John Gould, Garston vet

All creatures great and small

About 25 staff from Garston Veterinary Group, which is this year sponsoring the Dog Agility Ring, attend Frome Show over the course of show day, one of them being small animal vet John Gould. The Cambridge University graduate discusses treating lions, wolfs, marmosets, pelicans and sea lions in the course of his work, and reveals why he thinks vets are an underrated species


When did you join Garston Veterinary Group?

February 1998.

Where did you train as a vet?

Cambridge University.

Where did you work before Garston Vets?

In a mixed practice in Hereford where I did 60% farm work and 40% small animal. I came to Garston to concentrate on small animal practice.

What kind of animals do you commonly treat in your job?

The vast majority are dogs and cats, with a few rabbits and the occasional guinea pig, rat, hamster, bird and tortoise thrown in for good measure.

Name any unusual ones you have treated

Lion, wolf, marmoset, pelican, sea lion. Garston does the veterinary work for Longleat and although two or three of my colleagues do most of the routine work there, I occasionally get involved, especially out of hours, or when an animal has to come into the surgery for an operation. Recently I have removed a syringe from a pelican’s stomach, amputated a damaged lion cub’s claw and removed a thermometer from a bearded dragon’s small intestine. 

Tell us some funny stories connected to your work

Some are unrepeatable — you do develop a rather ‘gallows’ sense of humour in this job. For example, I once had a client whose dog came in for a dental operation earlier in the day, ring me in the middle of the night because her beloved pet had stopped breathing. I was obviously extremely concerned and asked her exactly what he was doing, to which she replied: “Well, he’s just had something to eat and now he’s running around the kitchen, but I can’t see him breathing.” I advised her that if he was still not breathing in the morning she should bring him in for a check-up.

There’s always a certain frisson in the surgery when we have to remove a foreign body from a dog’s stomach. Ladies’ knickers seem a popular choice for some Labradors and we have also removed plastic Garfields, 50p pieces and peach stones, while another common one is corn on the cob. 

We once had a locum staying in the flat above the surgery who heard a thumping noise in the middle of the night. Despite being about 6ft 3in, he was concerned that there might be a thief in the building and so he rang the police. They arrived only to find that the noise had been a rabbit thumping its foot against the floor of its kennel. 

Tell us about an against the odds recovery story

It sounds immodest, but almost every day there will be an animal somewhere in the practice which survives a serious illness due to the dedication of our staff. We currently have a cat in the surgery which had suffered a urinary obstruction and which would have died if left untreated. It is now doing well. We also treated a puppy with severe infectious vomiting and diarrhoea. He, too, would die without our intervention, as would the spaniel who came in suffering from severe anaemia. People complain about vet’s fees but the effort and expertise which goes into the care of their pets, I believe, should be considered worth every penny.

What do you like about Frome Show?

Socialising with the clients, the cheese tent and the cider. 

What do you think of the Dog Agility — as Garston is sponsoring the ring this year we have to ask this question!

I really enjoy watching it from outside our tent as we can follow the whole thing. Many of our clients are involved and some of the dogs are so impressive with their athleticism (others less so).

What do you do on a typical day at the show?

I arrive at about 9.30am (I usually leave setting up to some of my colleagues) and then spend most of my time at the Garston stand talking to clients. I try to get away to visit the food tent, the cheese pavilion and to grab a pint of cloudy cider. I love visiting the stock section too. Being a small animal vet I don’t get to see cattle and sheep in my day-to-day role and I enjoy seeing them at the show.  I’m also always on the lookout for second hand book stalls. Last year, too, I was blown away by the Buldog Lings motorcycle display in the Village Green.  

What do you particularly enjoy about the show experience?

I’m a social animal and I like to chew the fat with our clients, especially those who I have known for a long time. I’m very proud of Garston Vets and love showing off our services and the enormous goodwill we seem to have with many local people.