Country vet 'touched the lives of many'
Dr. Paul Elwell takes a step back from his practice in Roxbury
Published 6:38 pm, Wednesday, January 14, 2015
This section of Connecticut was flush with dairy farms when Paul Elwell began his veterinarian work in this area.
As a young vet in 1972, he worked with Dr. Ferris Gorra's practice in the Marble Dale district of Washington. The two men took care of cows at about 80 dairy farms.
"If I had to pick a favorite animal to work with, it would be the dairy cow," Elwell said. "They're gentle and calm animals."
"But you have to remember," flashing his winning sense of humor, "they can scratch their ear with their hind leg."
Elwell is now semi-retired.
At the end of December, he sold his veterinary practice of 30 years in Roxbury to his longtime associate Mark Carlson.
Elwell will keep an active hand, working with Carlson two days a week. Veterinary work is in his blood.
"It's time to step back a bit," Elwell said. "I did basically anything the phone would ring for. When I graduated in 1966 there wasn't the specialization in the practice that there is now.
"Now vets come out of college," he quipped, "wanting to be canary anesthetists."
Elwell's years in practice have brought many interesting adventures and stories. His wife, Sharon, wrote a book in 2005 based loosely on his experiences, "So Much To Give."
A fictional work based in 1960s Litchfield County, the veterinarian is named Doc Elliot, who has a significant impact on the lives of his animal patients and their human companions.
"Paul has a great instinct with animals," Sharon Elwell said. "His favorite are dairy cows. He had a good rapport with the dairy farmers in this area. He has a good rapport with all of his clients."
As dairy farms have faded from the scene, Elwell still has been called to care for farm animals throughout Roxbury and neighboring towns.
Sheep, pigs, llamas, even two buffaloes were among the animals he has cared for over the last few years.
"Then there were all the specialties from the chinchillas to the pot belly pigs," he said.
Jean Kinsella, a Roxbury horse breeder, has Lippizaner. Elwell has cared for her horses.
"Paul's very, very good -- excellent," Kinsella said. "He was very good with my horses. He's a great horseman."
Sandra Cointreau has bred standard poodles for 20 years. She credits Elwell with delivering some 160 puppies over that time.
"He's taken care of my horses, my cats, chickens," Cointreau said. "We even had a crow we'd rescued that fell out of a nest. Paul helped with that.
"Nobody has touched the hearts of farm owners and families here in Roxbury as much as Paul has," she said. "He never overcharges or over- tests.
"He has the experience to make a practical, sensible diagnosis," she said, "without doing a battery of tests on an animal."
Cointreau is also a painter. She will offer a show of her work at the Roxbury Senior Center. The reception there on Jan. 18 will be from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.
At her art show, she will happily share the limelight with her longtime vet.
"The fire department volunteers are planning to come and the Roxbury Animal Clinic veterinarians and staff," Cointreau said. "I've asked Dr. Mark Carlson to say a few words and First Selectman Barbara Henry."
Center stage in Cointreau's art show will be a painting of Elwell in a 1955 Seagrave fire truck driving down a country road.
He still is a volunteer in the Roxbury department, where he once served as fire chief.
Elwell is a 1960 Torrington High School graduate. He attended the University of Connecticut in Storrs from 1960 to 1962 and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania College of Veterinary Medicine in 1966.
He served for six years, three-and-a-half of which were in Vietnam helping care for some 3,000 military dogs.
In 1972, he received an honorable discharge with the rank of lieutenant colonel and moved to Litchfield County.
Once here, he worked with Dr. Gorra from 1972 to 1984, when he opened his own practice in Roxbury.