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NOME, Alaska (KTUU) – Mayor of Nome John Handeland has many furry friends running around his house.

“I had four Rottweilers,” Handeland said. “Now I have five pugs and just adopted a Rottweiler from Anchorage a week ago.”

As a proud dog dad, Handeland knows just what it takes to care for his pets, especially in his town of Nome, where getting regular health care hasn’t been accessible for at least five years after Nome lost its 30-year-old vet. . Now, the city has a traveling veterinarian from the east coast, who travels to Nome every six to eight weeks to provide animal health services to residents of Nome and the surrounding 18 villages in the region.

However, not having a lead veterinarian in the community can be a struggle — especially when an emergency arises — which is a scenario Handeland has experienced firsthand.

“One of my rotties got gored by a musk ox,” Handeland said. “It was a bit of a tense situation to be able to, you know, stabilize him here in Nome before we could get him out and get him on a plane and to Southside Animal (hospital) for emergency surgery.”

Despite that experience, Handeland said Nome has adjusted well to not having a lead vet on site. That includes, he said, taking advantage of a veterinarian’s presence in the community by making sure to plan ahead for appointments and checkups that pets might need.

“When there’s an opportunity for someone to come through town, I really encourage people to take advantage of it,” Handeland said.

Handeland said practicing preventative health care is essential, not only to ensure pets stay healthy, but also to avoid the potential for a health emergency by being proactive when health issues arise in pets. are starting to appear. When such situations arise, Nome residents also have the option of using telehealth with the veterinarian.

“He’s been available by phone and photos with a vet tech here in Nome to help with any diagnosis and emergency care if you need an antibiotic or anything like that,” Handeland said. “He’s able to prescribe this stuff from a distance.”

Programs like this are a game-changer for the community, allowing them to receive feedback on the health of their pets when the vet is not in the area, as Nome waits to one day welcome a veterinarian to their community.

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