With World Veterinary Day on April 27 almost at hand, longtime eastern Kings County veterinarian Wolfgang Marold reflects on his 40-some years as a one-man practice in rural P.E.I.
© GUARDIAN PHOTO BY MARY MACKAY
German-born Wolfgang and Lilo Marold moved to Souris more than four decades ago to start a veterinary practice, which was groundbreaking at the time.
All of the farm world was a potential operating stage for now retired veterinarian Wolfgang Marold.
In fact, barn calls were the norm for his longstanding one-man practice, which spanned more than four decades in the eastern Kings County area.
“Some of the most interesting (cases) and the most satisfying ones were caesarian sections. For some reason or another the cows could not have a calf, so (I had to make a cut) in the side and pull the calf out and sew it up again,” says the 85-year-old.
“Now imagine, just think about it, it’s standing up, that’s amazing,” adds his wife Lilo Marold, who is 92.
The Marolds were natives of Germany when they set their sights on a new life in Canada in the early 1950s.
“We came to Canada after the war; in Germany there was not much future. Immigration was very easy at the time,” Wolfgang says.
Lilo moved to Toronto, Ont., first in 1951 where she worked as domestic employee.
The possibility of jobs looked promising for her husband, so he followed suit soon after, and the couple started to set down roots in their newly adopted country.
Wolfgang had worked as an animal caretaker at two zoos in Germany before that, so it was thought that any employment involving animals would be a suitable start.
At the time, one of the most well-known small animal veterinary clinics on Yonge Street needed a person to man the kennels. He was very observant and caught on quickly, so it wasn’t long before he was learning the how-tos of various surgical procedures.
“I became more and more acquainted with what those veterinarians were doing. After three years I figured that was something I could do, too,” Wolfgang remembers.
He enrolled at the Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph, and walked away with his doctorate of veterinary medicine in 1959.
A veterinarian recruiter from P.E.I. visited the veterinary college in Ontario to entice new graduates to this province.
“The way he described it, it sounded like where I was born, where I came from. It was a small town but the whole thing, the water and all that was similar . . . . So we thought we’d try it for a year,” Wolfgang says.
“There was subsidy here (initially), the government paid veterinarians to come because (things) were not very well organized and your farmers especially were not used to having veterinarians come work for them and to pay for it.”
From the get-go, this rural veterinarian was primarily focused on large animal care for his practice. At that time, it was an anomaly for people to request services for companion animals, such as cats or dogs.
“Oh, good god, who would pay?” Wolfgang exclaims. “They didn’t have money for the kids to get proper food sometimes.”
Farm animals were an entirely different matter; they were a valuable commodity, in fact.
The government subsidy eventually expired, but by then the farmers had grown to appreciate the skills of a qualified veterinarian.
“Word got around that there’s a vet (in the area) and the cows always got up again. Everybody was happy. The cows were happy. They were happy and the vet was happy. So the farmers would pay a little more, and that is how we got established here,” Wolfgang says.
The Marolds started out just four houses down the road from their present property in Souris West.
He was basically on call night and day, every day of the week.
“The most important ones were at calving time when the cows usually took milk fever, which if left untreated could kill them in three or four days. So that was the most important treatment that they asked me to do,” he says.
“And the second one after that was mastitis, which is inflammation of the udder that resulted in milk that was not fit to drink or to use for their own calves anymore.”
Today, with pagers and cell phones it’s easy to track down a veterinarian when one is needed; not so in the early days of Wolfgang’s practice.
“When there was a call in a certain area, then the (telephone) operators among themselves would tell people were the vet was or (the farmers) would go out in the road and wave him down,” Lilo says.
“And there was no pavement (except for one strip in Souris), it was just dirt roads,” her husband adds.
“And there were many times (in the winter) he had to go on the plow to some farm,” Lilo says.
As the years passed, the number of veterinarians in the area increased, and when his health began to decline 20 years ago Wolfgang decided to put away his bag of veterinary tools for good.
“He was the last one-man practice in his own home,” Lilo says with pride. “By now they all have clinics with several veterinarians together.”