Dr. Robert Patterson has worked in veterinary medicine for 67 years, 44 of which were spent at Clearwater Veterinary Hospital in Farmington. Kay Neufeld/Livermore Falls Advertiser

FARMINGTON — Patients, pet owners, colleagues and employees of Clearwater Veterinary Hospital gathered on Friday, April 30, to celebrate Dr. Robert Patterson, 93, and wish him a happy retirement after 44 years of caring for animals in Farmington. The open house gave owners and employees the chance to tell stories, say “goodbye,” and say “thank you” during his last day at the hospital, which is also shutting down on May 18.

“I’m excited for him because he well deserves it. He worked hard,” office assistant Bailey Audette said.

James Averill, a former mentee who studied under Patterson in the early 1990s, traveled from Michigan to celebrate the occasion. Averill also came to thank Patterson for introducing him to what has become a long career in the veterinarian profession. Averill says that Patterson taught him to always “be kind to people” and “laugh.”

Clearwater Veterinary Hospital in Farmington is shutting down in May after the retirement of Dr. Robert Patterson, 93. Patterson spent his last day at the hospital on Friday, April 30, reminiscing on the six decades he spent as a vet. Kay Neufeld/Livermore Falls Advertiser

Patterson, or Dr. Pat to most who know him, worked in veterinary medicine for 67 years. Patterson is originally from Farmingdale, New York, where he was raised on a farm at a small, agricultural college. Patterson became a veterinarian because he “always liked being around animals,” “driving the horses and milking the cows.”

He attended the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine and then spent 23 years working in Maryland, where he  owned a veterinary practice and was a backup veterinarian at The Maryland Zoo in Baltimore. At the zoo, he treated giraffes, zebras, and wild birds. During this time, he also had the opportunity to care for and house orphaned, “big cat” kittens in his home.  They were fun to work with,” he said.

A vacation to Clearwater Pond brought Patterson to Farmington in 1977. He subsequently decided to move here because he “liked the environment” and quickly took to Farmington people and their way of life.

“[Farmington people] live differently, they tend to think a little differently. It’s a lot more fun. It’s more relaxed,” Patterson said.

In Franklin County, Patterson has treated all different kinds of animals: cats and dogs, three-legged ponies and pigs, wild deer and baby bears.

Being a vet in Farmington has taught Patterson to be quick on his feet and provided many an “exciting moment.” He’s been chased by cows and horses and fled agitated animals by flying over fences and climbing up barn walls into the ceiling.

Of course, being a vet has it’s hard moments as well, particularly putting animals down. While “you never like to do that…it’s a privilege you have to relieve pain,” Patterson said. “I will not put down a healthy animal. Never have. If you have a healthy animal and you don’t want it, go to the shelter.”

His love of animals is in part cause for the over six decades he spent in veterinarian medicine. However, Patterson will miss people more than anything — both “the people that I work with and the animal owners,” he said.

The animals don’t come in by themselves. Everything you’re doing is through the owner. You’re basically interacting with the people as much as anything,” he said.

Patterson has also appreciated his coworkers over the years for being “great” and “very dependable.”

For his coworkers, the feeling is mutual and the end is “emotional.”

We’ve shared a lot of laughs. I’ve learned so much from him. I think it’s a combination of being with him, being around his personality. His knowledge has been such a wonderful thing for my life. It’s helped shape me, who I am,” said Practice Manager Kelly Nichols. “There’s been a lot of animals I’ve seen over the years that probably would not have made it had he not taken the chance to do something that other practices wouldn’t do or couldn’t do. Things like that, it’s been an honor to learn from and watch him.”

Nichols, who has worked at Clearwater Veterinary Hospital for 18 years, said that, like Patterson, she will also miss the animals and their owners. “Obviously, we’ve grown very close with our clients over the years. I will miss them. I’ll miss the trust that we have formed with them. It’s going to be hard to let that go,” she said.

It’s not entirely clear what lies in Patterson’s future, though moving somewhere warm is likely in the cards. Nevertheless, Patterson said he’ll miss working at the hospital.

Retirement is sweet and sour, at the same time,” Patterson said. “After 67 years, every day. It’s going to be a lifestyle change. But I’m looking forward to it.”

Patterson also wishes all the pets and their owners “well for the future.”

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