The call came at home one night from a woman concerned about something she had discovered on her labradoodle.
Madison veterinarian Tom Bach—who with his veterinary partner, Pam Mache, owns the Lakeview Veterinary Clinic at 3518 Monroe Street—wasn’t altogether surprised to get a phone call after dark.
Lakeview is a friendly neighborhood clinic, and it’s not unusual for Bach to become friends with his patients’ owners.
Yet the call about the female labradoodle—
a cross between a Labrador retriever and a poodle—was unusual. Bach couldn’t imagine what it was the woman was describing, some kind of mass or growth near the hind legs.
Maggie, the dog, otherwise seemed fine, the woman said, and more affectionate than ever. Maggie had even slept with the woman on her bed, something she had never done before. Still, the newly discovered mass was troubling.
“Bring her in in the morning,” Bach said.
The next day, while the woman sat by anxiously, Bach examined the mass. It did not take the veterinarian long to render a diagnosis.
“It is a penis,” Bach said.
It turned out that a couple of days earlier, the woman had taken Maggie to doggie day care. When she returned at day’s end, she was given back a labradoodle to take home that looked a lot like Maggie, but, as Bach definitively ascertained, was not. A series of phone calls to the doggie day care and another surprised labradoodle owner got things straightened out.
Fortunately, everyone found the humor in the situation, including Bach, who became a veterinarian in the first place because he was finding little to laugh about or like as a stockbroker, his first career out of college.
Indeed, as the Lakeview clinic gets ready to celebrate its 10th anniversary in November, Bach’s story underscores the wisdom of listening to your heart as much as your head.
Now 53, Bach was born and raised in Milwaukee. After graduating from Marquette University High School, he enrolled at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. His great affection for his family’s dog, a German shepherd/husky mix, probably had something to do with Bach seeking out an adviser in the newly established UW–Madison School of Veterinary Medicine early during his time on campus. He was considering vet school, Bach says. What did this adviser think?
“She scared me,” Bach recalls. “She was nice, but she told me how hard it would be to get in.”
Instead, Bach went to business school, got a finance degree and accepted a job as a stockbroker in Denver.
“I hated it,” he says. “I found I was getting really good at lying to little old ladies, and that was a skill I didn’t really want to have. I wasn’t very good at the job. It wasn’t me. I wasn’t happy.”
Bach’s girlfriend, Birgit—now his wife—was still attending UW–Madison, studying wildlife biology and involved with a research project that involved tagging antelope outside of Trinidad, Colorado, a few hours by car from Denver.
When Bach went to Trinidad to see Birgit, he was put to work with the antelope. He was hooked. “It was so different from the world I was in, wearing a suit and tie, talking about money all the time. It rekindled that moment when I was a sophomore in college deciding what my major was going to be.”
Bach quit the Denver job, moved home to Milwaukee—his parents were scratching their heads—and spent a year at the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee accumulating the science credits he needed to apply to vet school at UW–Madison, where he was eventually accepted.
He enjoyed it all, even the requirement that he spend days in the field with rural vets tending to large animals. But Bach knew he wanted to work with dogs and cats.
“The closest I had ever been to a cow was seeing one on the side of the highway,” he says. “Then in my second year in vet school, my whole arm was up the back of one. It was surreal.”
Upon graduating in 1994, Bach worked briefly for a Madison vet clinic, then bought a small practice in Edgerton with a partner.
Over time, as he and Birgit were raising two children in Madison—they live in the Monroe Street area—Bach started growing weary of the drive. A friend introduced him to Pam Mache, a vet who also lived in the area and was looking to start a neighborhood small-animal clinic.
In the decade since they opened Lakeview, it has grown—they now have five vets—but it has never lost its friendliness or neighborhood feel.
Veterinary medicine has changed in those years, too, becoming ever more sophisticated, with specialists and expensive treatment options. But the primary concern—what’s best for the animal?—has not.
These days, Bach teaches at the vet school, the place he once feared wouldn’t receive him as a student. His mix of humor and compassion likely goes down well with aspiring vets. If nothing else, he can always tell them the one about the labradoodle.