The doctor is out
October 28, 2008
Veterinary practice bids farewell after three decades
Horses, cows and goats. Dogs and cats. Even the occasional exotic animal. All are patients of Dr. David Hildreth, of the Lake Sammamish Veterinary Hospital, who’s been managing and practicing at the clinic in Issaquah for 34 years.Next week, though, Hildreth will close his private practice and move to his home on Whidbey Island, where he will open a house-call veterinary practice. The calm, slower atmosphere of the island is what caught his — and his wife’s — attention eight years ago, and he is happy to be permanently relocating there.
“Life moves at a slower pace here than it does on the mainland,” he said of the island. “It reminds me of Issaquah when I moved there to start my practice 34 years ago.”
Hildreth said he knew he always wanted a career in agriculture, but was turned on to veterinary medicine by his roommate at the University of Missouri. Both were accepted into the veterinary medicine program, a feat unaccomplished by many students who applied.
“We were fortunate to get in,” he said. “I kind of applied on a whim, and was very lucky to get accepted.”
His expertise led him from the Midwest to the small town of Auburn, where he worked at a veterinary clinic with several other doctors. In 1974, he purchased the Lake Sammamish Veterinary Hospital in Issaquah, and began owning his own business.
“When you own your own business, you’re always the last one to get paid,” he said. “It’s just part of the game. It’s a small price to pay, though, for being able to have your own thing, and run things the way you want them to be run.”
At the beginning, Issaquah was a friendly farm town: Hildreth even had cows living next to his vet clinic.
“I have fond memories of the dairies that I used to work for,” he said. “I would drive out to them and help deliver their calves.”
Treating the Saint Bernards at an old local candy shop was also a favorite, for sometimes Hildreth would receive free candy for his wife and kids.
“It was always fun to try and get free candy,” he said. “My kids loved it.”
Those days are gone, though: Issaquah is now more urban and developed. Condos have replaced cows, and cars and traffic lights are a normal part of everyday living.
Still, what has kept Hildreth coming back are his clients. According to his daughter, Sara Rogers, people from all over Seattle come to his clinic because he’s what she calls an “old-school vet.”
“He treats your pet like a pet,” she said. “He doesn’t order unnecessary tests, and is extremely affordable when compared to other veterinary practices.”
Perhaps this is why most of his patients, upon hearing through a letter that he’ll be moving, are feeling sad and distressed, yet happy for him.
“I guess the response of my leaving has been pretty positive,” he said. “People are sorry to see me go, but they are wishing me luck in this next step in my veterinary career.”
Hildreth is happy that patients are still coming in, even after hearing the news of him leaving. He’s even had patients who haven’t come in to see him in years that are coming in now to get their pets taken care of before he leaves.
“This career has and continues to be really rewarding,” he said. “There are always those cases where you can’t help the animal, which is hard, but the animals you do help make it all worth it.”
On Nov. 2, Lake Sammamish Veterinary Hospital will throw a going-away party from 2-4 p.m. And even though Hildreth will no longer practice in Issaquah, he will be accessible by phone and via the Internet at www.hildrethhousecalls.com.
“People may be losing my body, but they are not losing my mind,” he said. “They still have access to the part of me that is the most valuable.”
Stephanie Small is a student in the University Of Washington Department of Communication News Laboratory.