LOS LUNAS — After devoting nearly 30 years to helping animals in Valencia County, Dr. Jerald Cosper, DVM, a well-known local veterinarian, is retiring.
While the decision to retire might have come earlier than he and his wife, Eileen, had expected, the timing was right.
“We had the opportunity to sell the practice and thought it was a good time to look at it,” Cosper said. “It was a little earlier than we planned. We thought it would be a couple of more years down the road before we would retire, but when the opportunity came up, we thought it was a good time to take advantage of it.”
Cosper and his wife sold Arrow Animal Hospital in Los Lunas to Dr. Nick Kennedy, DVM, in September, but they will be sticking around for the next two to three months to help with the transition.
Along with Dr. Kennedy, two other veterinarians will be practicing at Arrow Animal Hospital, Drs. Melinda Gutierrez, DVM, and Katie Owen. DVM.
“During the transition period, Eileen and I are helping him with the clients and the books,” Cosper said. “We’ll be helping out about two or three days a week for the next few months to make sure the transition is smooth for him.
“We didn’t want to leave the community just like that. We don’t think it’s fair to the community to up and leave. A lot of our clients are not really clients — they’re friends. We’ve known these people for 30 years.”
Cosper grew up and went to school in Valencia County, and even bought the 12-acre alfalfa farm his grandparents owned in Peralta.
Never really intending to become a veterinarian, the profession came as a suggestion. In the early 1980s, Cosper and his wife were living in Lubbock, Texas, where he was a senior draftsman designing Caterpillar scrapers.
“The company wanted me to go to engineering school, but I didn’t know if I wanted to be an engineer or not,” he remembers. “We looked around, and my cousin was trying to get into veterinary school, so I said, ‘why not?’”
The couple moved back to New Mexico and Cosper finished his undergraduate degree in animal science at New Mexico State University. He was then accepted to and evenually graduated from the veterinary program at Colorado State in Fort Collins, Colo.
“I was looking for a career that allowed me to be self employed, outside and working with animals,” he said. “I didn’t think I would become a vet, because I always thought only smart people could be veterinarians.
“I tell these kids who say they want to be vets that they just have to go to school, and if you’re dedicated, you can do it, too.”
After graduating from veterinary school, the Cospers moved back home, bought the farm from his grandmother, and began working for Dr. Mike McCalister at Village Veterinary Hospital in Bosque Farms.
In 1995, Cosper opened his own practice on Stover Road in Los Lunas, and built the current hospital on N.M. 47 in Los Lunas in 2002.
Throughout the years, Cosper not only treated household pets and large animals in his clinic, he and Eileen have made a difference in the community, especially helping the youth. The couple was involved in originating the Valencia County Community Expo, an annual event that until recently provided a venue for the youth to exhibit their projects.
“We’ve been involved in 4-H and FFA, helping the kids out with their projects over the years,” Cosper said.
While he enjoys working with all types of animals, it’s the people who Cosper says he revels in working with and ultimately helping.
“I don’t think being a vet you have to love animals. I think you have to enjoy making things better for people,” he said. “Being a vet isn’t what I like to call, ‘all puppies and kittens.’ You have to do a lot of bad stuff — we have to euthanize animals, we have deal with people who are having financial difficulties.
“It takes the right person to be able to handle it all with the clients because it’s their pets, their family members. You not only have to work with the animals, but you have to work with people,” he said. “You’re a veterinarian, a psychologist and a financial manager. It comes with a vast amount of responsibilities other than giving shots to kittens and puppies.”
Cosper has nearly three decades of memories as a local veterinarian, but says its those instances when he’s been able to help a family or a 4-H or FFA kid learn about and raise their animals that make him most proud.
As for their future, the Cospers will be leaving the Land of Enchantment and moving to Montana, the Treasure State, where they bought a house overlooking the state’s largest freshwater lake — Flathead Lake. They also purchased a 40-acre farm.
“We might look into invest into an RV park, and I’ll be keeping my license up, but we don’t have a solid plan right now. We’re just going to enjoy ourselves,” Cosper said. “One of my boys is looking at going into vet school, and he wants to do embryo transfer in cattle. We bought the land to do that.”
While the Cospers will be leaving New Mexico, they’ll be back to visit as most of their family still lives here. He said this new chapter in life is exciting and they’re looking forward to a new adventure.
“You put your heart into something for 30 years and all of a sudden, you’re giving it away to someone else,” he said. “It’s tough letting go, but at the same time, it’s time for someone to take the reins. It’s scary, but exciting.”