NORWAY – Walking into the lobby of Norway Veterinary Hospital is somewhat like wandering into a chamber in an ancient monastery, at least when there are no nervous dogs or cats pacing and mewling, anticipating the prods and pricks to come.

“With this room, what I wanted is for clients with animals to feel peaceful, to start their healing outright,” Kristen Gauger said Friday, standing underneath a faux apple tree in the middle of the lobby.

The clinic’s owners, veterinarian Todd Gauger and his wife, Kristen, both 44, have remodeled the building, adding 40 percent more space and reconstructed the clinic with rooms they say are designed to soothe and cure.

The lobby has arched windows lined with blocky stones. A fountain emits a gentle stream of water, and foliage from the tree helps shed dappled light.

Soon, Kristen said she will start offering alternative healing practices to animals, such as Reiki. Reiki practitioners use hands-on touching to achieve beneficial results, believing they can strengthen vital energy fields thought to exist within the body. Already the clinic offers acupuncture to pets.

“It’s not just pills and scalpels,” Todd said. Kristen added, “Our philosophy is it’s not just a patient who gets a shot. There’s so much more to the patient.”

This veterinary hospital is somewhat unusual, and not just for its incorporation of nontraditional healing practices. Todd is an orthopedic specialist who sees animals from all over Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont and Massachusetts. He fixes them up by setting broken bones, operating on knees, and treating animals with hip dysplasia, for example.

He said over the years, more vets have been referring injured animals to him, and he is kept busy with this practice. He typically works on cats and dogs, but said that last year, a bear cub arrived at his clinic with a fractured femur. It had survived after being hit by a car in Fryeburg that killed its mother and sibling. Todd worked on the break, and the cub was rehabilitated and then released into the wild, Todd said.

Until 2000 when he retired, Todd’s father, Charles, also a vet, worked at the hospital with his son.

Charles Gauger built the clinic on Main Street in the early 1970s, Todd said, moving his practice there from Crescent Street in Norway.

“I never thought about doing anything else,” Todd said. He received his veterinarian training at Michigan State, where he met Kristen.

He completed advanced training in 1990 at Ohio State.

The couple said all their animal patients will benefit from the combination of both systems of healing – the traditional and the more intangible – that they plan to incorporate at the clinic.

“They may not know it, but it will be part of their stay,” Kristen said.


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