2007-06-09 / Top News

Alan Sibinic Is Island's New Veterinarian

By Karen Gould

Mackinac Island's new veterinarian, Alan Sibinic (left), performs a heart and lung check on Bell, a 13-year-old mare. The Hackney is used for special occasions, like pulling wedding carriages for Mackinac Island Carriage Tours, said Dan Mitchell (right) of the company. Mackinac Island's new veterinarian, Alan Sibinic (left), performs a heart and lung check on Bell, a 13-year-old mare. The Hackney is used for special occasions, like pulling wedding carriages for Mackinac Island Carriage Tours, said Dan Mitchell (right) of the company. Dr. Alan Sibinic is bringing 32 years of veterinary experience to Mackinac Island, where he will offer medical care to cats, dogs, horses, and other animals in an office in the Mackinac Island Carriage Tours barn on the corner of Market Street and Cadotte Avenue.

He appreciates the small town charm and style of life of the Island, he says, and taking a cue from decades past, he will make house calls.

"You can bike almost anywhere on the Island in about five minutes," he said, adding he always carries a backpack of supplies with him for emergencies.

Dr. Sibinic will remain on the Island until October.

While he's been here before, taking care of emergencies and helping 50-year veterinarian Dr. Bill Chambers taking care of horses for Mackinac Island Carriage Tours, Dr. Sibinic calls this year a test.

"This is the beginning," he said. "If it works out for all of us, it might be a good way for me to finish my career."

He hopes to be back again next May.

"I've been trying to get him here for four or five years," said Dr. Chambers, president of Mackinac Island Carriage Tours, "and I finally got him. To have a man of his caliber is a real plus for Mackinac."

Up until two weeks ago when the new veterinarian arrived, Dr. Chambers had been caring for the company's more than 350 horses.

"I still could do it, if I had to," said Dr. Chambers, who now prefers to step back from that part of his job.

In addition to contracting with Mackinac Island Carriage Tours, Dr. Sibinic is offering private practice services to Island residents and visitors.

"There's a great number of animals here, of course," said Dr. Sibinic, "and all of them need medical service from time to time."

He offers the same care any veterinarian would provide, including spaying and neutering, vaccinations, and diagnosis and treatment of illnesses.

In fact, word has already spread of his availability, and he has cared for a visiting dog that stepped on glass near Devil's Kitchen and an elderly dog suffering from kidney disease, a pet belonging to a couple staying at the marina.

"We're very fortunate to have him," said Dr. Chambers. "He has experience in all facets of veterinary medicine."

Horses communicate through body movement and are sensitive to sounds, sights, and tone of voice, said Dr. Sibinic, and they like structured consistency. He has spent the last two weeks getting to know Mackinac Island Carriage Tours horses, and letting them get to know him.

Lameness in horses is the most common medical condition Dr. Sibinic said he expects to encounter. Horses can slip on wet or dry pavement, causing injury. He also expects to see some physical injuries, digestive conditions like colic, and tooth maintenance, called floating. Floating corrects points on a horse's teeth. The way a horse chews, in a circular motion, causes points to build up on the outside of the top teeth. The points occasionally have to be filed off, he said. He has already treated one horse for the condition since arriving on the Island.

Dr. Sibinic, who is from Charlevoix, came to the Island "to expand my adventure." He has operated his own office, choosing now to fill in for veterinarians who are on vacation, maternity leave, or just short staffed. He has a son who lives near Charlevoix, who will be a junior at Michigan State University this fall.

He turned down several other job offers in favor of spending the summer on the Island before he heads to Arizona this fall.

"It's been good," he said of his Island experience so far. "No concerns about $3.50 gas, traffic jams, construction zones, and all of that."

While other cities like Chicago and New York offer horse-drawn carriage rides, those cities do not depend on horses like Mackinac Island does.

"I've always liked this place," he said. "It's intriguing, it's different. It's unique to the world really. There are a lot of animals here. The animals are dependent on us and we're dependent on them here, where every place else, it's an option."

Skip is Dr. Sibinic's eightyear old horse. He has not brought Skip to the Island yet, as he would have to figure out the logistics of getting him here and finding a stall, then train him to get used to the numbers of people, and the unusual noises like the Fort Mackinac cannon and the ferry boat whistles.

At the veterinary office, finishing touches are being made, and plumbing work is nearly done. An answering machine will be added to the phone there shortly, said Dr. Sibinic.

Appointments can be made by calling Dr. Sibinic at 847- 6231. For emergencies, he offers his cellular phone number, (313) 719-3882.

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