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It's Raining Cats and Dogs in Plymouth: Featuring Court Street Animal Hospital

By Kara Lawson

Norm Stillman grew up wanting to be a doctor and his parents - also doctors - were on board. In college he pursued an internship with an orthopedic surgeon, the field he wanted to specialize in. Unfortunately, the month he spent with the surgeon left him deflated and unsure.

"He was a brilliant man and a great surgeon, but he barely knew his patients," said Stillman. "He didn't have time. He didn't want to know about their families or lives, meet their kids. Just get in and out. He was also in constantly in a terrible mood and so was everyone around him. He worked from 5 am to 9 pm every day and had a terrible life."

After the internship Stillman visited his adviser, an English teacher who pointed out that he was always writing stories about animals and proceeded to call a friend who was a veterinarian. The next day Stillman went to the vet's office and within an hour he realized that it was exactly what he wanted to do. "There were two formative moments in my life. One was when I asked my wife to marry me," said Stillman. "The other was when I was sitting in that guy's office. I owe that guy everything.

He changed his major and spent an extra year getting the prerequisites needed to apply to Virginia Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine. After graduating and working in Philadelphia for six years, feeling like he barely knew his staff, patients and neighbors, it was time to move. His family chose Plymouth, looking for a small town that was nearby his wife's parents in Hanover, Mass. In 2004 he opened the Court Street Animal Hospital.


Dr. Norm Stillman on the beach with one of his patients.
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As a new practice, he started with no clients. This September they passed the 4,000 client mark, which was commemorated with a standard 1,000-patient milestone celebration: taking his staff out for beer and wings. In the meantime, they've also been celebrating winning Wicked Local's "Regional Favorite Readers' Choice Award" for the past five years in a row.

"Being a vet is a great job. I think it's the best job in the world," said Stillman. "I get to play with puppies and kittens all day long. I see interesting things. I do surgeries. I have the opportunities to treat animals and make them better."

Today the practice only sees cats and dogs because of the amount of time it takes to stay current on all of the new info. "I work 40 hours every week, then every night when I'm at home I read journals, study online, and I go to conferences," said Stillman. "There's so much new stuff to know [...] It's a full-time job to stay current, so I can do a good job on them."


The hospital's surgery suite, with state of the art technology, including pulse oximetry, EKG monitoring, Blood Pressure.
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Stillman has brought on two other doctors, one part time and one full time, since his practice opened. He now has a staff of eight who has been with him for years; the only new ones have been additions not replacements. One of his staff members started a Thanksgiving Day tradition of hosting a big party for all of their clients, inviting them to a potluck where about 200 people gather on the hospital's front lawn to watch the town's famous Thanksgiving day parade.

The doctor and his team love being part of the community. Being part of Plymouth's day-to-day workings is one of the things that Stillman enjoys most about having a practice there. He regularly writes a weekly Q&A column on cats and dogs for a local paper "Old Colony Memorial," and volunteers his time and free services for Paws New England rescue dogs and The Helping Hands for the Plymouth Animal Shelter, as well as treating some of the local police dogs.


A picture that went viral worldwide of the K-9 unit dog, Kaiser, being walked into Court Street Animal Hospital in Plymouth, Mass.
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Last year one of the police dogs he treated was Kaiser, a German Shepard who suffered from kidney severe disease and failure, and needed to be put down. A now-famous photo was taken of Kaiser being escorted into Court Street Animal Hospital. "He was walked in, then carried out by six policemen in a coffin," said Stillman. "

Some of the most common questions people ask him about are spaying and neutering pets, and vaccinations. He says if he is asked about something, it's opening the door to a long conversation because he loves to talk and he is passionate about his work. It's a passion that's contagious, judging by his 13-year-old daughter Hannah who might want to follow in her father's footsteps and be a vet some day. "It's a pipe dream of mine that one day I'll be able to hand the practice to her and see patients a few mornings a week," said Stillman who wants her to make her own decision, without any pressure from him.

"I'm very grateful to this town. I have a wonderful wife, two great kids, a great practice that allows me to feed my kids and send them to college, and do something I love to do every single day."



Court Street Animal Hospital
136 Court Street
Plymouth, MA 02360
(508) 747-0774
www.courtstreetvet.com

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About The Author

Kara is a writer, editor and marketer with a BA and MA in journalism from California...

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