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24-hour care for our pet family: Riverlands Animal Hospital celebrates 50 years

LAPLACE — Dr. J. Alvin Garon Sr. approached Riverlands National Bank in 1968 with little money in his pockets and a dream to open his own veterinary hospital in LaPlace.

Securing a portable building on Walnut Street was a $6,000 investment for Alvin and his wife, Mary Catherine Garon, and they didn’t have much more than a $750 Ford Mustang in collateral.

Yet, when Riverlands Animal Hospital opened in July 1968, it was named after the bank that took a chance on a young, ambitious couple.

The Riverlands Animal Hospital family includes, from left, Catherine L. Garon, Mary Catherine Garon, Dr. J. Alvin Garon Sr. and Dr. “J” Alvin Garon Jr.

Five decades later, second generation brother-sister duo Dr. “J” Alvin Garon Jr. and Catherine L. Garon, DVM MS, operate Riverlands Animal Hospital at 1112 W. Airline Highway in LaPlace.

Renowned for 24-hour emergency services implemented in 2004, Riverlands Animal Hospital provides full-service internal medicine, diagnostic blood work, X-rays, ultrasounds, surgery, wellness exams, flea and heartworm prevention, dentistry, boarding and spaying and neutering.

J said the clinic has developed into a medical hospital setting attracting clients from around the state.

“We get referrals in from as far as Grand Isle and two or three hours away because we’re here all the time, fully staffed,” J said. “A lot of the hospitals have been purchased by larger corporate entities and have to be managed accordingly.  The fact that we’re still family owned means the doctors can make their own decisions.”

Sound service is especially important, J said, noting dogs and cats predominately kept as outdoor pets yesteryear have shifted into close-knit, inside companions.

The early days of Riverlands Animal Hospital, which is celebrating 50 years of business in LaPlace, are represented by Dr. J. Alvin Garon Sr., pictured working at his desk 50 years ago.

“They’re like kids,” J said. “Clients come in, and they want whatever’s best for them. Our patients are watched 24 hours a day by a doctor, so they are completely taken care of.”

Mary Catherine performed accounting work at Riverlands Animal Hospital for 30 years, and she fondly recalls her children visiting the office from the time they were babies. Whether at home or at the hospital, they were always compassionate toward animals.

Since joining Riverlands’ staff in the 1990s, the younger Catherine has encountered countless patients who go above and beyond for their furry companions.

Perhaps the most memorable were Johnny and Christie Sullens, who in 2009 sacrificed a lavish wedding and honeymoon to fund a bone marrow transplant for their dog, Angel.

Linda Donaldson was Riverlands Animal Hospital’s first employee. She worked for more than 30 decades and frequently stops in to this say.

Alvin remembers Linda Donaldson as Riverlands Animal Hospital’s first employee and Carolyn Millet as the client.

When they asked Carolyn how many pets she had that first day, she responded “seven,” and Alvin let out a hearty laugh.

“Looks like we came to the right place,” he joked.

After Alvin graduated from veterinary school in Texas, he and Mary Catherine pored over locations before deciding on LaPlace for its significance to the growing Interstate 10 corridor.

In the early days, Alvin worked with large animals, including cattle, horses and exotic animals such as snakes, gorillas and alligators at the old LaPlace Snake Farm.

Business picked up to the point where Alvin couldn’t afford to spend half the morning on a house call off-site, and he committed to servicing small animals only.

Alvin eased into retired life and went on to study culinary arts in the 1990s.

“I’m impressed by how technology has improved since I left,” Alvin said, noting X-rays that once took 30 minutes to develop can be completed in less than a minute.

Regular business hours are 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 8:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. Friday and 8 a.m. to noon Saturday.

After hours emergency services are from 7 p.m. to 8 a.m. Monday through Thursday, 5 p.m. to 8:30 a.m. Friday and from noon on Sunday to 8 a.m. Monday. Riverlands Animal Hospital is open for all holidays. For more information, call 985-652-6369.