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City's only veterinarian retires, animal hospital closing

Alex Gladden
Fort Smith Times Record
Veterinarian James Shearer is seen reading a comic strip Jan. 21, 2021, at his office in Paris. The city's only veterinarian is retiring.

The night was stormy, but Jim Shearer still had a cow he needed to help give birth.

He finally managed to catch the cow and tie her to a tree, but she wandered out into a shallow pond. 

Shearer waded in after the cow only to discover that the calf was too big for a natural birth. So Shearer performed a cesarean section to deliver the calf in the pond. 

Later that night a tornado blew through the pasture, taking out the chicken house and the tree beside the pond. 

Paris Veterinarian Jim Shearer talks about the early days of his 50-year career, Thursday, Jan. 21, during an interview at his Paris clinic.

This is the kind of devotion to his practice that Shearer showed throughout this career, starting when he graduated from veterinary school at Oklahoma State University in 1969. 

Shearer is the only veterinarian in Paris, treating animals at the Paris Veterinary Hospital. Shearer, 77, plans to retire at the end of February. 

"I hate that worse than anything," Shearer said about leaving the town without a vet. 

But after discussions with his wife, Shearer said he decided it was time to retire. 

“You know it’s definitely going to be hard on some of the families to commute to other places if we don’t have somebody to replace him," said Tonya Fletcher, the executive director of the Paris Chamber of Commerce. 

For families in need of veterinary care, it would mean at minimum a 20-mile commute, Fletcher said. 

Fletcher said she's begun having conversations with community members to try to find a replacement for Shearer after his many years of service to Paris. 

Shearer has been working as a veterinarian in Paris for 50 years. 

When he started his career, Shearer served with three other veterinarians in the clinic and worked throughout five counties. 

In those days, there were approximately 125 grade-A dairy farms in Logan and Franklin Counties. 

Shearer got into medicine to treat rural animals. Working amid so many dairy farms gave him the opportunity to frequently tend to cows, which are his favorite animal. 

"They're so unique," Shearer said about cows. 

Shearer has been the only vet in town since 2003. 

"It's got its difficulties," Shearer said. 

Shearer is on-call 24 hours a day, seven days a week. He leaves his home phone number and pager number on the clinic voicemail, and people contact him at any time of day or night. 

"You do it to serve the community," Shearer said about being a veterinarian. 

Shearer never refused to help people in an emergency if they didn't have money to pay for their sick animal, said Susan Naegle, who works in Shearer's clinic. 

"He doesn't turn down people if they need his help," Naegle said. 

Naegle described the end of Shearer's career as "the end of an era." 

When Shearer retires, the Paris Veterinary Hospital, which opened in the 1950s, will close. 

Naegle has worked at the hospital for 13 years and said Shearer is the best boss she's ever had. 

"He's the most patient, kind person I've ever met," Naegle said. 

Shearer said he's lucky to have made money doing what he loved. 

"It's just been a great way to live, raise your family," Shearer said. 

Veterinarian James “Jim” Shearer's Paris Veterinary Hospital, 707 S. Elm, will soon be closing and the Paris Chamber of Commerce is looking for a new veterinarian to replace Shearer. He retires in February after 50 years of service to the community.