Long before Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.) was on the campaign trail to the Capitol, he used campaign strategies to win over his fellow Oregonians as a local veterinarian, knocking on door after door, pitching his slogan.
“Hi, I’m Kurt Schrader,” he would say. “I’m a darn good veterinarian. Give me a shot.”
It was a practice he later would turn to when running for elected office.
“I went around farm to farm. It was good training for here because I’m not a very outgoing guy,” Schrader said. “It’s a lot better having had that experience where you have to humble yourself but at the same time tell people that you think you are of value.”
In Schrader’s hometown of 6,000 people, veterinarians were known for their local involvement, from the chamber of commerce to the school board, and Schrader served as chairman of the town planning commission.
He first decided to join the profession after a summer fixing fences on a ranch in Wyoming.
“I got a sheet of paper out and on the y-axis, I listed all the professions that I’d explored, and on the x-axis, I put the things I wanted out of life,” Schrader said. And veterinarian was one. ... So I took zoology my senior year so I could have my one biology course, and I applied to veterinary school in Illinois and was lucky enough to get in.”
Schrader earned his undergraduate degree in government from Cornell University before attending veterinary school. After finishing his graduate degree, he took a job in Oregon under a veterinarian, but that didn’t satisfy him. So he started his own business with nothing but a few supplies and a pickup truck.
Many of Schrader’s ideals and viewpoints on life come from his time spent with the animals that he’s helped and his interactions with their owners. If inspiration is needed on how to approach life and its problems, Schrader suggests looking to animals.
He recounted an experience he had treating a dog:
“You take an X-ray and the [animal’s] hips are gone, I mean literally gone ... and up until yesterday, this dog was fine,” Schrader said. “When I first got into the practice, I thought, ‘That’s bullshit, there is no way, you’d be hurting.’ It’s amazing: You give that dog a little bit of pain medicine, and they are poppin’ right back up — just mind over matter, their ability to deal with things that people can’t.”
Schrader didn’t work only on small animals; his main focus was horses. Of the countless cases he has worked on throughout the years, some stand out and capture the essence of his career.
Visitors get their first look at the American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial, which opened to the public on Monday, Oct. 6, 2014. The new memorial is located off Independence Ave. SW between the Rayburn House Office Building and HHS. Buy photo here.