Paula Evans (above) of Fort Payne has brought her cat Felix to DeKalb Animal Hospital for care on his foot.

When Cindy Meloche leaves her home in Webster, Florida, to travel twice a year, she always includes Fort Payne in her itinerary. That’s because Tinker, Dixie and Mandy go with her and it’s time for their checkup.

“We started with these folks a long time ago,” said Meloche of her patronage at DeKalb Animal Hospital. Looking affectionately at the dogs clustered around her ankles, she rattles off how they joined her family.

“This one, I got at the flea market from a 4-year-old little girl because it would have had to go to the pound. This one was her replacement, because we didn’t think she was going to make it much longer. Then this one was here one visit and had been un-adopted. So I took her.”

Dr. Joseph McNew, who opened DeKalb Animal Hospital 36 years ago, has long been surrounded by families and their pets.

“I’ve seen young kids come in with their pets and now some of their kids are coming in with their pets,” he said, smiling. “I hate to say it, but even some of their grandkids are coming in with their pets.”

Being a veterinarian, he said, is not just about animals.

“It’s really a human-interest field, because you’re dealing with the pet, but also the family,” said McNew. “There have even been times when someone has had a death in the family that we’ve gone and picked up their pets while they’ve handled things. And when a pet dies, maybe you can’t equate it with losing a family member, but it’s very close. I’ve seen grown men—I mean the rough, tough ones—break down and cry.”

Meloche can relate and said her dogs are a priority. Caring for so many animals is not inexpensive, but she said she travels so far, because vet care has been far cheaper in Fort Payne than elsewhere. That is especially important when pet health takes a turn for the worse and costs can skyrocket.

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