About one year later, I was asked by the Birmingham Zoo to be their consulting veterinarian. The zoo was just getting started so we grew together. I told them that I knew nothing about zoo medicine but was more than willing to learn. At this time there were only about ten full time zoo veterinarians in the country and I looked to them for guidance. The zoo veterinarians were the most unselfish group of people I have ever worked with. They helped so much, and with much studying I soon learned about the animals. During the 1970's the first white lion born in captivity was born at Canyon Land Park in Fort Payne, Alabama. They asked me if I would raise him and told me he had been insured for 2.5 millibn dollars. We named him Solly and he lived with me as a house pet for a little over a year. I would also take him with me to the clinic during the day. When Solly was three months old and doing well, we made the news public. He had many visitors. I had him house and leash trained and he made quite a hit. When Solly was 6 months old, he chewed through the phone wire in the office at the clinic. I had to go next door the dentistst's office to use their phone to report it. I told the lady at the phone company that a lion had chewed thru our phone line and we needed someone to come out and repair it. She kind of snickered at me and sent a big 'ol fellow out to check on it. He came in the clinic rolling his eyes wanting to know if this was the place where the lion chewed the phone line in two. I opened the office door to let him in then quickly closed it behind him. In a split second he came running out of the office yelling "There is a lion in there!" That was the last we saw of him. We had to have another repairman sent out. This time we removed Solly from the office so the man could repair the line.
When news of my raising Solly got out, I got a call from a man in India that had found the first white tiger. For two hours he told me about how he raised and handled the tiger and his breeding program to start the white tigers of the world. About 300 white tigers in the world came from this one tiger. When Solly was about 13 months old he was sold to a zoo in North Carolina. His color had darkened some yet still remained about half the color of the normal lion darkness.
While doing the zoo practice the male Orangutan began to limp. I sedated him and brought him into my clinic for some X-rays. He was brought into the clinic on a stretcher by zoo workers. They had to bring him in the front door through the waiting room. While he was out I also gave him a complete physical. He began to wake up so I had to give him a little more Pentobarb IV and told the workers we needed to get him back to the zoo before he woke up. While being carried through the waiting room, he sat up on the stretcher and let out a load yell. That caused the waiting room to be cleared in a hurry. When we got him back to the zoo, he grabbed the door handle of his cage so we could not get him back in it. I told one of the keepers to go get some of his favorite food, apples. The keeper came back with a bushel of apples, and the Orangutan would not get in his cage until he saw that all of the apples in the basket had been rolled into his cage. Then he let go of the door handle and walked right in.
Then there was the time that two male spider monkeys got into a fight. One of the keepers netted them and brought them over to the clinic to be sutured up. They also brought the old female along as she got bit trying to separate the two. She was a gentle animal so they had her on a leash. While we were sedating then suturing the two males we suddenly looked around and she was gone. We soon realized that she had raised one of the windows in an exam room and had escaped. We drove around looking for her, and there she was in Homewood Park holding the hand of a 4 year old girl who was walking along with her mother. The mother had the most harrowing expression on her face while her daughter was laughing. When we got to them to take the monkey, the mother was frozen, she just stood there like she was having a nightmare.
After 21 years, the time had come to give up the zoo practice and concentrate on my small animal practice. This was also a time of remodeling and adding on to the clinic. During my 50 years of practice, there have been about 30 young veterinarians that have rotated thru the clinic and gone on to set up practices here in Birmingham or other places. In February of 2000, my wife and several clients held a surprise party for me to celebrate 50 years of practice. All day many present and past clients and friends came in to visit and talk about many wonderful memories. This, for me, was one of my happiest
moments in the clinic.
In March of 2000, Dr. David B. Daniels bought the practice and building. I am so pleased with his level of care nd concern and know what I spent the biggest part of my life building will continue to in its care of these special little patients. Dr. Daniels had brought so much to the clinic personally and professionally. With the addition of ultrasound, echocardiogram, and other sophisticated equipment, the clinic operates at a new level of sophistication that is required today.