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Dave Bushman
 Emmitsburg's Own Dr. Doolittle

Michael Hillman

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 Doolittle.'

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 wife, an 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 follow-up care.

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.  A 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."

As Emmitsburg 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 medicine.

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.

Read more articles by Michael Hillman

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