Orange City for four and a half years at a large animal practice.

“I thought it would be a better business opportunity to come here to Webster City,” said Stribe. “I came here in November of 1978.”

The Webster City Vet Clinic was just transitioning to a new building when Stribe came on board.

“Mickelson, Mortensen and Veach … all those guys ended up being here for like 40 years,” Stribe. “There’s a little bit of a tradition. People come here and stay. This is just where I thought I wanted to be.”

Although he has no favorite animal, Stribe is particularly fond of the large animal side of veterinary medicine. He has extensive experience with swine, cattle, horses and sheep as well as the average house pet.

“I always tell people I like sheep particularly because they don’t bite, scratch, kick or squeal,” Stribe said. “What’s not to like about them?”

When Stribe first came to the Hamilton County-based practice, roughly two-thirds of the business was centered around large animal care and one-third centered around small animal care. Now, statistics have flip-flopped.

“When I first came, all the hogs were raised in some small barns and sheds. Usually not a building that was designed and built just for raising hogs,” said Stribe. “Then they developed this double curtain building, which allowed companies and investors to get into the hog business and be able to hire help.”

“It used to be if a farmer had 100 sows that was a big operation,” said Stribe. “Now if you don’t have 4-500 sows, it’s a small operation.”

“It changed from family farming to factory farms,” said Stribe. “Essentially what you had was a product and laborers and then management up above that. It used to be the producer did everything.”

Stribe estimates three-fourths of the clinic’s business is small animal and walk-in with the last fourth being large animal and country calls.

Advances in technology and medicine have attributed to giving animals the best care possible. Since Stribe first started at the Webster City practice, there have been many changes that have greatly impacted animal health care.

“I think people have always cared for their pets, but now with new science and technology we can just do a lot more for them than what we could 40 years ago,” said Stribe.

For example, when Stribe first arrived at the practice, there was no X-ray machine and the clinic couldn’t do in-house blood analysis. The clinic got its first X-ray machine in 1986.

Another piece of technology Stribe credits with the most impact is the computer, which the Webster City Vet Clinic began using in 1991.

“It actually gave us capabilities to keep better records and history of our animals,” he said. “We can pull up and look at an animal and see when it’s been in last and what for.”

Blockbuster drugs were developed to help treat animals as technology improved and medical advances were made. A brand new parasiticide, Ivermectin, was used to combat worms, lice and mange. It came out in the early 1980s.

“It was just a revolutionary drug that worked in a completely different manner,” said Stribe.

That same drug is the No. 1 drug for heartworm prevention in dogs, according to Stribe.

Before cell phones, Stribe used two-way radios out on the job. Those who called the office were directed to a home number to call of one of the vets. If he was home, there was always a chance he could be called to a farm for an emergency.

Stribe credits his wife, Diane, for staying home on many nights, weekends and holidays when he was on-call.

“I want to thank her for all the help and taking phone calls at night and support,” Stribe said. “We hosted a lot of the holiday meals because we didn’t dare leave home. She’d always get stuck hosting all the relatives so I could answer the phone if needed.”

Stribe and his wife have three daughters: Nancy and Matt Heerema, Ames; Mary and Adam McCune, Des Moines; and Melissa and Andrew Belis, El Paso, Texas. The couple also has four granddaughters.

For a vet, everyday on the job is different. For Stribe, two interesting occasions came to mind when thinking back on his lengthy career in Webster City.

Stribe has signed the health certificate for a camel, and 10 years ago, caught an alligator at Southfield Wellness that had escaped out of its cage. The alligator was safely transported to the Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha, Nebraska, where it was named Webster. One Christmas Eve, he even got the chance to treat a lame ostrich.

Although his last official day was Saturday. Stribe will be popping into the office for the next month to help ease Dr. Whitney Lincoln into the role. Lincoln, who started at the clinic in September, will be taking over for Stribe.

“I think she is a good fit here,” said Stribe. “She’ll be able to do a nice job.”

Stribe’s partner, Dr. Mike Yanda, has been a veterinarian at the clinic for 32 years. Dr. Timothy DeWaard has been a part-time veterinarian at the clinic since 2001. Cyndi Wagner has been a vet tech at the clinic since 1989, Katrina Gilles has spent over two years as a kennel assistant and Lana Alexander is the receptionist.

“I’ve always had really good help,” he said. “Dr. Yanda has been a terrific partner.

“I’ve been here 39 years,” said Stribe. “I think it’s time to move over and let somebody else do it.”

“It’s been a good go. It seems strange that it can be about over,” said Stribe. “I just really feel lucky that I’ve had a good family and partner and a lot of great clients.”


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