SEAVIEW — As a child, Kelly Freese saw a cat spayed for the first time at the Oceanside Animal Clinic. Now, years later, she’s transitioning into her role as owner of that same veterinary practice.
Freese, a recent graduate of the school of veterinary medicine at Washington State University, is currently an associate vet at the clinic, and she’s working with its current owners to transition into running it as her own.
Coming back to the clinic had been in the back of her mind for years, but it wasn’t until her final year of vet school that it became a concrete possibility, Freese said. It was then that she approached Catherine Lindblad and Ed Ketel, the current owners and veterinarians at the clinic.
“I decided that this is maybe something I wanted to do so I approached them and let them know that I would be interested, and then left it up to them,” Freese said.
Freese approaching them was a happy coincidence, Lindblad said. She and Ketel bought the clinic in 1980, and they had already spoken about taking a step back eventually to give themselves more free time, a process they knew would require taking on another vet.
Even so, they decided to hold off on any decision until Freese was out of vet school, in case she chose to pursue different goals, Lindblad said.
Freese chose to follow through with coming back to the Peninsula, however, and she’s using the time between her return and the eventual handing off of the business from Lindblad and Ketel as a chance to get used to how the clinic runs, she said.
There’s no set date for the final hand-off, but the transition has been smooth for the most part, Lindblad and Freese said. Lindblad and Ketel won’t be entirely out of the picture even once the transition is final. They’ll continue advising and otherwise keeping a hand in the clinic in some way. But having Freese take over allows them to assume a more limited role in the practice, Lindblad said.
It hasn’t been entirely without its hurdles, though.
For the most part, Freese has been welcomed by the clinic’s clients but both she and Lindblad say there are always people who don’t like to see change.
“In a small, tight-knit community there’s a lot of loyalty to the current owners,” Freese said.
Lindblad has seen some of that aversion to change, and it’s understandable given the number of clients who have been coming to the clinic for years, she said. For now, Freese is working closely with Lindblad and Ketel to ease the transition for their clients. Most people have been understanding, Lindblad said.
That acceptance gets easier once people learn she’s from the area, Freese said, and Lindblad added that Freese’s familiarity with the area and the people living in it helps smooth over some of the resistance to change. Freese is an Ilwaco High School alumna, and her parents and grandparents have lived on the Long Beach Peninsula for decades.
As part of the longer-term transition Freese has plans to bring changes into the clinic, making it more efficient and bringing in some new technology, she said.
The clinic has already transitioned from traditional to digital x-rays, and Freese said she’s hoping to bring an ultrasound into the practice as well.
In addition to the ideas she’s bringing, Lindblad said Freese carries a level of dedication to the clinic that helps reassure clients. That dedication extends to after-hours follow-up calls and, if necessary, bringing clients home with her to keep an eye them, Lindblad said.