There were farms and horse studs in Port Macquarie when Dr Frank Arnell founded the town's first veterinary practice 50 years ago.
Dr Arnell recalls Port Macquarie Veterinary Hospital was a mixed practice in the early days, and as time went on and the farms gave way to development, the business evolved into predominantly a practice treating small animals.
"I remember doing a caesarian on a cow in 1971 which was a bit of a first for Port Macquarie," he said.
"That was quite a sensational start."
Dr Arnell treated a range of animals over the years from pets to cows and horses, as well as dolphins and fur seals at the then King Neptune's Park, and elephants and tigers when circuses came to town.
He was also the racecourse vet for many years.
"You had to be a bit of a mixed practitioner in many ways," Dr Arnell said.
"I was a vet for my era."
Dr Arnell sold the practice to Dr Chris Livingston in 2004 after which he worked in Hong Kong for five years, then completed a few locum stints on his return to Australia before retiring.
Today, Dr Livingston, Dr Tim Reed and Paula Reed are at the helm of Port Macquarie Veterinary Hospital as business partners.
The privately-owned practice has grown to employ 20 staff, including six vets and the business partners.
Dr Livingston said small animal veterinary care had become by far the biggest component of the vet work.
"Generally people are much more willing to do anything for their pets," he said.
"Pets these days are much more like another child, rather than just a pet out the back in the yard."
The popularity of pet insurance allowed people to spend more money on their pets, Dr Livingston said, and technology had also advanced.
Dr Livingston has a special interest in orthopaedic surgery such as fixing dogs' cruciate ligaments and difficult fractures.
The veterinary hospital continues to carry out major surgeries and X-rays for Port Macquarie Koala Hospital.
It is exciting work for South African-trained Dr Reed.
"I still photograph most of them [koalas] and send the pictures off to my family because no vets in South Africa will get to work on a koala," he said.
"It is unique, interesting and daunting because koalas are a completely different species."
Port Macquarie Veterinary Hospital, until recently, provided an annual clinic on Lord Howe Island, run from a church hall, and telephone and email consults in between, with serious cases flown to Port Macquarie for treatment. The island now has its own veterinary clinic.
Dr Reed said it was rewarding to see animals heal and recover.
"It is always a challenge, we can't fix everything and that is the hard part sometimes," he said.
Dr Livingston said he enjoyed surgery and the immediate reward of helping animals.
Increased rates of pet ownership during the COVID-19 pandemic have resulted in even busier times at Port Macquarie Veterinary Hospital.
The team thanked its loyal clients.
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