The smell of clean causes your nose to flare when you enter the room. Sharp. Astringent. With an undertone of earthy. A fine wine. Laughter crosses from over the busy side of the counter. It’s mixed with distant barks and the sounds of people clipping, trimming, talking. When it is your turn to check in, your dog inevitably decides to investigate the far corners of the room, leaving you with one arm firmly on the leash and the other gripping the counter. Certainly you would have confessed the name of your dog with a little less drama. But there you are. Shouting out her name while stretched out on a self-made rack.
Saturday morning at Starch Pet Hospital.
The vet today is a woman. Hair pulled back tight. Blue lab coat open at the neck. Smile lines high. Lisa Takes listens and observes. She’s good at it. A vet for 24 years, the last 22 at Starch Pet Hospital, there is not much she hasn’t seen — from pet owners and pets.
“I basically have two patients. It’s very complicated. The hard part of the job is dealing with the human, not the animal.” Her lower face smiles as she watches me carefully.
Takes is that kid you knew in high school who took every science course offered. Disciplined. Focused. And just a little scary smart. The person you want as your vet.
“I like my job. I’m never bored. The most common problems are skin issues, allergy issues, gastrointestinal issues. Older patients generally have kidney disease, cancer. Yesterday I had to do surgery on a dog with cancer. Bleeding in the spleen. Rewarding work to be able help.”
She moves around the room with ease. Taking care of a dog here, picking up a cat over there. Calm. Clear. Certain even among the uncertainty of health.
“To some extent these animals are an extension of their families. I treat the animal as such. I have the luxury of knowing it is an animal. What applies to humans does not apply to veterinary medicine in every case. So, like cancer. We don’t have hospice. We have to make decisions. I will treat every animal as part of the family. But there are different rules.”
She pauses. Looking at me closely. Wanting me to understand.
“Animals for a lot of people are good for them. They make you feel good. They make you feel happy. They are a gift.” And off Takes goes to the next examination room. Working until the last patient is seen and the day is done.
Life as a veterinarian.
The smell of clean is surprising as you enter through the carpeted doorway. No wonder. The owner’s mom (yes, Mom!) is vacuuming, wiping down, dusting. Constantly. But the undertone of sweat is inevitable in a gym. The clang of iron echoes sharply in the large room, although muted by the steady beat of treadmills, and elliptical machines, and new-fangled cardio equipment. But it is the slabs of iron, stacked and sorted and placed on racks, that beckon. Like Stonehenge. They are a little primordial. A little old school. And definitely a little crazy.
Sunday morning at Anytime Fitness in Beaverdale.
Hidden at the far side of the room is a woman lifting. Back towards me. Tucked behind the lifting rack. The muscles separate and bulge as she strains at the weights, serrating her back into an anatomy lesson. Trapezius, Triceps, Biceps, Lats, Delts. Yup, they’re all there.
Lisa Takes smiles shyly at me. She isn’t quite comfortable talking about this part of her life. She’ll tell you she is married. She’ll tell you she has a 12-year-old kid. She’ll tell you she’s a veterinarian. But she probably won’t tell you she is a professional bodybuilder. Did you know she came in first in her last regional tournament? Of course you didn’t.
“There was a trainer I started working out with here in Des Moines. Dado Kantarevic. I started to see big changes. Then he asked me to do a show. I laughed at him. He had me watch a video of girls competing. Again, I laughed at him. It took me a year and a half to actually commit. I am still with Dado six years later.”
Takes continues her routine. Straining at the weights. The point of exhaustion comes and goes as the iron is moved from here to there. Sweat drips from her forehead. There’s no stopping today.
“We tried to do Figure first. There is Bikini, which to me is more beach body. Real lean. Not a lot of muscle. A little bit, not much. And then there is Figure. They are looking for wide shoulders, big lats. Like a V-taper they call it. Very feminine. You’re in heels. I was in beginner and I got third at my first one. I enjoyed it.”
“Enjoyed it” is an understatement. Takes was hooked. But she was looking for something a bit more.
“I’m more muscular, and I decided I was too muscular for Figure. So I did Bodybuilding. I like Bodybuilding better. I didn’t have to be as girly. Because I’m not like that. I didn’t have to wear heels. I like to lift heavy. And I like to work out hard. I like it a lot. I went pro my next year.”
She moves to her next routine. Methodical. Practiced. Nothing too quick. Nothing to abrupt. Just hard. Her against the iron.
By the way, of all people, she must be happy when she looks in the mirror. Right?
“I’m looking at myself critically. I never go to the mirror and am totally satisfied. I look in the mirror and say I need to do this.” She smiles, shaking her head.
And then there is that small fact that Takes is a month from turning 50.
“There are not a lot of women nearly 50 like me. There is a master’s category, but I usually do the open — which is everybody.” She smiles again, giving a small glimpse of the confidence needed to strut on stage.
And that’s enough conversation. She heads down the floor, a weight in each hand, doing front squat after front squat after front squat.
Life as a professional bodybuilder.