Getting Personal: Duane Dust

Getting Personal: Duane Dust

The News-Gazette's Melissa Merli chats with Duane Dust, 58, of Philo, a veterinarian, part owner of and medical director at VCA Heritage Animal Hospital in Savoy, and a former member of the board of directors of the Champaign County Humane Society.

What time do you typically get up? What do you do the first hour of the morning?

I usually get up a little before 5 a.m., say "hi" to my dogs and cats (the rest of my family is still in bed) and go run a few miles or do some weights. Then I shower, feed the pets, make my lunch, scan the newspaper and it's off to work. That is actually an hour and a half or so.

What do you consider your greatest achievement or accomplishment?

My family. My wife, Barb, is a wonderful and tolerant woman, and I am blessed with three fantastic kids: Henry and Rose, both 23, and Claire, 16.

What do you regard as your most treasured possession?

I try not to get too hung up on possessions, but I do treasure my first canoe, "The Mad Rabbit," that I bought just out of vet school (University of Illinois, 1981). It has been from northern Alaska to the Florida Everglades and a whole lot of places in between. It has been on bush planes, the ocean, wilderness rivers, lakes, swamps and creeks. A lot of fish have been pulled into it. My family and I have many fabulous memories associated with that canoe.

Do you have a "guilty pleasure," and what is it?

Every once in a while I'll buy a new tool for the home workshop. Sometimes I'll start a project that I know I need a new tool to finish.

What book are you reading now? What is your favorite book ever?

Due to time constraints I do little nonprofessional reading, but I am slowly working my way through "Life Ascending: The Ten Great Inventions of Evolution" by Nick Lane. The most important book I ever read is "A Sand County Almanac" by pioneering conservationist Aldo Leopold. I first read it as a teenager, and it played a significant role in building my ecological conscience. If it were required reading in high school instead of the usual run of depressing English novels the world would be a healthier, more natural place to live.

Where on Earth are you dying to go? Why?

I would love to take a long canoe trip down a northern Alaskan or Canadian river and end up in the Arctic Ocean, which I have never seen. Mounts Rainier and Kilimanjaro are also on my to-do list. Those trips will need to wait until I work a lot less.

Tell me about your favorite pet.

I have been fortunate to live in the company of many great pets. However, I will always have a soft spot for my first dog, a small brown mutt named Pritz who I received for my 10th birthday.

She was my constant companion everywhere I went — playing outdoors, camping, fishing and rabbit hunting during my teenage years and well beyond. She lived a long and happy life, and I still miss her after all these years.

What's your favorite sports team?

I really don't follow sports unless my kids are participating.

What would you order for your last meal?

Probably a plate of fried morels and a bottle of whiskey.

If you could be reincarnated after you die, what would you like to come back as?

Perhaps a golden eagle, a magnificent bird that rules the skies of wild mountain ranges. I have always somewhat envied birds, with their amazing senses and three-dimensional worlds.

Who are your favorite musicians, and why?

I have fairly broad tastes in music and am currently enjoying listening to Little Feat on the road to and from work. I like to listen to classical music when doing surgery.

What's the happiest memory of your life?

I have two: the day my twins, Henry and Rose, were born; and the day my daughter, Claire, was born.

If you could host a dinner party with any three living people in the world, whom would you invite? What would you serve?

I am not impressed by celebrity, and the current generation of politicians I find disappointing. An individual who stands above all others with whom I would treasure a moment and a meal is Pope Francis. I would serve him whatever he wished.

Which historical figure do you admire the most and why?

Abraham Lincoln. If ever a person was chosen for a moment in history, it must be him.

What personality trait do you most hate in other people? Most hate in yourself?

I am upset by dishonesty. As for my own negative personality traits there are too many to elaborate upon in this small a space.

What's your best piece of advice?

My father always stressed honesty and hard work. I think that one will do well and always have a clear conscience if these qualities can be lived by.

What was your first job, and how much did you make an hour?

My first job was delivering the morning newspaper. I started in the fifth grade and held this job until my sophomore year in high school, when I got a job at the local hardware store after school. The newspaper route was hard work and paid a pittance, but it seemed like a lot of money to a kid in grade school.

What was a pivotal decision in your career, and how did you arrive at that decision?

My pivotal career decision was to purchase a veterinary practice in Urbana after seven years of employment as an associate veterinarian in Wisconsin.

I figured that if I was going to be working 60 or so hours a week I might as well do it growing my own practice. That was 26 years ago, and I tremendously enjoy my career and my practice.

Do you have any regrets in your life? What are they?

I have many regrets. It is hard for anyone to look back at their own life and not have the regrets that come with the benefit of hindsight. I try my best to look forward and not repeat mistakes.

How do you handle a stressful situation?

I take a deep breath and take a moment to assess the situation rationally; then I try to approach it one step at a time. The largest problems can usually be resolved by taking them on one piece at a time.

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