At the height of their business, the Moomaw family hand addressed and signed 600 Christmas cards every year.
It was a personal touch in a business that’s all about people.
Veterinarian Robert Moomaw has taken care of Oak Cliff pets and their people for more than 40 years.
“It’s easy to love animals,” Moomaw says. “You also have to love people.”
Moomaw and his wife, Terry, retired last month; about 200 people and their pets attended a retirement party at Kiest Park in their honor.Moomaw graduated from the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine in August 1974 and worked in a group practice, South Oak Cliff Animal Hospital, until 1988.
Two years later, following the expiration of a non-compete clause, he opened his mobile practice.
At first, he served clients from West Dallas to Midlothian. But he reeled it in slowly until Terry joined the practice as his assistant in 1998. At that time, they drew a circle around their house near Kiest Park and deemed it their service area, with a few exceptions for very close friends. Dr. Moomaw went from driving as much as 27,000 miles a year for house calls to more like 12,000 miles by 2007.
The majority of their clients lived between Interstate 30 and Clarendon. Once he became familiar with clients, he often met with housekeepers and nannies or, occasionally, just a key left under the mat.
Julie Altenau has been a client for about 20 years. Dr. Moomaw put down her dog Samantha, who lived to be 18, and then her Old English Sheepdog, Lulu, who lived to be 12. Now she and her husband have Tessie, a herding dog that’s a little bit ornery and has to be muzzled when Moomaw visits. She says having a difficult dog makes her even more thankful to have a house-call vet.
“We haven’t seen the inside of a vet’s office in years,” she says.
Visiting private homes has made for an interesting career, Moomaw says.
A couple of times he unwittingly walked into meth houses where pets needed vaccinations and flea prevention. He once was called to sew up a hurt pit bull before realizing it had suffered a dog-fighting injury. That was Oak Cliff in the ’90s.
Altenau says she had neighbors who left their dogs outside all the time, and Dr. Moomaw would go over and give them flea treatments.
“That’s just the way he is,” she says. “He cares.”
Moomaw recalls the elderly lady who offered him a diet cream soda wrapped in a paper towel every visit. There were lonely clients who encouraged him to linger for a while and chat.
Part of the job is ending pets’ lives, and he’s had to euthanize countless cats and dogs when the end was near. It never gets easier, he says.
Even though he’s a vet, much of his work involves psychology.
“The value of a pet is the mental health and wellbeing of the human,” he says. “It’s really their happiness that I’m treating.”
The Moomaws, both third-generation Oak Cliff residents who have known each other since middle school, plan to spend more time with their grandchildren, ages 8, 4 and 8 months. They have no plans to move from the house where they’ve lived since the ’70s, but they’ll spend more time at their condo on South Padre Island. And they’re planning to take a long road trip in Robert’s 2002 Corvette.
His retirement won’t leave Oak Cliff pets out in the cold.
Moomaw handed the reins to another house-call vet, Stacie Smith. Find her at dallaspaws.com.