Great Barrington — When Ron Majdalany woke up Monday morning, he found that his routine had been upended. That’s because, only two days earlier, he had given his last rabies shot and hung up his stethoscope.
“I’ve seen three generations of some families. It’ll be kind of weird, but I have plenty of my own activities to keep me busy so I don’t think I’ll be at a loss for anything to do,” said Majdalany, who ended his veterinary career on Saturday (March 3) after 37 years in the business. “But it will be a big adjustment, that’s for sure.”
Majdalany is a beloved figure in South County. That status stems from the fact that, not only is he a nice guy, but he has treated countless pets and livestock and has saved many animal lives over his 34 years of working in Great Barrington at his own practice, Seekonk Veterinary Hospital on Alford Road, just a stone’s throw from Bard College at Simon’s Rock.
After graduating from Colby College and the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine, Majdalany, who grew up in Great Barrington, landed a job at at veterinary clinic in East Greenbush, New York, a suburban community east of Albany. Three years later, the opportunity to come home presented itself in the form of a farm for sale at the right price.
“By the time I got out of vet school, my best friend’s parents were looking to get out of the dairy farming business so he sold the cows and then sold me the farm; and my friend David Livingston and I built the hospital in this part of the barn in 1984,” Majdalany recalled.
Asked for an approximate headcount of the number of creatures he has treated over the years, Majdalany laughed and admitted he was stumped:
“That would be impossible – thousands for sure. But I started off doing mainly farms, mainly dairy farm work – and horses and some dogs and cats. And then, little by little, the dairy farms went out and I started doing llama and alpaca and working for breeders of those animals. And little by little, that dropped away and then the dog-and-cat practice built up more and, by this point, I’m doing mostly small animals.”
Occasionally, a customer would bring in a hamster and, right up until the end, he still treated the occasional horse. With a smile and a hint of wistfulness, Majdalany added that, “There aren’t as many cows left anymore but I liked working with them. Working on a farm has always been a fun thing for me.”
The fact that there aren’t as dairy farms left is personally disappointing to Majdalany. Indeed, there are none left in Great Barrington after the Coons farm closed in 2016.
“The last one went out a year ago last October,” Majdalany recalled as he peered through the window of his barn at the surrounding fields and hills. “Art Coons over here on West Plain Road. When I was a little kid, Great Barrington was full of farms. All these were farms around here: the Blodgetts, Shaws, Wolfes, Fergusons.”
Asked if he had treated any animals with unusual medical conditions, Majdalany scratched his head: “I once had a cow in a well. A bunch of different people came around with ropes and a tractor and pulled the thing out.”
Majdalany has seen a wide variety of animals including exotics such as peacocks, which he still raises on his farm, to ostriches and emus. He bred llamas for more than 20 years. But as a veterinarian, he is essentially a generalist.
“These days lots of people are specializing in either large or small animals,” Majdalany explained. “Some of them are even specializing in things like small animal oncology.”
Yes, oncology – the study and treatment of tumors – is not confined to humans. Dogs, for example, do get cancer. Indeed, one of Majdalany’s own dogs when he was in vet school developed a recurring tumor under the skin near the elbow and was treated successfully with radiation.
In addition to his popular veterinary practice, Majdalany is well known for his community involvement. He is chairman of the Great Barrington Zoning Board of Appeals and has been a member for 31 years. He was on the town’s Board of Health for 28 years, half of those as chairman. He served on the board of corporators of City Savings Bank (eventually acquired by Berkshire Bank) and serves on the board of directors of the Great Barrington Historical Society.
As chairman of the ZBA, Majdalany has presided over a number of raucous public hearings including, most recently, the controversial affordable housing project at 100 Bridge Street and a high-profile tangle between the Walter J. Koladza Airport and an eccentric neighboring couple. Throughout the tumult, Majdalany’s steady hand and calm demeanor allowed cooler heads to prevail.
As for what he intends to do next, Majdalany, who is 66 and divorced, said he wants to spend more time with family, including his daughter, Sarah, who is studying to be a nurse.
He is not selling his practice but will continue to live in the farmhouse and raise his peacocks, at least for the time being. And Sheffield farmer Morven Allen rents out Majdalany’s fields.
“I’m also going to do some traveling,” Majdalany said. “I’d like to see some more national parks and also do more traveling abroad.”
It goes without saying that, wherever Majdalany goes, lots of South County residents – and many from neighboring Connecticut and New York – will miss his friendly smile and recall the many wonders he has worked with their animals.