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When Donald Walker opened the doors of Community Animal Clinic, Palm Coast had no traffic lights and about 3,000 residents. What are now major intersections were three-way stop signs.
That was in 1982. December marks the clinic’s 30-year anniversary, and for Walker, the time has passed quickly and allowed him to form deep ties with the Palm Coast community.
He’s grown his practice to 11 employees, including two other veterinarians, and raised his two daughters in the city. He’s taken an interest in local government and, when his children reached adolescence, was instrumental in starting Palm Coast’s girls’ softball league. He and others cleared and tilled the fields themselves. Those fields are still in use today.
But during his business’ 30 years, he’s run it the same way he did when he opened the doors: by treating his customers and their pets like family.
Because of this, he has clients who have been with him from the start — some who have moved of an hour away and still trek to Palm Coast when their pets need a vet.
“It’s interesting to pull those files from the beginning out,” Walker said. “We’ve gone through a lot of joy and a lot of tears.”
Walker decided his profession when he was 10 years old, after watching vets treat horses in his grandfather’s stable, where he grew up working.
“From that point on, it wasn’t like that was what I wanted to do,” Walker said. “It was what I was going to do.”
He hasn’t looked back since.
For Walker, veterinary medicine combines his love for animals with his love for medicine.
He went to the University of Kentucky for his pre-veterinary studies — and remains an avid Wildcats fan today — before attending veterinary school at Auburn University.
At Auburn, he met his wife, Carol, an undergraduate at the time. Walker’s veterinary professional fraternity had a little sister program with Carol Walker’s sorority.
Because Walker was in charge of coordinating big brothers with big sisters, he intentionally paired himself with Carol.
It was sly, he said, but it worked. They married during Walker’s senior year of veterinary school.
That’s how he found himself in Palm Coast. Carol Walker, a native Floridian, wanted to return to the state. When relatives of hers learned that ITT was developing a new community, they suggested the Walkers open a clinic.
Thirty years later, Walker doesn’t see himself quitting anytime soon. He enjoys his job and he enjoys interacting with community members. It’s hard to envision retirement from a job like that, he said.
“It’s been the most rewarding profession that I could have,” Walker said. “There’s nothing I could have done that would have been more satisfying for me.”
Community Animal Clinic is at 15 Old Kings Road N., Unit 1.