Valdosta Daily Times

November 24, 2013

Valdosta Veterinary Hospital to close after 7 decades

Stuart Taylor
The Valdosta Daily Times

VALDOSTA — When it first opened, the Valdosta Veterinary Hospital was next to Castle Park, right where Bemiss Road splits from Ashley Street.

That was in February 1943. Fresh out of Auburn’s veterinary school in the middle of World War II, Joe Crane Sr. was given a choice by the draft board: He could either head to the Army or he could head to Valdosta to open a vet’s office.

For a nation struggling to boost its war-production levels in everything from steel and rubber to beef and cheese, having a veterinarian on hand to serve Valdosta’s dairy and livestock farms was essential.

A native of Dixie, Crane decided to open shop in Valdosta.

In the early 1950s, he moved the Valdosta Veterinary Hospital to the outskirts of Valdosta, on the corner of a cow pasture half a block from what is now the Northside-Bemiss intersection.

That’s how his son, Joe Crane II, remembers it, growing up, going out with his dad on farm calls, cleaning cages and holding down dogs at the office.

A creative guy, Crane II thought he might make a career out of medical illustrations. He ended up following his dad into the vet business eventually, though by accident.

“It was an accident,” said Crane. “I didn’t leave here for college expecting to do that. I didn’t know what I wanted to do.”

At Auburn University, he registered for their pre-vet program which, as an out-of-state student, he wasn’t technically allowed to do. At the time, only in-state students at Auburn could enter the program, but Auburn had just shifted its student registration to an electronic system, so the system registered him into the pre-vet program.

“I knew you had to make pretty good grades, had to be pretty sharp to get into vet school. I always liked science, so I said, ‘I’m going to do my best to get into vet school.’”

In his third year at Auburn, the school learned Crane was pre-vet, but not technically, because he was from Georgia.

But the dean decided if Crane could get the grades to get in, the vet school would take him.

So he did, and the school did.

When he got into vet school, he started doing a little more field work off and on with his dad’s office.

He started working with the Animal Disease Lab in Tifton, in the chemistry department, then the necropsy department, figuring out how animals had died.

With his draft number pretty low, Crane enlisted with the Air Force while in school as opposed to waiting to be drafted.

After graduating in ’72 and spending a year working with his dad, Crane joined the Air Force, serving as a base veterinarian at Holloman Air Force Base in Texas until 1975, when he got out of the service and moved back to Valdosta.

“I think I always knew I wanted to come back here.”

When he returned, he discovered the veterinary business had changed. When he was a kid, someone bringing a household pet to a vet’s office was the exception rather than the rule. But in 1975, household pets were about 60 percent of Valdosta Veterinary Hospital’s business.

Crane II handles most of the smaller animal business, while his dad did most of the large animals.

Which isn’t to say that Crane II hasn’t seen his fair share of larger animals. He’s delivered calves, worked on horses, hogs, a dolphin, even an elephant.

“The elephant was passing through going to Florida. It had been exposed to tuberculosis and went into quarantine.”

Through the years, the younger Crane’s business has changed to where, for the last 13 or so years, he’s just worked with small animals.

“When I got out of school, one of the main questions we asked clients was, ‘Does your dog live inside the house or outside the house?’ Now, what I ask my clients is, ‘Does your dog sleep with you or somewhere else in the house?’ I don’t know what led to it, other than people changing their attitudes about animals and pets. They think of them more as a family member than as something that was nice to have around. They’re more pampered now and less utilitarian.”

Crane II raised his own children the same way his dad raised him, accompanying him out to farms to deliver calves.

“I think (they) benefited from it.

“They can see what the real world is about and where their food and everything comes from.”

Since his father passed in 2006, Crane II has carried on, bringing other veterinarians on board.

Now, with the Valdosta Veterinary Hospital closing after 71 years of operation, his main concern is with his clients.

“We’ve had clients who’ve been coming here since the ’50s. We have multi-year clients who have been coming here 20, 30 years. I’d like my clients to know I’ll be available at Northside. Hopefully they’re going to change my number over there, the one I’ve had since it was CH2-1454.”

At Northside Animal Hospital, Crane II will work a few days a week. While he’ll miss Valdosta Veterinary Hospital, he admits he won’t miss the hassle of having to make all of the business decisions.

He plans to stay with Northside at least for six months to a year. After that, it’s up in the air. He might work for a few more years or he might retire and try to get back in touch with that creative part of himself that considered becoming a medical artist all those years ago.

“I’ll at least try. It’s been so long since I’ve picked up a paintbrush.”