Charles Martin, 844-3698



AUBURN -- Second careers are usually quite different, and, in the case of a new Auburn University veterinary graduate, the first 20 years involved flying the Army's high-tech birds . Now, the workday will focus on treating and caring for animals, all shapes and sizes.

Larry Dawson is about to embark on the next journey of his life. On June 8, he'll graduate from the AU College of Veterinary Medicine at the age of 46, when most people are hesitant to seek new paths. He is following through with his new adventure to become a veterinarian, after retiring as a test pilot four years ago from the Army.

"I always wanted to do both -- fly and be a veterinarian," Dawson said. "The Army gave me the opportunity to fly, then as I got close to retirement I started preparing for veterinary school."

The Hendersonville, Tenn., native was an accomplished test pilot in helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft. During his last 2 1/2 years in the military, he doubled up to take prerequisites needed for admission to the College of Veterinary Medicine.

"I volunteered at a veterinary clinic at night and on the weekends, and I took night classes at Athens State (University) and Calhoun Community College," said Dawson, who was stationed at the Army Readiness Group Redstone in Huntsville. He previously earned a bachelor's degree in aerospace administration from Middle Tennessee State University and a master's degree in management from Florida Tech.

"The most difficult part was starting a medical curriculum after doing aerospace undergraduate work and having most of my experience in that technical field," he said. "Learning the medical terminology and background was difficult."

Dawson says he enjoyed his time at Auburn and looks forward to joining the Stonegate Companion Animal Hospital in Dandridge, Tenn.

"My four years at vet school were probably the fastest four years of my life," he said. "Working in the clinics provided a new adventure almost every day. The faculty and staff have a sincere interest in each student. I believe that if anyone would have needed them at 3 a.m., they would have been willing to help."

Dawson's final quarter at Auburn has been spent with Winston Pirtle at Snowdoun Veterinary Hospital in Montgomery. Veterinary students are required to work with a practicing veterinarian during their last quarter before graduation.

"Larry should be an inspiration to anyone considering a new career," said Pirtle, a 1967 Auburn veterinary graduate who speaks from experience. The 56-year-old veterinarian recently passed the bar exam and has been appointed to his first case in Montgomery.

"You're not dead at 46 or 56 years old, but only when the coffin closes," Pirtle added.

He added that if you see two youngsters near Montgomery riding on motorcycles, they might be a new lawyer and the new veterinarian. Dawson rides a Harley Davidson while Pirtle cruises on a Honda Goldwing, both possibly looking for the next adventure.

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