A Look At The Lives Of Our Veterinary Forefathers

It’s hard to imagine in our days of webinars, texting and world-wide veterinary information networks, but our forefathers worked in complete isolation.



 Imagine dozens of vets gathering once a year, fishing for shad all day, cooking their catch and eating dinner together as one big happy family.

Such was the heyday of the Conestoga Veterinary Club, which was launched around 1912 in Lancaster, Pa. It’s hard to imagine in our days of webinars, texting and world-wide veterinary information networks, but our forefathers worked in complete isolation. From their friendship came the concept of an Annual Shad Dinner in 1915, possibly with the idea of a speaker.

So our colleagues gathered “along the Susquehanna River to fish for shad and cook their catch over open fires. There was always beer to drink and an abundance of good food to eat.”*

By the way, a shad, also called river herring, weighs about 300 grams and lives in a variety of countries around the world. One species can weigh up to 4 pounds. They are quite unique because of their ability to detect ultrasound. Not only are they able to avoid dolphins, they also can find prey using echolocation.

Legend has it that Dr. Joe Johnson would challenge his colleagues to wrestle on a local bridge. “The loser would end up in the water. Dr. Johnson never lost!”

This unusual gathering made the news, and became famous all over southeastern Pennsylvania. Vets “traveled for miles to be a part of it.” Deans and professors and speakers from the vet school and the Bureau of Veterinary Industry were invited. Once a year, vets would meet with dentists and physicians. Wives were first invited to join in 1936. In the 1970s, close to 100 people would attend the dinner.

Decades later, the Conestoga Veterinary Club became the Conestoga Veterinary Medical Association. Sure, our colleagues don’t fish for shad these days, but they continue to honor the tradition and gather once a year. I was honored to be recently invited to give a presentation at the 2012 Shad Dinner. I found the vets I met unusually nice, and got a chance to taste shad. Oh, and I tasted roe, which is shad eggs.

Dr. Phil Zeltzman is a mobile, board-certified surgeon in Allentown, Pa. He is the co-author of “Walk a Hound, Lose a Pound.”

*Quotes from “The History of Veterinary Medicine in Lancaster County” by Loy Awkerman, VMD, published in 1978 (Stiegel Printing Company, Manheim, Pa.)

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A Look At The Lives Of Our Veterinary Forefathers

It’s hard to imagine in our days of webinars, texting and world-wide veterinary information networks, but our forefathers worked in complete isolation.