By Kristen Miller
COKATO, MN When Jason Foss and Nathan Kirkpatrick graduated from Dassel-Cokato High School in 2001, they never anticipated graduating together again years later from veterinary school. They also didn’t think they would find themselves working in their hometown of Cokato at separate, competing clinics.
As high school classmates, Foss and Kirkpatrick remember taking French together. Foss even worked for Kirkpatrick’s dad, Jim, owner of Associated Veterinary Clinic in Cokato.
Though they went to separate colleges for their undergraduate studies Foss went to St. Cloud State University and Kirkpatrick to the University of Minnesota they found themselves back in class together at the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine. They both graduated from the program April 30.
Now, Foss is working with Dr. Ken Peterson of Peterson Veterinary Clinic, while Kirkpatrick is working with his father at Associated Veterinary Clinic.
For Foss, becoming a veterinarian is something he has wanted to do ever since he can remember.
“I was told I’ve been talking about it before I even remembered talking about it. That’s what my grandma says anyway,” Foss said.
Kirkpatrick, however, was looking to take a different path from the one he grew up with. Following his undergraduate studies, Kirkpatrick went to chiropractic school for a year, only to find that field wasn’t the right one for him.
Having grown up in the practice, Kirkpatrick already had a lot of knowledge in the field of veterinary medicine. He also knew that it would be a mentally stimulating career for him in the long run.
Both grew up with a variety of animals. Foss lived on a hobby farm and had horses and cattle. Kirkpatrick remembers having cows, chickens, and even a pig.
Foss knew he wanted to work more with food-producing animals, or “mixed animals,” as it’s called in veterinary school.
“It’s all a challenge,” Foss said, explaining he worked just that day with a dog that suffered from seizures, did a few surgeries, and was on his way to clean a cow that had just given birth.
Kirkpatrick strictly focuses on small animals.
Even though the former classmates work in separate Cokato clinics, they don’t really think of the two as competitors.
Yes, they are basically “fishing in the same pool,” Kirkpatrick explained, but the two offices are very complementary and help each other out when needed.
In fact, their bosses have a history together, as well. Dr. Ken Peterson was actually Dr. Jim’s first boss at a clinic in Little Falls.
They both went their separate ways, but later found themselves both owning clinics in Cokato.
For Nate, working with his father now, is much different than when he worked there in high school.
“For me to come back and work for my dad . . . not only are we father and son, but we are colleagues,” Nate said, explaining they are now consulting on different cases together. “It’s pretty cool.”
Growing up with animals, Foss remembers his new boss, Dr. Peterson, getting out of his truck with a stainless steel bucket to work on the cows.
Foss, who now lives just four miles from where he grew up, said his neighbors are calling him now to work on their cows.
As veterinarians, their work is important not only for the animal they are helping, but most of the time, it’s equally important for the owner.
“It’s really an awesome feeling to make a difference,” Foss said.