Emmitsburg's Own Dr. Doolittle
You may not
know him, and may never have met him, but rest
assured, if you've ever had a pet spend a night
at the Emmitsburg Veterinary Hospital, your pets
know him as that nice person who came in late in
the night, when they were scared and lonely, and
sat and comforted them until they were fast
asleep. For forty years, a job history
considered almost unheard of in today's hustle
and bustle society, Dave Bushman has been one of
Emmitsburg's unsung heroes, a true 'Doctor
Born in Emmitsburg in 1937, to Charles and
Ann (Portner) Bushman, Dave was the of 5
children. From everyone's earliest recollection
of him, Dave was a natural around animals. At
the age of 17, Dave began to work part time for
Doc Carr, who had just set up practice in town.
By 1957, Dave's part time position had become a
life long career and the relationship between
Doc Carr and Dave grew. For Dave, Doc Carr is
"a father figure," for Doc Carr, Dave
was a "true partner".
When not out on road calls with Doc Carr,
Dave used to volunteer at the Thurmont Roller
Rink where he met his wife to be Cheryl Shriner.
After a six year courtship, Cheryl finally
surrendered to Dave's charm and accepted his offer
of marriage. In 1963, soon after moving to their
current residence next to the veterinary
hospital, they had their first child Pamela.
Their second child, David Jr. was born in 1965.
Their third, Robin, was born in 1971.
Dave often brought his children to the office
while he worked. On occasions, to prevent them
for getting hurt, Dave would put them in one of
the hospital many cages, where they would
patiently sit and watch their father. According to his
especially memorable example of Dave's love for
animals and kids involved a newborn litter of puppies. "The
puppies' mother had some serious problems after
their birth and was unable to care for them.
Dave bundled them up and brought them home. You
should have seen the faces on the children when
they came home from school that day and found
newborn puppies in the oven." Dave turned
the day to day care of the puppies, including
their feeding and bathing over to the kids, and
in doing so, taught them not only to love those
puppies, but all animals.
In the early days, Doc Carr and Dave operated
the practice out of the back of Doc Carr's truck.
Serving as Doc Carr's Veterinarian assistance,
Dave was responsible for performing just every
task except actual operations. According
to Doc Carr, Dave is "the prototype of what
is now considered an Animal Technician." In
lay terms, Animal Technicians are like nurses in
the hospital. After a treatment decision on a
sick animal has been determined, it's up to the
technicians to carry it out. This includes
prepping for and assisting in surgeries,
recovery room watches, and overseeing long term
While considered by all the present staff at
the hospital as a Jack-of-all-trades, according
to Doc Carr, Dave natural strength is in animal
restraint, "He's they best there ever was.
Text books could be written on his techniques."
In recollecting the many fond memories of
Dave, Doc Carr's favorite was one on a operation
gone awry. During the surgery on a rather ornery
horse, the sedation wore off before the procedure
was complete. Unwilling to risk the wrath of the
horse, Doc Carr cleared out and followed the
owner in a headlong rush to the rafters. Dave,
unwilling to lose control of the horse, was
standing in front of the horse just as it
realized what the surgery was all about.
"As I got to the rafters, I looked down
and saw Dave being swung about by the horse. He
looked like a guy trying to hold onto a airplane
blade. One minute he was in the air, the next on
the ground, then he was being smashed into the
wall." When urged by Doc Carr to let go,
Dave mater of factly declined, insisting
that he just about had the horse under control.
Sure enough, Dave eventually did calm the horse,
and after re-sedating it, eventually convinced
Doc Carr to come down and finish the operation.
Another call worth recounting by Doc Carr was
one that occurred on a hot summer morning.
dairy herd was to be vaccinated, and Dave as
usual, organized the cows and shuttled them to
Doc Carr in breakneck speed. "We were doing
them almost one a minute and Dave, God love him,
he knew what cow got what shots." Well after
they were done, the farmer offered both Doc Carr
and Dave a sample of his 'local' brew.' "He
took the snap off of a hose dangling from the
ceiling and filled three cups. Back in
those days, the local stills put out almost pure
alcohol." Not wanting to appear
unappreciative, Doc Carr accepted the cup
offered and politely sipped it.
On the first opportunity however, Doc poured
the cup out, and politely refused a refill. Dave
however, being a non-drinker, had no idea what
was in the cup. In horror, Doc Carr watch as
Dave take a sip, smack his lips and then downed
the whole cup. As the two pulled out of the
driveway, Dave, began to rapidly turn green.
"Doc I don't feel that good." was
about all he could get out. "Needless to
say, he wasn't much good to me the rest of the
day. He just sat in the front seat, looking like
death warmed over."
grew so, too, did the practice.
After the present hospital was built and the
practice began to add additional staff, Dave's
responsibilities expanded. Dave took on the
unofficial role of the 'wise sage'.
Since many of the new vets hired into the
practice were often fresh out of school, where
they were taught on the latest and greatest
equipment, it's up to Dave to teach them how to
succeed in the sometimes harsh reality of rural
Having long since earned a
honorary degree in
practical veterinary medicine, Dave teaches what
can only be called the 'tricks of the trade'.
According to Dr. Gary Kubala: "There are
some procedures that new vets will struggle with
for hours, but Dave can do in five minutes. He's
got most of the 'old book' in his head, and a
lot that was never written down. He's the only
one besides Doc Carr that remembers the
formulas for age old tonics and wound
treatments." Because of his extensive
practical knowledge, some local farmers even go
as far as to request to consult with Dave.
Since he lives next to the hospital, Dave
is always on call. Dr. Julie remembers many a
night when unexpected complications threatened
the success of a late night surgery. Just when
things where at their worst, Dave would appear,
roll up his sleeves, and lend his hands and
expertise. No one at the hospital would even
venture a guess as to how many times Dave, without
fanfare, has saved the day.
In today's world, where superstars are
gloated over, its easy to forget that without
those willing to work on the team, individual
performance accounts for nothing. For forty
years Dave has been the back bone of the
Emmitsburg Veterinary Hospital Team, and because
of him, all in Emmitsburg have won.
more articles by Michael Hillman
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