- Associated Press - Monday, June 15, 2015

MASON, Mich. (AP) - Dr. Dail Patterson can’t begin to guess the number of animals he treated in his 52 years as a veterinarian. Last year alone his Mason practice treated more than 47,000 dogs and cats.

Then there are all the farm animals he’s seen over the years, not to mention the cougars, chimps, buffalo and pythons.

He even guided a two-headed calf into the world.

But time and longstanding injuries have taken their toll and Patterson, 77, sold his business on April 1.

His employees say they will miss him.

“It’s a very family-friendly practice,” said Dr. Julie Fortin, who’s been at the Patterson Veterinary Hospital since 2003.” The staff is like family. The clients are like family.

“These are relationships that are multi-generational.”

Dr. Judi Sikarskie, a “former employee and fan,” said clients who had moved away would come back and book hotels - just to have Patterson treat their animals.


Patterson’s career with animals began long before he became a vet, the Lansing State Journal (https://on.lsj.com/1JG0m7w ) reported. His childhood home in Muskegon occupied two lots, and there never was a shortage of rabbits, chickens, geese, goats, ducks and pigeons. At about 5 years old he began helping his father, a farmer and millwright, tend to injured animals.

Patterson administered his first injection while in his early teens. The family hunting dog one day ended up with a foot full of porcupine quills, and Patterson came to the rescue with a fairly new drug called penicillin.

He received a degree from Michigan State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine in June 1963 and immediately set up shop in Mason. He rented a place at what now is the corner of Cedar Street and Kerns with a small living area attached to it.

Back then Patterson spent most of his time on farms “doing a lot of pig work and a lot of cattle work.” His wife, Doris, taught school, and that helped with what today would be called “networking.”

“Most of the farmers’ wives were teachers, so I got to know all the farmers,” Patterson said.


The animals didn’t always cooperate.

“Sometimes people wouldn’t be able to catch their cows,” said his daughter, Janice, “so we’d be driving the truck and he got the lasso out, lasso the cow and pull it with the truck to get it to stop.

“Fun times.”

During his first year as a vet, Patterson also suffered his first injury. In a freak accident, he broke his back while tending to the birth of a calf.

“I couldn’t move my legs for a half hour,” he recalled, “so I had to crawl through the barn and tell the people I couldn’t pull the calf.”

The injury haunts him to this day.


A road project forced the business to move to its present location at 812 Kerns Road in May 1965. A three-room house was nearby, and gradually the two buildings became connected.

Patterson spent a lot of time with pigs in those days.

“When we were doing large animals this area was the second largest hog producing area in the state,” he said. “We used to see 200,000 hogs a year.”

Pseudorabies was a big problem. Patterson drew blood samples from the animals’ left shoulder, and the hogs would squeal into his left ear. Over the years, Patterson became partially deaf in that ear.

“A hog’s squeal is probably louder than an airplane taking off,” he said.

Animals varied enough to stock a small zoo continued to appear at his office. Janice said one person brought in a tiny leopard cub. Patterson said his most challenging case was a cougar that arrived chained in the bed of a pickup.

Animals can’t say where they feel pain, but Patterson never saw that as a serious obstacle.

“They always tell you by the way they act,” he said. “They’re better than people.”


The farm visits ended in the early 2000s, when Doris was diagnosed with cancer and started receiving hospice care. Patterson couldn’t leave her for more than a half-hour. She died in September 2005.

Patterson loved his work but the old injury proved too much. He sold the vet business, which still bears his name, to Dr. Theresa Driscoll.

“My back is shot,” he said.

Patterson isn’t enjoying retirement and says he’d go back to work immediately if it weren’t for his back. He downplays his popularity in mid-Michigan but there was no denying it with the turnout at a May 3 celebration of his career.

And that was fitting. Meeting people was his favorite part of the job.

“Ninety-nine percent of the people who own animals are good people,” he said.


Information from: Lansing State Journal, https://www.lansingstatejournal.com

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