Letters 10-24-2016

It’s Obama’s 1984 Several editions ago I concluded a short letter to the editor with an ominous rhetorical flourish: “Welcome to George Orwell’s 1984 and the grand opening of the Federal Department of Truth!” At the time I am sure most of the readers laughed off my comments as right-wing hyperbole. Shame on you for doubting me...

Gun Bans Don’t Work It is said that mass violence only happens in the USA. A lone gunman in a rubber boat, drifted ashore at a popular resort in Tunisia and randomly shot and killed 38 mostly British and Irish tourists. Tunisian gun laws, which are among the most restrictive in the world, didn’t stop this mass slaughter. And in January 2015, two armed men killed 11 and wounded 11 others in an attack on the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. French gun laws didn’t stop these assassins...

Scripps’ Good Deed No good deed shall go unpunished! When Dan Scripps was the 101st District State Representative, he introduced legislation to prevent corporations from contaminating (e.g. fracking) or depleting (e.g. Nestle) Michigan’s water table for corporate profit. There are no property lines in the water table, and many of us depend on private wells for abundant, safe, clean water. In the subsequent election, Dan’s opponents ran a negative campaign almost solely on the misrepresentation that Dan’s good deed was a government takeover of your private water well...

Political Definitions As the time to vote draws near it’s a good time to check into what you stand for. According to Dictionary.com the meanings for liberal and conservative are as follows:

Liberal: Favorable to progress or reform as in political or religious affairs.

Conservative: Disposed to preserve existing conditions, institutions, etc., or to restore traditions and limit change...

Voting Takes A Month? Hurricane Matthew hit the Florida coast Oct. 6, over three weeks before Election Day. Bob Ross (Oct. 17th issue) posits that perhaps evacuation orders from Governor Scott may have had political motivations to diminish turnout and seems to praise Hillary Clinton’s call for Gov. Scott to extend Florida’s voter registration deadline due to evacuations...

Clinton Foundation Facts Does the Clinton Foundation really spend a mere 10 percent (per Mike Pence) or 20 percent (per Reince Priebus) of its money on charity? Not true. Charity Watch gives it an A rating (the same as it gives the NRA Foundation) and says it spends 88 percent on charitable causes, and 12 percent on overhead. Here is the source of the misunderstanding: The Foundation does give only a small percentage of its money to charitable organizations, but it spends far more money directly running a number of programs...

America Needs Change Trump supports our constitution, will appoint judges that will keep our freedoms safe. He supports the partial-birth ban; Hillary voted against it. Regardless of how you feel about Trump, critical issues are at stake. Trump will increase national security, monitor refugee admissions, endorse our vital military forces while fighting ISIS. Vice-presidential candidate Mike Pence will be an intelligent asset for the country. Hillary wants open borders, increased government regulation, and more demilitarization at a time when we need strong military defenses...

My Process For No I will be voting “no” on Prop 3 because I am supportive of the process that is in place to review and approve developments. I was on the Traverse City Planning Commission in the 1990s and gained an appreciation for all of the work that goes into a review. The staff reviews the project and makes a recommendation. The developer then makes a presentation, and fellow commissioners and the public can ask questions and make comments. By the end of the process, I knew how to vote for a project, up or down. This process then repeats itself at the City Commission...

Regarding Your Postcard If you received a “Vote No” postcard from StandUp TC, don’t believe their lies. Prop 3 is not illegal. It won’t cost city taxpayers thousands of dollars in legal bills or special elections. Prop 3 is about protecting our downtown -- not Munson, NMC or the Commons -- from a future of ugly skyscrapers that will diminish the very character of our downtown...

Vote Yes It has been suggested that a recall or re-election of current city staff and Traverse City Commission would work better than Prop 3. I disagree. A recall campaign is the most divisive, costly type of election possible. Prop 3, when passed, will allow all city residents an opportunity to vote on any proposed development over 60 feet tall at no cost to the taxpayer...

Yes Vote Explained A “yes” vote on Prop 3 will give Traverse City the right to vote on developments over 60 feet high. It doesn’t require votes on every future building, as incorrectly stated by a previous letter writer. If referendums are held during general elections, taxpayers pay nothing...

Beware Trump When the country you love have have served for 33 years is threatened, you have an obligation and a duty to speak out. Now is the time for all Americans to speak out against a possible Donald Trump presidency. During the past year Trump has been exposed as a pathological liar, a demagogue and a person who is totally unfit to assume the presidency of our already great country...

Picture Worth 1,000 Words Nobody disagrees with the need for affordable housing or that a certain level of density is dollar smart for TC. The issue is the proposed solution. If you haven’t already seen the architect’s rendition for the site, please Google “Pine Street Development Traverse City”...

Living Wage, Not Tall Buildings Our community deserves better than the StandUp TC “vote no” arguments. They are not truthful. Their yard signs say: “More Housing. Less Red Tape. Vote like you want your kids to live here.” The truth: More housing, but for whom? At what price..

Home · Articles · News · Features · ANIMAL HOUSE: Veterinarian...
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ANIMAL HOUSE: Veterinarian Karen Mertaugh lives an unconventional life

Erin Crowell - November 7th, 2011  

Veterinarian Karen Mertaugh spends time with her pets Frieda and Margarita, two goats that live on the 100-year-old family farm, the site of her and her husband’s practice, The Animal Medical Center.

When you come to the house of Karen Mertaugh, chances are you’ll be greeted by a dog, a cat or even a school of fish housed on the west-side wall – all before setting foot in the actual home.

Along with her husband, Tom, Mertaugh lives in the same 100-year-old farmhouse as their veterinarian practice, the Traverse City Animal Medical Center, located on a stretch of open field along US-31.

While her combined home and work setting may be untraditional, so is the life of Karen Mertaugh.


As the only local veterinarian to provide free neutering services for male cats at the Cherryland Humane Society—she’s sterilized about 200 over the past three years—Mertaugh’s humanitarian efforts span farther than the boundaries of Northern Michigan.

Every year she sponsors a woman living in the Congo (seven so far), giving these one-time victims of violence the opportunity to work and provide for their large families.

“Some of these women get pregnant as early as 16 and have seven or eight children,” Mertaugh said. “They are usually the victims of rape or domestic violence.”

Every three months, Mertaugh receives an update from her sponsored woman. The letter, translated from Swahili, is a firstperson account of what each woman is doing with her life, along with the status of her children.

“I will write back to them about my own family,” she said.

Mertaugh has plenty to write about. As the parents of two children—Megan (28) and Ryan (25)—Tom and Karen have instilled a sense of adventure and humanitarianism in their family.

Two years ago, the entire family built a climbing wall for an elementary school in Guatemala.

“Tom and I saw the movie ‘Recycled Life’ at the State Theatre and we were just so impressed by the efforts of Safe Passage,” Mertaugh noted about the non-profit that helps families living and working in the garbage-ridden areas of Guatemala City.

After traveling to Guatemala herself, Karen and her family decided to sponsor a child, an eight-year-old named Katie, and soon after built a climbing wall at Katie’s elementary school.

“I barely had any clothes because we brought down all the hand-holds,” she laughed.

While the project took only 10 days to complete, Mertaugh stayed in Guatemala for three months, helping sickly children who are too ill to even stay in orphanages. After becoming ill herself, she spent several days at the Mayo Clinic upon her return to the States.

“I had contracted human Parvo disease, which I thought only dogs get,” she said of the ironic diagnosis.

Despite the health setback, Mertaugh said building a climbing wall in a foreign country with her family was “a wonderful experience.”

Still, when most people asked Why a climbing wall?, Mertaugh explained climbing is a way to build self-esteem and it’s something just about anyone can do.

She would know, as her family is very active in the sport.


Along with a bouldering wall in their barn and an ice tower for winter climbing in the backyard, the Mertaugh family made another trek: to the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro on Christmas morning in 2007.

“At first, I thought I would just work in an orphanage while everyone else climbed,” she said. But then she decided she wanted to join the family in conquering the 19,336foot Tanzanian mountain (the largest free-standing mountain in the world).

Mertaugh enlisted the help of local exercise physiologist Karen Wells to get her in hiking shape.

“For three months I would hike every other day and then workout every other day. I know every trail behind the old State Hospital,” she laughed. “I was hiking up to four hours in February, so I’d be hiking in the dark with a backpack full of books as added weight.”

The work paid off as the family ended their eight-day journey at the mountain’s peak – a hiking party that consisted of 12 porters, two guides and a cook.

“I had to head back down shortly after summiting because I was getting altitude sickness,” said Mertaugh, noting it wasn’t until around 12,000 feet that she realized her boots were unfastened, discovering her feet were covered in blisters.

That same determination was present when Mertaugh moved her family to Kingsley while the children attended high school.

The reason? “I didn’t like the idea of the kids turning left into town on US-31,” she said about her newly-licensed children. “I asked the road commission to put in a light at Rennie School Road.”

With no follow-through on part of the road commission, Mertaugh moved the clan to Kingsley for six years before returning to the farmhouse.


The couple purchased their home/ business in 1981 shortly after marrying and graduating from Michigan State University’s Veterinary School, the place they met.

The Mertaugh family at the climbing wall they built in Guatemala.

“Tom specialized in large animals and I specialized in small animals,” said Mertaugh. However, with a sluggish economy and the government buyout of dairy cattle in the mid-‘80s, Tom switched his concentration to small animals – something he still practices today.

“I’m semi-retired and Tom mostly works in the clinic,” said Mertaugh.

Instead, she fills in for surgeries or other vet work when needed, spending the rest of her time on projects or upstairs with the family pets: McKinley, an 11-year-old golden retriever; two cats, Esmeralda and Kibo; and a cockatiel named Apache.

The pet family also extends outside and includes their horse, Zonkers; two goats, Margarita and Frida; one sheep, Wallace; a llama, Phantom, and several chickens.

When customers arrive at the Animal Medical Center, it isn’t unusual they are greeted by the look of a grazing goat or a passing chicken – a much quieter welcoming compared to when the Mertaughs owned a rooster named Trouble.

“He would sit on top of people’s cars in the parking lot and lunge at them if they tried opening their doors to go home,” she laughed.

The Animal Medical Center is located at 229 North US-31 in Traverse City. For hours and clinic information, call 231-943-8500.

Karen Mertaugh (second from right) and her family reached the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro on Christmas morning in 2007.

  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
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