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It did happen to a vet - Julian Marcus retires from The Ark in Stratford

ELEPHANTS, pigs, sheep, cats and dogs are just some of the creatures – great and small – that vet Julian Marcus has cared for in a career spanning 37 years.

But it's goodbye to all that as Julian retires from his practice at The Ark in Stratford.

Although he opened The Ark on 1st May 1992, his veterinary career started in 1984 as one of a generation of graduates influenced by the stories of James Herriot.

He told the Herald: "Whilst reading It Shouldn’t Happen to a Vet I had a lightbulb moment and thought that a career as a veterinary surgeon sounded very interesting.

"Despite many cautionary tales and the lack of previous academic greatness, I gave it a whirl and followed my heart. Graduating at a time when many practices carried out both farm and small-animal work, I started work in a mixed practice in Bedford. Mornings were spent visiting farms and the afternoons consulting. You just did it all.

"Of course, there were no mobile phones or sat-navs in the early days, so I would disappear off in the morning on my rounds, with several OS maps and a tobacco tin full of 2ps and 10ps. I would phone in from time to time from a public phone box to see if there were any more calls to do.

"If the surgery needed me urgently, the front desk would contact me by trying to catch me when I was actually on one of the farms."

From Bedford, Julian moved to Matlock in Derbyshire and for two years helped his boss develop a practice that was "steeped in Herriot tradition".

"Modernisation had come to the profession and with it new treatments, new machines and new opportunities. As farm work declined and small-animal work started to forge ahead, we witnessed changes taking place.

"There were few in-house blood analysis machines until the early 90s, no ultrasound machines – not yet invented – and only the seven veterinary universities able to accept specialist patient referrals for those more challenging cases. Now these facilities are commonplace, and thankfully so."

He left Matlock in 1987 to travel to New Zealand and Australia before returning in the spring of 1988 to Stratford, where he grew up, and a position at a practice in Guild Street.

He bought the Ark premises in Birmingham Road on 23rd December 1991, proposed to his wife Gayna on Christmas Day and opened the practice the following May.

Some tough periods followed, with crises from BSE, foot-and-mouth, pig and bird flu and the financial crash of 2008 – not to mention coronavirus – but Julian says he's enjoyed "gaining the skills that are required to run a busy, modern day veterinary surgery".

The life of a vet can involve some heart-wrenching discussions about end-of-life treatment to ensure what's best for the patient and its owner.

"It's emotionally tough," Julian said. "You have to stay focused on what you need to do and not lose control of your emotions. You have to do what's right and properly concentrate but I have cried bucketloads when it's come to one of my own pets or a best friend's pet.

"I think of the doctors and nurses caring for patients during Covid and just think that must be unbelievably hard."

Now aged 60, Julian plans to play golf, follow up some gardening jobs he's been meaning to do, travel when permitted and enjoy socialising.

"I shall miss the clients terribly but I've done my bit and the world has changed in the last 37 years. Being a vet is a profession that has evolved and it's time for a new generation now," he added.

And, for the record, Julian and Gayna have two dogs, two cats, seven sheep, five chickens and two children – Daniel and Lauren.

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