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January 15, 2021

Faces of Fauquier: Vet likes ‘human-animal’ bond

Photo/Lawrence Emerson
“It’s an exciting job,” says Warrenton veterinarian Constance Houk. “Every day is different.”
One of the things I love about veterinary medicine is the human-animal bond. When you’re treating a dog or a cat, you’re also treating the owner.
By .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
Staff Journalist
In more than 30 years of caring for animals, a yellow Labrador retriever with a lump on its neck stands out as perhaps the Warrenton veterinarian’s most memorable patient.

“When it went to biopsy, we found an inch-and-half sewing needle that was coming out of its skin,” recalled Dr. Constance C. Houk, associate veterinarian with the Animal Care Center in Warrenton. “When we pulled it out, it had 18 inches of thread attached to it.”

Dr. Houk, 62, believes the dog at some point had swallowed the needle.

Eventually, it “migrated out of his stomach up through the skin,” she said.

“They eat anything,” Dr. Houk said of “Labs” with a laugh.

The Warrenton resident attributes her career choice to a grandfather who had a veterinary practice in Pennsylvania.

In Dr. Houk’s childhood, her family visited him during the summer.

And she and her two sisters accompanied him on calls whenever they could.

“He did a lot of farm animals — cows and horses,” recalled Dr. Houk, who grew up in Winchester. “When he was on the road, we were in the back of the car. . . . I never wanted to be anything but a vet, because I loved what he did and found it fascinating.”

Initially, she hoped to become a horse surgeon.

That lasted until Dr. Houk got her first vet job while still in medical school and “fell in love with dogs.”

The owner of two dogs and a cat, the veterinarian stresses that she loves both species equally.

Working 40 hours a week at the Animal Care Center, Dr. Houk mostly cares for cats and dogs.

Vaccinations account for the practice’s greatest number of patient visits, said Dr. Houk, who has endured about 20 cat and six dog bites during her career.

“A spay or a neuter are the most common (surgeries) that we do,” she said. “We do quite a bit of trauma work also — the main one probably being dog bites. We’ve seen some heartbreaking things. Unless it’s hit by a car and very damaged, then usually we can repair.”

So much of the work engages her, Dr. Houk said.

“One of the things I love about veterinary medicine is the human-animal bond,” she said. “When you’re treating a dog or a cat, you’re also treating the owner.”

The hardest part of the job?

“Euthanasia,” Dr. Houk said. “It’s very hard when you know a dog or a cat’s going to die.”

• Age

• Home

• Work
Associate veterinarian, Animal Care Center, Warrenton, 2012 to present; associate veterinarian, Marshall Veterinary Clinic, 1987 to 2009; associate veterinarian, Dale City Animal Hospital, 1986-87.

• Why do you do the job?
It combines medicine and science and my love for animals. I can also help people — educating them in taking care of their pets.

It’s an exciting job. Every day is different. You never know what you’re going to come into, from one day to the next.

• Family
Divorced; three children; one grandchild; two dogs and one cat.

• Education
Doctor of veterinary medicine, Virginia Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine, Blacksburg, 1986; bachelor’s degree, animal science, University of Georgia, 1981; John Handley High School, Winchester, 1977.

• How long have you lived in Fauquier?
About 33 years.

• Why do you live here?
I grew up in Winchester. I had a little farm in Delaplane. My former husband and I met here and lived on the farm.

I love Fauquier. I like that it has a small population. It’s a beautiful county. My children grew up riding horses. So we had Connemara ponies, and we used to show ponies and fox hunt.

• How do you describe this county?
Fauquier County is God’s country. He just visits every place else. A beautiful, busy community with a small-town atmosphere.

• What would you change about Fauquier?
I live on Waterloo Street. I would change what the town has done to it. They’ve taken away all of our parking on our side of the street. They’ve repainted the lane lines and made it dangerous, with the way it zigs and zags. I’d put it back to the way it was.

• What do you do for fun?
I do agility work with my Standard poodle, Pandy. I like to cook. I’m a voracious reader.

• What’s your favorite place in Fauquier?
My home. I love living in Old Town Warrenton. I like how convenient it is. I can walk to the library, to the bank or the stores up town.

• What will Fauquier be like in 10 years?
I just see a lot of development all along the Route 29 corridor — making that road impassable.

I hope the county won’t change much. That’s part of the reasons I love living here.

• Favorite TV show?
“Breaking Bad”

• Favorite movie?

• Favorite book?
“Prodigal Summer” by Barbara Kingsolver.

• Favorite vacation spot?
Smith Mountain Lake.

• Favorite food?

• What is the best advice you have ever received? From whom?
It came from a professor at veterinary school. It’s sort of a mantra for practicing medicine: Do no harm. And I think it applies to life, in general. It’s been great advice for me. You always want to make sure you’re doing the best for your patients that you can.

• Who’s your hero and why?
My parents. They made a loving home for my two sisters and myself, growing up. They were married for 45 years, and they lived a life of integrity. They set a good example of how to raise children and how to be loving people.

• What would you do if you won $5 million in the lottery?
I would buy a small farm in Fauquier County. I would adopt cats and dogs and horses that needed a home. It would be sort of an animal haven.

Have a suggestion?
Do you know someone who lives in Fauquier County you would like to see in Faces of Fauquier? Email Don Del Rosso at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or Lou Emerson at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
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Linda Ward · January 18, 2021 at 2:56 pm
TADD - Calling them as I see them and as they are.

SaveFauquier - Don't care what Party she is affiliated with as long her clients are treated with respect. I did not attack her practice on social media, I did not engage the employee that was rude, I simply asked for my pets records and left, not to return. I could have acted much worse but took the high road.

Would you have done the same???

"Suicides among veterinarians become a growing problem - Pushed to the brink by mounting debt, compassion fatigue and social media attacks from angry pet owners, veterinarians are committing suicide at rates higher than the general population, often killing themselves with drugs meant for their patients.
Savefauquiercounty2019 · January 18, 2021 at 9:09 am
Dr. are you Republican? It may be the very reason LW wants to highlight your staff. Perhaps, you will increase your clientele now. Chick fil A did.
TADD · January 17, 2021 at 9:34 pm
Linda, you are just plain simple minded. Now you are calling folks liars. What is next?
Linda Ward · January 17, 2021 at 12:57 pm
Here you go Save. "Dr. Houk, I apologize for leaving your vet clinic due to the rudeness of one of your staff. I regret that I let her talk to me like I was an idiot."

Now your turn Savefauquiercounty2019. You need to apologize to this community for all your misinformation (i.e. lies) posted here and throughout Fauquier Now.
BenSherman · January 17, 2021 at 10:13 am
Things happen in life...
Savefauquiercounty2019 · January 17, 2021 at 5:34 am
Linda, you should not use your freedom of speech as another excuse to rationalize your negative comments of a story of a Fauquier County Citizen. Where are your manners? Why not use your freedom of speech now and call her an apologize.
kwaterscales · January 16, 2021 at 3:35 pm
A great article on a wonderful Vet!! I love Dr.Houk!! the whole office is great and very caring. Never met with an attitude or any problems. Love this office and the staff. Kathy Waters-Cales

Linda Ward · January 16, 2021 at 2:14 pm
Did I say she was a bad lady, NO. I related my story of what happened to us at this clinic with this Vet, as I said maybe they were overwhelmed. She is probably a very good vet, we went elsewhere due to the attitude of the staff, our FREEDOM to do so. Remember, those freedoms you all are always going on about that someone is taking them AWAY.

You all preach your truths but no one else is to allow to speak their own. Look back at your own postings. LOLOL.

TADD · January 16, 2021 at 11:36 am
Linda, do you ever think you should self assess your ill behaviors that provoke people. This educated lady sounds like a very hard working citizen. We should celebrate her story.
Savefauquiercounty2019 · January 16, 2021 at 4:13 am
Linda, why should Fauquier Now highlight it's citizens for you to be a kill joy.
Linda Ward · January 15, 2021 at 8:03 pm
We went to the Animal Care Center for years back to 2001, and Dr. Houk was a nice addition to the practice but over time she became less friendly and the staff there were rude. Maybe they were overwhelmed. We went to a different vet after a run in with one of their staff.
BestKeptSecrets · January 15, 2021 at 3:34 pm
You do not look 62! I hope they change what you want on Waterloo. They should ask the citizens first before making such changes. Nice story. I especially loved reading about your parents. How nice.
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