I thought it best I didn't eat prior to my noon appointment to interview Dr. Elizabeth Ubelhor.
The staff veterinarian for the Lexington Humane Society would be spaying or neutering animals while we discussed the virtues of surgically controlling the feral and pet animal populations. I could not imagine keeping food down while that was going on.
But, just as with many other things about Ubelhor, the anticipated is not what I got.
Ubelhor, 46, performed at least six surgeries in the 90 minutes of our interview and one of them involved the removal of a rather large cloth-like object from the intestines of a 9-month-old Labradoodle named Tina.
There were probably more, but I was so engrossed in her efficiency, her surgical skills and her compassion I forgot to count.
Last Thursday was a Spay'sTheWay day, an income-based, free or low-cost spay and neuter program for Fayette County pet owners.
One after another, anesthetized dogs were brought into the operating room and Ubelhor would remove their reproductive organs and suture them all within 10 minutes. When one procedure was finished, she moved to the next patient, never stopping to rest or talk. And amazingly there was very little blood.
"There is blood if you are not cutting in the right spot," she said. "There is a learning curve. I've been doing this for 20 years."
Last year, Ubelhor performed 6,812 sterilizations. She not only works at the Humane Society, but, on her days off, she travels to other counties where she alters, examines and treats feral cats in the Trap Neuter Release program, and to McCreary County, where she grew up, to conduct a low-cost clinic.
"I spent nine months at a municipal shelter euthanizing their unadoptable, unwanted animals," Ubelhor said. "I cried and had nightmares and I swore that I would try to make it better.
"And the only way I could figure out to make it better is to spay and neuter and to make more animals wanted," she continued. "As long as we have this huge excess, there will always be animals not wanted. So my goal, which won't happen in my lifetime, is to make every animal want-able."
Ubelhor and her family knew early on that she would be a veterinarian. Her goal was to build a clinic, live above it and save the world.
"We knew she would be a veterinarian from the third grade on," said Mary Ruth Stephens, Ubelhor's mother. "When she decided, she came home that weekend and memorized all the bones of a cat's body. She read the encyclopedia for fun."
Ubelhor's mother taught for 30 years and her father, the Rev. Brent Stephens, is a Baptist minister.
"They never told me girls can't be veterinarians," Ubelhor said. "They said if you work hard, you can do it."
They also told her any wild animals she brought home, such as the crayfish and salamanders, had to be released back into the wild before nightfall so they could be with their parents.
One Monday a month Ubelhor returns to McCreary County to conduct a clinic for the Animal Protection League. Her mother takes appointments and her sister volunteers as the veterinary technician.
Ubelhor charges $15 per animal to spay or neuter, clip toenails, spray with flea killer and whatever else is needed.
The clinic was open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Ubelhor didn't sit down once, Stephens said. She poured soup in a cup for her daughter who drank it and kept going, she said, completing 45 procedures.
"She's too good for her own good," Stephens said. "She gives so much of herself."
A graduate of Eastern Kentucky University, Ubelhor applied to Auburn University's College of Veterinarian Medicine, which takes a limited number of Kentucky residents each year. She didn't make it in.
So she moved to Tennessee, hoping to establish residency there and apply to the College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Tennessee.
But the next year, she was accepted at Auburn, where she really wanted to go.
There, she met a handsome bearded man from Lexington, fell in love and married him. Her husband, Dr. John G. Ubelhor, is an equine veterinarian.
Liz Ubelhor worked in private veterinarian practice for 16 years before she decided to pursue her passion of spaying and neutering animals. Eventually she joined the staff of the Humane Society.
"Certainly, my passion is for spay and neutering and trying to make the world a better place for animals," she said, "and in the meantime making the world a better place for people, too.
"That sounds sappy. But that is the truth," she said. "Spaying and neutering is good for everybody."
There was a pet rat scheduled for surgery the day I interviewed Ubelhor. Thankfully, she said she'd bring it out after I was long gone.
One Saturday a month she sterilizes for Home At Last Animal Shelter in Salvisa, one Saturday a month for L.I.F.E House for Animals, Inc., in Frankfort, and one Saturday a month for the Scott County Humane Society's Trap, Neuter and Release efforts.
"I have great like-minded people who see these animals behind Wendy's and McDonalds and they trap them humanely and bring them to me" Ubelhor said. "I vaccinate them, spay or neuter, de-worm, give them antibiotics and take off any tumors. I realize they'll probably never see a veterinarian again."
After sterilizing more than 6,800 animals last year, she knows there are still more needing her services.
"My mom keeps saying 'Surely to goodness you are going to run out of dogs and cats,'" Ubelhor said, pulling a baby tooth from a puppy. "And I say, 'From your mouth to God's ears, Mom."