Who am I and How did I get here?
I’ve written other bios about myself for clinics owned by other people, and those bios have been pretty vanilla with qualifications and experiences and provided very little detail to let you know who I am.
I am Shara Carlton. I was born in west Texas, moved around a bit with my parents as a kid. I wanted to be an artist or interior designer when I grew up Barbie’s Dream House had a million makeovers! I went to Texas Tech University as an Art Major a long time ago! While I was there, I adopted my first dog that was my responsibility. I don’t even remember going to the vet with my parents when I was a child, and my parents took excellent care of our pets. So, this puppy, Tuff, had gone to the vet for a few of his booster vaccines, but one day I came home from class and he had (what, I have zero vet training at the time, considered) a HUGE laceration on his underarm. In a panic, I head to our vet. What a patient man! He talked me down out of panic and showed me how he was going to repair Tuff’s laceration. That experience changed my life.
I thought, my goodness, you can help people and fix animals and just make everything better, I want to do that! So, I went to work for that vet and changed my major to Pre-Vet. What I learned at that clinic 27 years ago is what guides me in my client communications now. I want to talk to you, I want to understand what you observe with your pet, and I want us to work through those things together to come to the answers we need for your pet.
I was accepted into Texas A&M’s College of Veterinary Medicine. While a student, I became active in the Student American Veterinary Medical Association (SAVMA), as a delegate from TAMU to the national meetings. An excellent experience that introduced me to “organized” veterinary medicine- which is those groups whose goal it is to improve the profession. In my final year at TAMU, I was the National President of SAVMA. Exposure to that level of responsibility on behalf of my peers was a gift that led me to pursue challenges in my career that I likely would have avoided.
I graduated, went into private practice in Lubbock, TX, for a year, and then, moved to Germany as a civilian veterinarian for the Department of Defense on a couple of Army installations and an Air Force Base. My move was on August 8, 2001. September 11, 2001, my experience as a civilian was turned on its head. I learned what Force Protection Condition, Delta- “Localized, specific terrorist threat or attack,” meant. That is also where I learned what serving your country looks like in the faces of Service Members and their families.
This little chihuahua named Fiona was owned by a young couple who had recently moved to Heidelberg. In response to 9/11, her dad was deployed. Fiona came in to see me for vaccine boosters and a urinary tract infection while he was deployed, no big deal. But when he came home, he came to the vet clinic and thanked me for taking care of Fiona and his wife. He said, “Doc, I had so much to worry about over there, knowing you were taking care of Fiona and her mom helped me move that from my list of worries. Thank you.” And that was the second experience in veterinary medicine that changed my life. I was no longer going to be able to just be a vet, I had to be a vet that served others.
When I returned to the US, I lived outside Washington, D.C., and worked in private practice for a few years. I found it frustrating because my boss’s goals didn’t align with mine, and my desire to serve was burning in my heart so brightly. So, I joined the Army as a Veterinary Corps Officer in 2007. I was a little bit older than the rest of the CPTs (captains) in my year group, but that was a plus because I had the medical practice knowledge I needed to be confident to be on my own. First duty site, Andrews Air Force Base, home to the Presidential Military Working Dog Team and my office view was Air Force One- that’s pretty cool! Military veterinarians also have the food safety mission for most branches of the military, so the mission was diverse and got me outside the clinic and into new situations. I inspected food for the Army Birthday Ball and the Army-Navy Football game twice- attended by the President (I waved at him, not sure if he saw me), the Pentagon 9/11 Memorial- attended by the Vice-President (I know he didn’t see me), and I was one of the Vets on duty for the Presidential Inauguration, 2009- he was in the car behind me (he also didn’t see me- but I saw him!!)
May 2009, I deployed to Afghanistan, in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. This is where the Army story gets really good! I was the “Afghan Projects Officer-Vet” for the 101st Airborne. So, I was able to coordinate training for the 2 veterinary colleges in Afghanistan. The Kabul University valedictorian that year was a female- the first time since the Taliban had taken over the country in 1996! I worked with groups to provide financial solutions for widows by raising chickens. I traveled all over the country doing things to help make the lives of the Afghan people better through agriculture and animal health. I also provided medical care for Military Working Dogs (MWDs). Fortunately, we didn’t have a huge number of emergencies, but the ones we had were memorable. Most notably, in Cairo, a Navy Seal dog was shot through the chest and forelimb. He was stabilized by a Ranger vet while on a helicopter to Bagram. Upon arrival, we continued stabilization and hospitalization, managed bilateral chest tubes and the fracture. When he was safe for transport, he traveled to Germany for fracture repair. Cairo went on to find Osama Bin Laden in 2011. I mean, that’s not too shabby!
While I loved Active Duty, I needed to take some time to take care of myself post-deployment. If you have friends or loved ones in Military Service, please understand that we don’t come home the same person we were when we left. And even though we want to, sometimes, we can’t get back there. So, my twin sister and I opened Carlton Cakery and made cakes and cupcakes for a year to help me recover. It was a wonderful year to be with her, but apparently, people only have special events on holidays and weekends! So, we closed our doors and went back to our medical careers (she takes care of humans).
I am in the Army Reserves, currently, a Lieutenant Colonel (LTC), which is pretty exciting for me. Hopefully, we’ll be updating this to Colonel soon. The fact that the Army has trusted me with the welfare of Soldiers is an honor that I value.
In 2016, I met this Lieutenant in the Civil Affairs Unit I was in San Antonio, TX. Thanks to him, I am now in Oklahoma, we have a family, and we have built OKC Vet Campus. OKC Vet Campus, for me, is where I have gotten to put all the experiences in my career together in one place to serve my clients and their pets with a variety of therapeutic and behavioral options. I practice that lesson from my first memorable vet visit to communicate effectively with you and my team. I take my desire to serve in and out of uniform into each exam room. I appreciate you for trusting your pets to my care and to my staff’s care. Thank you!