Patricia Lyon takes care of people's little furry friends all year, as a veterinarian at the VCA Vineyard Animal Hospital in Kennewick.
But once a year, Lyon follows a higher calling and helps some of the poorest people in the world take care of the animals who sustain them.
Lyon just returned from her 15th volunteer trip for Christian Veterinary Mission, a Seattle organization that sends veterinarians to some of the most desperate regions on the planet. The animal doctors not only treat livestock at their destinations -- they train communities to help themselves, making the aid self-sustaining.
And that's what Lyon did in Salem, near the southern tip of India, this month.
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She trained 25 young women how to perform basic health exams on goats and cattle, including how to detect rabies in animals. Some of the women traveled almost 100 miles to attend the training.
She also provided continuing education for local veterinarians.
Lyon and the local vets treated about 500 animals in three days, Lyon said. That included water buffalo, Brahman cattle, goats and some dogs. They dewormed and vaccinated cattle and gave rabies shots to dogs.
The veterinary group helps people by helping their animals, said Kit Flowers, executive director of Christian Veterinary Mission -- or CVM.
"Keeping the livestock healthy is the best impact to human health needs," Flowers said. "They'll have more chickens, more eggs and more meat."
In many poor areas of the world, a farm animal is the de-facto bank account of a family, he said. It's a way to invest a little bit of money each day -- in the form of feed -- to then be able to sell the grown animal if someone in the family needs a doctor or to send kids to school.
"Their well-being depends on how well their animal is doing," Lyon said.
It's what makes her pay for the multiweek trips out of her own pocket year after year since the late 1990s.
"It's the thing I look forward to every year," she said. "It's my passion."
CVM each year sends about 300 vets from all around the country -- and even some from other countries -- to poor places, Flowers said. The group has chapters at each veterinary school in the U.S.
Some volunteers have been at it longer than Lyon and have been on more missions. But the Kennewick vet is well-known among group members for her continuing involvement.
"She's one of our stars," Flowers said.
The star may not even have become a veterinarian if CVM didn't exist.
Lyon was a social worker in Seattle in the 1990s, helping children with special needs to become adopted. Through her work she was involved with one of the groups under the umbrella of CRISTA, a family of ministries in Seattle.
CVM also is one of the ministries. Whenever she met a veterinarian through the Christian group, Lyon talked about her childhood dream that never went away -- being an animal doctor.
Her husband, Jim, after overhearing her veterinary conversations several times, encouraged her to go back to college and follow her dream. Lyon was 40 when she applied to vet school at Washington State University in Pullman in 1997.
The next year, she went to Haiti on her first mission as a vet student.
She since has been to Tanzania, Kenya, Mongolia, Bolivia, Brazil, Uganda, Nicaragua, Cambodia, Djibouti and the north and south of India -- treating livestock and training locals in each place.
She said she likes seeing these far-flung places and wants to help people wherever the need may be. She has had a lot of fun on her trips, too, drinking tea with Maasai women in Tanzania and watching lions and elephants in the wild on a day off.
But the country of her first trip still is closest to her heart. Lyon has traveled to Haiti four times through the years.
"God gave me a heart for the people there," she said.
Perhaps because it's ranked among the poorest places in the world.
It's challenging to see the poverty in many of the places she has gone too. Coming back to Washington, Lyon experiences "reverse culture shock," she said.
"I walk into a grocery store and get angry about how much we have and how much we waste," Lyon said.
But the poverty in Haiti is the worst she has seen.
"The black hair of the children turns a rusty color from lack of nutrients," Lyon said. "You see that and your heart just breaks."
She paused. Her eyes were filled with tears.
"I'm just glad I can give a little bit," she said.