After nine decades an era in family veterinarian care came to an end for Sedalia, with the closing of G & G Veterinarian Hospital Feb. 29.
Dr. Mord E. Gouge, who founded G & G Serum Company in 1922, opened the hospital in 1937 on West Main Street. The vet hospital, familiar to many, with it’s white exterior and Art Deco inspired, dog iron-work, hand rails has become a Sedalia icon over the years.
Dr. Mord Gouge was soon joined by his sons the late Dr. Robert E. Gouge and the late Dr. Hardin Gouge. Hardin eventually moved to St. Joseph and became the director of veterinarian research at Philps Roxan, now called Boehringer Ingelheim.
In 1973 Dr. Robert E. Gouge retired, turning the business over to his son Dr. Robert N. Gouge. Gouge remained to serve area’s animal patients in solo practice until February 29.
“He had a serum company,” Gouge said of his grandfather. “He made hog cholera serum. He was the biggest producer of hog cholera serum west of the Mississippi, to my knowledge.”
Gouge said, through his research, he’s found that G & G is the oldest practice in the state of Missouri and is the oldest continuous practice by one family in the Continental United States. The family has also served Pettis County for over a century. His grandfather graduated in 1910 from the Kansas City Veterinary College and set up practice in Windsor before coming to Sedalia.
Because of the history behind the practice and the building Gouge, who is a member of the American Medical Veterinarian Historical Society, wanted to leave a heritage for his family. He added that local historian, Rhonda Chalfant, wrote an application to the National Register of Historical Places, and the application was accepted April 15, 2011.
“She wrote the application and the history is really, really detailed,” he said. “She did a fine job.”
Chalfant emphasized the importance of how the Gouge family “bridged the gap” from past to present in veterinarian medicine as it became a profession.
“His grandfather and father were instrumental in eliminating hog cholera and figuring out what caused it,” she said. “It was a devastating disease for hog farmers.
“This really does mark the end of a long span of time and great changes in veterinary practice,” Chalfant added. “The emphasis on small animals that we see, the elimination of many serious animal disease like cholera. It’s a very different way of thinking about veterinary medicine and about pets.”
Gouge hopes the family’s legacy will not end as he retires. He taken measures to hopefully prevent the loss.
“In answer to the age old question ‘are you sad that the legacy is going to end,’ I don’t think it will,” Gouge noted. “Because when I contracted to Dr. Chalfant to write to the application for the listing on the National Register of Historical Places, I did that primarily as a legacy for the family.”
The family’s building hasn’t change much since being built in 1937 and still has many of the original light fixtures.
“(The hospital ) was designed as a small animal facility back then,” Gouge noted. “It was state-of-the-art for a small animal facility. I still have some of the pieces of furniture that was originally here in the waiting room.”
When Gouge began the practice he updated the windows and a few other items, but the original floor is still in use.
“The floor is all poured terrazzo, this is the original floor from 1937,” he said.
Gouge said it was his father who prompted him to continue in his footsteps as a veterinarian.
“I was in my senior year over at Westminster (College) … I didn’t have a clue of what I wanted to do,” he said. “My dad showed up one day and said ‘lets get in the car and go for a ride.’”
His father took him over to the University of Missouri to meet with the Dean of Admissions at the School of Veterinarian Medicine.
“In route is when we had our discussion,” Gouge added. “He also took me out to Kansas State to the school there to visit with his professors.”
Gouge said once he began practicing 1973, he treated large and small animalswhich was difficult since he was the sole practitioner of the business.
“You go out on a large animal call on one end of the county, and maybe have to drive all the way to the other end, and then you have people waiting in the office to see you,” he added.
Gouge said he didn’t have veterinary technicians to help in his practice. He took care of all aspects of the animal hospital himself.
“I did everything,” he said. “That’s part of running the business as the sole practitioner. “
During his time of practice he remembers working on his family pets as the most difficult.
“That’s tough,” he said. “Working on your own animals and of course your family’s pets can be challenging. What’s really challenging is when you have to put your own animal to sleep.”
Over the years, Gouge has enjoyed tackling the obstacles that veterinarian medicine has brought to him.
“The challenging cases and the positive outcomes,” he noted. “Of course not all are positive. It’s always rewarding.
“The downside of being in practice yourself is running a business,” he added. “All of the problems that are associated with it on a daily bases. Then the new problems that accrue from legislation laws. Most recently dealing with the price of medication.”
Gouge said many things have changed since he began his practice in 1973 including the rising cost of medicine. An antibiotic the once cost $15 for 1,000 tablets, now costs $120 for 100.
A positive change is that new surgical procedures have “evolved.” He added that when he graduated in ‘73 many orthopaedic procedures, done today, were not available.
“I think I’ve learned more from my post graduate and continuing education instruction, than I did in school,” he added. Because those courses dealt with procedures you use in everyday practice. Of course, I was very fortunate to have my father mentor me in a lot of procedures and treatments. Not only large animals but small animals.”
Other factors of change in veterinarian medicine include the escalation of Internet access and usage, the emergence of spay and neuter clinics. Another factor of change is the high number of women going into the field. Gouge said when he graduated, his class had 72 people, with only four being women. Currently 87 to 88 percent of veterinary school graduates are women he added.
Although Gouge is the last of his family to be a doctor of veterinary medicine, he said he encouraged his son, Robert Aaron Gouge, to chart his own course.
“I’m the last,” he noted. “My son … I pretty much discouraged him from going into veterinarian medicine, because of the way it had evolved. I just didn’t think it was a good fit for him.”
Gouge is proud of his son who has developed several businesses in Glasgow including Double A’s Metalworks where he creates custom metal art.
With all the changes that have occurred Gouge said with a laugh,”what’s left for poor old doctor Bob?”
“I grappled with retirement for years,” he noted. “I didn’t want to leave my client base that I’d had forever and ever. It was tough …”
He added that he has no regrets about retiring because it was time.
“Everybody has to retire at sometime …,” he said.
Faith Bemiss can be reached 530-0289 or @flbemiss; photos by Faith Bemiss | Democrat