When Dr. Ferris Gorra reflects on the beginnings of his veterinary practice in Marble Dale, it is to the days he primarily did large animal work.

The date was fall of 1970 and Dr. Gorra "put food on the table" for his young family by performing tuberculosis testing for numerous herds of dairy cattle in Litchfield County.

"You got 50 cents a head and $3 for the call," Dr. Gorra recalled.

"Today, the state does that testing," he said. "But at that time, Dr. Baird in New Milford was covering the local herds and he was happy to give me the work. I came to know the local farmers and, by 1975, I had 75 cattle accounts."

That was 40 years ago, when Dr. Gorra's eldest son, Michael, was just a few months old.

The family lived then in the building along Route 202 that still houses the Aspetuck Animal Hospital practice.

Business was shorter in supply then and the building much smaller.

"My dad tells stories of how they used to put me in the kennel for a playpen to keep me out of the way," Dr. Michael Gorra, now the hospital owner, said with a smile.

Dr. Ferris Gorra concurred. Little Michael, then a toddler, would play in the kennel content with his toys, said his father.

"I have a Dr. Seuss book from when I was a boy about who I was and what I would be one day," Dr. Michael Gorra recalled. "In crayon, I wrote I would be `a veterinarian.' "

It wasn't until his junior year at Colby College, studying bio-medical research, that Dr. Michael Gorra realized veterinary medicine was his future. He graduated from Cornell Veterinary School in 1997, the year of his father's 30th class reunion from Cornell.

Today, Dr. Michael Gorra manages and owns of Aspetuck, which first became a father-son veterinary practice in 2003.

Dr. Ferris Gorra is semi-retired, coming into the Marble Dale practice one day a week.

Other aspects of the practice have changed since the 1970s.

Dr. Ferris Gorra gave up large animal work in the late 1980s, devoting his time to the small animal practice he had also been developing. To satisfy his equestrian interests, Dr. Ferris became a judge of the Eastern Competitive Trail Riding Association, a pastime he still enjoys today.

By 1995, there was a team of veterinarians, technicians and kennel staff working at the practice along with Dr. Ferris Gorra. The entire building housed the practice and had been remodeled three times.

By 2003, the practice was comprised of the two Gorras and their technical and kennel staff.

Michelle Gorra, Michael Gorra's wife, had become the business manager. During the past year, she played a key role in renovation and expansion of the hospital.

In 2006, Dr. Michael Gorra's former classmate at Cornell, Dr. Trish Grinnell. joined the staff.

Certified in veterinary acupuncture, she brought an interest in Chinese herbal medicine to the practice.

--When I was 8," Dr. Grinnell said, "I had a great-uncle with a standard poodle. The poodle was having puppies and my sister and I went over and helped deliver them. My parents say I talked about being a vet from that day on."

Technology has also changed at the practice.

"If a call comes in at night and there's a dog my dad saw during the day that is having a problem, I can pull up the dog's charts on my computer at home," Dr. Michael Gorra said. "I can see any x-rays taken and notes Dad made during the office visit, and make a more accurate diagnosis."

The hospital will host a 40th anniversary open house tomorrow (Saturday), June 26 from 2 to 5 p.m.

The staff will show off their newly renovated state-of-the-art facility and demonstrations will be given of high-tech diagnostic and surgical equipment and the in-house laboratory.

For information, call Aspetuck Animal Hospital at 860-868-2973 or visit www.aspetuckanimalhospital.com.