BY RODOLFO R. ROMAN
SPECIAL TO THE MIAMI HERALD
Ricardo V. Caballero is turning 84 this summer, but the longtime Sweetwater veterinarian said he has no plans to retire.
“This is the best for my age,” he said with a smile.
His family-owned clinic has been helping animals since 1980.
“I have always loved animals and they make me feel good,” Caballero said.
In January, Caballero celebrated the 30th anniversary of his animal clinic at West Flagler Plaza, 10760 W. Flagler St.
“It’s always been a dream to open this clinic,” said Caballero, wearing his white lab coat.
Both of his sons are involved in the veterinary field.
As an 11-year-old, one of his sons — also named Ricardo — worked as a kennel assistant at the family’s Sweetwater business.
That determined his career path.
“I had all this success with pets, so I chose to become a veterinarian,” said the younger Caballero, now 44. He opened Sunset Animal Hospital in Miami Gardens after leaving the family practice in 2003.
His brother, Edward Caballero, also got experience at the clinic and now works as a representative for a veterinary medicine company.
Coral Gables resident Monica Cuevas has brought her pets to the senior Caballero for years.
“He is very humane and not commercial,” said Cuevas, who recently brought five Yorkie puppies for their booster shots. “I feel safe when I bring my animals to him.”
Caballero’s Animal Clinic has become a landmark in Sweetwater. He remembers when the city was sparse.
“When this shopping center inaugurated, there was almost nothing,” he said. “I was the only vet in Sweetwater and still am.”
Not only has Caballero treated pets from all over Miami-Dade County, but he also carries the title of official veterinarian for the Sweetwater police department’s K-9 division.
Caballero vaccinates and conducts check-ups on the division’s three dogs.
Caballero always has been surrounded by animals.
His father was a cattle grower in Cuba. At a young age, he would spend countless hours helping his father take care of large farm animals such as horses and cows in Camaguey.
“Every day, I would go out to work from morning to night,” he said.
The Universidad de la Havana graduate left Cuba for the United States in the late 1960s.
In Florida, he went from treating large animals to dogs and cats at Palm Beach and Dade county animal control centers, where some of his current clients first met him.
“People from all over the county would come to us,” he said.
At his clinic, Caballero treats and cures everything from colds to fractures.
He also performs surgeries, spaying and neutering procedures, vaccinations and X-rays. He also has two technicians who help him.
Caballero even gets occasional help from high school students who work for community service hours. Caballero said he sees more than 30 animals, daily but more patients come on the weekends.
Wife Thelma Caballero has been with him since the beginning, taking care of the front desk.
“It’s marvelous to work with my husband,” she said.
The couple has been married for more than 35 years.
“This is all about a family feeling, because all of the generations that have come to the clinic,” she said.
Caballero’s pets include the box terrier Snoopy and cat Flecha.
Doral resident Karena Berrios remembers bringing her dog with her parents as a child to the clinic. Recently, she waited for her family’s 2-month old Schnoodle mix to get a check-up.
“You bring your dog here and you know everything is going to be OK,” Berrios said.
BY RODOLFO R. ROMAN