Gerry Mannion at work examining a dog.

Gerry reflects on career caring for animals

A recently retired Athlone vet says that the years he spent working caring for animals have passed in a flash because of how happy the job made him. Gerry Mannion from Kiltoom retired from Athlone Veterinary Clinic just off Connaught Street at the end of December, having worked there since the 1970s.

“I grew up in Kiltoom, and my dad was a part-time farmer,” Gerry says.

“There was six in the family, four boys, and we all went to college. So we were all from farming stock, but when I started college I actually started doing architecture. I spent about six or seven weeks in it, and I just decided to change.

“We were able to change course in those days once you had the points, and I ended up getting the last vacancy in first-year veterinary medicine.”

After qualifying in 1969, Gerry went on to work in Galway, Limerick and Tralee, and even spent some time in the United States.

“I had planned to emigrate there and I did examinations there and worked in New Jersey. I was back and forth then over the following three or four years, just learning about small animal medicine.

“In 1977 then I decided to just stay in Athlone and worked with Frank Nolan and PJ Dwyer, who were the original veterinary partnership on Connaught Street.”

It was also Gerry’s love of GAA that kept bringing him home and eventually led him to remaining in Ireland.

“I was very much involved with St Brigid’s football club and Roscommon as well, and they probably kept me here to be honest. I played with Athlone rugby club as well, and I actually won a Connaught Senior cup medal in 1976.

“I’m a life member of St Brigid’s, and of course I go to all the games. I was a selector and assistant coach with them back in 1997 when they won the championship, and down the years I’ve been involved with them, sometimes not as much as I would have liked to have been because of work.

“I love horse racing too, and I was involved with some horses over the years. All sports really were part of my life, we’re a very sporty family.”

Frank Nolan’s son-in-law PJ Dwyer soon joined the practice from Canada, who Gerry says “introduced the small animal side of things to the practice.”

“I learned quite a bit from him, but he left in 1975. Myself, Michael Prior and the late Frank Harrington took over the practice then.”

Michael and Frank’s retirements left Gerry running the practice by himself since 2000 with assistance from many different vets over the years.

Even over those years, Gerry says he never got bored of his work and always enjoyed seeing the connections between people and their pets.

“I love veterinary practice and all things to do with animals. They grow on you, and it doesn’t have to be dogs or cats. It could be sheep or cattle, they all have their own individual personalities.

“The contact and the rapport that people have with their pets is amazing to witness. The bond that is created, the happiness and the sadness. That’s what treating animals is all about.

“You learn more about people based on their responses to towards their sick animals in comparison to when they’re sick themselves. The emotions they express is unbelievable, and it’s what got me up in the morning to go to work.”

Gerry also chose not to charge wildlife volunteers and organisations for any veterinary requirements.

“That was never a problem for me because I love wildlife and I always appreciate the work that these wildlife people do for animals.

“It’s no problem for me to give some of my knowledge to help them, because they do the work of helping the animals for free. It’s the honourable thing to do in my opinion.”

Although Gerry is retired from the practice, he continues to work as a Veterinary Inspector.

“While I don’t miss the middle of the night calving, I certainly loved the job and connectivity with people, and the feel-good factor from making an animal better.

“I really would like to express my thanks for clients’ loyalty and the satisfaction I always derived from dealing with people. I haven’t had a chance to thank everyone that has sent messages and presents since my retirement.”

Gerry believes that working as a vet has provided him with clarity on life, finishing by saying:

“Life isn’t about money, it is about emotions and I’ve seen the full range of them as a vet," he said.

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