Mark Crane has been curing the animals of Bellingen for 27 years now. As Bellingen’s Vet he has seen it all. “A country Vet will face so many more challenges than our city colleagues, but probably my biggest challenge at the moment is finding a Vet who wants to work rurally,” says Mark.
Being a rural Vet was a natural fit for this rural lad though. “I grew up on one-million plus acre cattle stations. My father was a station manager and we moved around a lot. We were 2 years up on the Barkley Tablelands in the Northern Territory before moving to the channel country of Queensland- the corner where Queensland, the Northern Territory and South Australia meet. The closest town was Bedourie, 105 km away, that had 26 residents and 40 dogs. Our remoteness meant we were often bare-foot Vets out of necessity,” says Mark.
Now we’re intrigued!
Mark took time out of his busy schedule to chat with Rod.
Did your upbringing influence your decision to become a Vet?
I’ve always loved the natural world. By the age of 13 I had been through 3 potential career aspirations. The first was Zoology, but I soon realised I’d be spending my time in dark rooms studying stuffed animals. Then I decided to become the next Harry Butler, until it was pointed out that he was the only Naturalist earning a living. So by 13 I had made the bold decision to become a Vet.
Was it a lonely childhood?
No- I loved the freedom that came with it. I always enjoyed the independance of driving around the station on my own checking bores and windmills. This would take 6-8 hours as the stations were so big. Once I was driving a cattle truck into the nearest town but wasn’t yet old enough to have a drivers licence. The local policeman pulled me over and decided the best way to handle it was to issue me a licence on the spot.
Do you think your upbringing taught you anything which has been crucial in your career as a Vet?
We were witness to a lot of tragedy during those years. Severe droughts bring hard decisions with stock- all welfare driven. The one thing I took away from this upbringing which has helped me in my career is the ability to dissociate emotionally from a situation when needed.
How did you end up as Bellingen’s Vet?
When I left uni I decided I ‘d had enough of Queensland, especially Joh Bjelke Petersen. John Power owned the Dorrigo Veterinary Clinic and was looking for an assistant. I came down and took a look around. I fell in love with the area after a couple of bush walks – I knew I’d struck it lucky when I got the job fresh out of uni. A few years later John shifted his family to Melbourne and I became the owner and only a year later I took over the Bellingen Valley Veterinary Clinic from the late Matthew Mackerras. I sold the Dorrigo clinic in 1996 and have basically focused my attention here since.
You must see it all. Can you describe some of the more unusual procedures that you’ve had to perform as Bellingen’s Vet.
There are so many where would I start. Only half an hour ago I was lancing an abscess on a rat. Mind you, when you asked me to file your pet bunny’s teeth Rod- that was up there!
Oh we loved Daisy! Mind you when we got a second rabbit we realised pretty quickly Daisy was a Don.
As a pet owner- what should I be on the look out for at the moment.
This time of year it’s ticks. Fortunately we have some great preventative products now.
Do you have the full menagerie at home?
When our kids were at home we did. These days we only have a dog, a cat and four chooks.
So does Bellingen’s Vet have a favourite breed of dog?
Yep- the Kelpie. They are energetic, intelligent, no-nonsense and low maintenance.
Why are Shetland Ponies so cranky?
Short man syndrome I think.
Do goldfish have a memory?
Hey- let up on the goldfish! How many stupid things do humans do repeatedly?
Your best sporting moment was?
U16 Rugby Union premiers in Brisbane – a great team made up of all my best friends.
What are you reading right now?
Vet journal articles. Boring I know, but I love science and challenges to our paradigms. I tend to stick to non-fiction covering a range of topics, as I like to feed on facts. My own imagination supplies my mind with enough “non-fiction” to suffice.
What are you listening to right now?
Calypso/Soca, Irish Folk, Bluegrass, 70’s especially Punk. I love the Saints. And various contemporary artists as provided by our children.
What really annoys you?
Please don’t ask ………..
The best lesson your parents taught you?
The last big belly laugh you had was?
Two days ago our kids were all back in Dorrigo. One of them was reading to us from the diary she kept at the age of 13.
How do you relax?
Gardening, bird watching, running, chilling with some very “comfortable” long term friends.
Favourite holiday destination & why?
South America – I love the laid back attitude, lack of pretentiousness, lack of preciousness, genuine willingness to communicate with other humans, and a desire to enjoy life without whinging about what they don’t have. The scenery and wildlife are exquisite. And of South America, Columbia is my own particular favourite.
In the Movie Cranegate, who would play you?
Liam Neeson – who else could do it?