It was about 4 p.m. on a Sunday in May when Dr. Jack D. Gochenour received a phone call from his son saying, "Dad, the water's coming. You need to get out."
Dr. Gochenour was at his small animal clinic in Missouri Valley, Iowa, at the time. "Once I got off the phone with him, the water was already coming in the back of the clinic."
A dike holding back a swollen creek had broken about three and a half miles north of the clinic, and floodwater was spreading in a hurry.
Dr. Gochenour's first concern was to evacuate the nine animals that were boarded at the clinic, many because their owners' homes were already flooded by recent rains. With the swift help of friends and family in the area, Dr. Gochenour loaded the animals into his truck and transported them to his brother's small animal clinic 10 miles down the road.
Dr. Gochenour's clinic, where he had practiced for 20 years, ended up with three feet of water. His home, located on the same property, also endured major flooding. While he was able to rehab his home, which will be move-in ready in November, the clinic was deemed unusable.
One of the more expensive losses to the floodwater was a $20,000 X-ray machine. And Dr. Gochenour did not have flood insurance. But with the help of a $2,000 grant from the American Veterinary Medical Foundation and financial assistance from a local flood relief committee, he was able to reduce his out-of-pocket expenses to just under $10,000 to replace the machine.
The AVMF provided Dr. Gochenour with a veterinary practice relief grant from the Animal Disaster Relief and Response Fund, which was established Sept. 1, 2005, to provide funding for disaster relief efforts in connection with Hurricane Katrina and future disasters. In 2007, the AVMF has awarded six grants to individuals from the ADRR fund.
Dr. Gochenour lost a lot of other equipment in the flood, along with about a thousand pounds of pet food and his entire veterinary library.
He was able to earn some income by temporarily offering veterinary services, primarily vaccinations, in a nearby vacant church. "Toward the end, we were able to do some minor surgeries and some spays and neuters as we got more (equipment)," Dr. Gochenour said.
The only veterinarian practicing in small-town Missouri Valley, Dr. Gochenour has reopened his business in a former medical office that is about three quarters of a mile from his previous clinic and is situated in the downtown area.
"We moved in over Labor Day weekend, and we're open and doing three times the business that we were able to do when we set up temporary shop in a vacant church," said Kris Gochenour, office manager of the clinic and Dr. Gochenour's wife.
"Except for the actual flood, we've had a total positive experience with the whole disaster," she said, noting that the community provided a great deal of support.
She said the grant from the AVMF also provided relief at a crucial time. "The $2,000 was a pretty fast turnaround. We were so devastated at that time; you sort of need a lifeline to hold onto."
To learn more about the AVMF's individual reimbursements, including relief for the restoration of veterinary infrastructures affected by disasters or reimbursement for out-of-pocket expenses related to the veterinary care of animal victims of disasters, visit www.avmf.org and click on Reimbursements & Grants.