By: KELSEY CARROLL
Dr. Tom Rose is a dentist, a surgeon, a radiologist, a parasitologist, a dietitian and somewhat of a groomer. And he only went to veterinary school.
A self-titled “family practitioner for pets,” Rose is the head veterinarian and owner of the Rolling Hills Veterinary Hospital on Keene Street. The hospital’s other location on Buttonwood Drive is manned by his partner, Dr. Greg Jagdfeld.
“This is the only place I’ve ever worked, and now it’s 22 years later,” Rose said.
Rose, 47, grew up in the South County area of St. Louis, moved to Columbia in 1981 to attend MU and never left. He graduated from the College of Veterinary Medicine in 1988 and started working at Rolling Hills.
He isn’t sure why he wanted to become a veterinarian, but after working with cattle and pigs in school, he knew he wanted to go the other direction.
“I didn’t grow up on a farm or anything, so I just didn’t have an interest in the bigger animals,” Rose said.
Bobette Rose, jokingly referred to as “Tom’s other wife” but who is not related to him, has been a technician at Rolling Hills for 20 years and knows Dr. Rose’s style of doing things quite well.
“Tom’s not afraid of doing anything,” Rose said.
Dr. Rose has his hands on every aspect of the job from handling the medicine to making prescription labels to sanitizing the tables.
“It’s just not the way I started out – with technicians in the room,” Rose said.
Before a client comes in, he personally gets everything ready including charts, vaccinations and anything else that a specific appointment might entail.
“I don’t like people to have to sit around and wait,” Rose said. “I like to stay efficient.”
Kate Mears, a 16-year client of Rose’s, said she and her sister have had almost 20 pets between them treated by Rose. She’s a fan: “He’s just so awesome with the animals.”
“One time, we had a dog that couldn’t stand up, and he came out to the lobby and got down on the floor to check him out,” Mears said.
Rose came out to her house to euthanize one of her dogs, a service some vets offer that’s easier on older, ailing pets and their owners.
House calls are not a rarity for Rose; he’s been making them since he started. He travels all over the county, sometimes even from Ashland to Harrisburg in one day. He offers house calls for anything, as long as it helps make the client and the animal more comfortable.
“I don’t live by time constraints,” he said. “I’m the kind of guy where if (the animal) needs to be seen, then it needs to be seen.”
As Rose headed out at 11 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 13, Bobette asked if he was cutting out early to go to the football game.
“No,” he replied. “I’ve got to go give three cats their booster vaccines.”
On an average day, Rose said he sees about 15 clients — pet owners, who often bring in more than one pet at a time.
The hospital is relatively small, but is equipped with all the essentials including a pharmacy, patient rooms, a surgery room, a radiology room, an X-ray station and a small kennel for boarding cats and dogs.
On Saturday morning Dr. Rose treated an abscess on Rio the cat, checked a broken tooth on an Akita named Boomer, gave booster shots to dogs Trixie and Rascal, ran samples on Arabella the German Shepherd, consulted a family about new pain medication for their three-legged dog, took out sutures from surgery on a dog’s foot, and gave routine vaccines to a tabby named Hobbs and his Himalayan companion. He even broke out the endoscope to check the throat of Winston, an older dog with a troubling cough.
“Yeah, we do that every Saturday morning…,” Rose joked, referring to the endoscope procedure.
When trying to explain certain things, Rose often relates animals to humans. For example, he compares human medications to animal drugs so that his clients can better understand what they’re giving their pet. He employs the same approach to explaining treatment and recovery, as he did with the three-legged dog. He advised the family to get him up and walking around at least three times a day because he could get stiff and have a harder time healing, just as a human would with a muscle injury.
“We really do everything with animals that they [other doctors] do with humans,” Rose said. “It’s actually amazing that we ever get anything done because, well, they’re animals,” he said, referring to the difficult nature of some pets. He finds cats to be the most frustrating patients to handle.
Sometimes, he’ll see an animal that is just plain ADR, a widely known acronym in veterinary circles that stands for “ain’t doin’ right.” ADR cases will sometimes have to stay overnight for observation of their behavior and for tests — whatever it takes to fix what’s wrong.
Although he has worked with and treated thousands of animals in his 22 years as a veterinarian, Rose has just one cat, a Siamese named Nikki who is 17 and a half years old. Rose was still in school when the cat was brought into the lab at age 1, suffering from what was believed to be a neurological disorder.
“It turned out she just didn’t like other animals, so I took her,” Rose said.
The clinic took Jeffery the cat after his owner gave him up. He roams the rooms of the clinic day and night, perching on the rolling chairs in the secretary hub.
“He thinks he owns the place,” Bobette remarked.