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Veterinarian Lee Darch and his daughter Emily Darch, also a veterinarian, examine Benson, a border collie pup, Tuesday afternoon at the newly opened Grande Ronde Animal Hospital, La Grande.

LA GRANDE — A man who has opened his heart to pets and their owners for more than 42 years has opened a new veterinarian clinic in La Grande.

Grande Ronde Animal Hospital began operating Tuesday on East Adams Avenue. Lee Darch built and owns the clinic. Darch recently moved to La Grande from North Carolina where he practiced veterinarian medicine for 42 years. Darch will run Grande Ronde Animal Hospital with his daughter Emily, also a veterinarian.

Emily Darch has worked as a veterinarian in Union County for three years. She is a graduate of the University of Georgia’s school of veterinary medicine.

“She is smart and very talented,” Lee Darch said.

Darch, who practiced veterinary medicine with his daughter earlier in North Carolina, said the chance to work with her again in La Grande is “a dream come true” and the reason he moved to Northeast Oregon. He said he is inspired to work as a veterinarian because he wants to care for those who can’t care for themselves.

“How is a dog going to fix his own broken leg?” Darch said.

Grande Ronde Animal Hospital has a staff of six, including two veterinarians, but Darch expects the number to grow over time. He said the last clinic he had, in Kittrell, North Carolina, had a staff of 25. He said that throughout his career, he has had college and high school students working at his clinics to give them the taste of what the world of veterinarian medicine is like.

“I want them to be sure that this (working as veterinarians) is what they want to do,” Darch said.

He said that to be a good veterinarian one has to be smart, a problem solver and one who has compassion for people and pets.

Lee Darch said he developed an interest in animals while growing up on a dairy farm in North Carolina. He said his daughter Emily has a similar background, growing up on his cattle ranch and spending many hours in the veterinary clinics where he worked. He said he anticipates Emily’s two children will be spending a lot of time with their mother and grandfather at Grande Ronde Animal Hospital.

“We are going to love working together with them,” he said. “They will be raised right here.”

Lee Darch said a veterinarian clinic is a great place to learn about work, compassion and more.

Darch built Grande Ronde Animal Hospital, which cost at least $600,000 with the help of a $75,000 grant from the La Grande Urban Renewal Agency.

“It was definitely a big help,” he said.

Grande Ronde Animal Hospital, 2400 Adams Ave., which is for small animals, is open weekdays from 8 a.m. to noon and 1:30-5:30 p.m. For additional information call 541-605-0833.

General assignment reporter

Beats include the communities of North Powder, Imbler, Island City and Union, education, Union County veterans programs and local history. Dick joined The Observer in 1983, first working as a sports and outdoors reporter.

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