Drive for 10 minutes west away from the bustling campus and community that comprises small-town Auburn and reach an even quainter setting nestled in the East Alabama countryside.
In Loachapoka, one distinguished home in between the town’s iconic feed store and fire department paints its own personality displaying gentle greens, yellows and whites, with a brick walkway directing visitors to a spacious Southern front porch—its railings overseeing the rural roadside landscape running parallel to Alabama Highway 14. A wash of soft morning sunlight points out rocking chairs and wooden benches waiting for occupants to sit, relax and take in the calm of an autumn day.
Welcome to the waiting room of Saugahatchee Animal Hospital.
For Auburn resident and veterinarian Dr. Thad Moore, the porch will serve as comforting welcome-mat for his four-legged patients, who will be invited to the area’s newest veterinary practice when it opens next month.
“We hope that folks find this place inviting and stress-free,” Moore said of the 1907 Loachapoka home he is currently renovating to suit his new practice. “It is stressful sometimes coming to the veterinarian for the owners and their pets, but we hope to make this environment more like visiting your grandparents’ house, and if you have a fractious dog or a dog that would prefer to sit on the front porch in the rocking chair, that’s going to be our waiting room, as well as inside the lobby.”
Not a stranger to the East Alabama area, Moore, originally from Grove Oak, earned his pre-vet undergraduate degree in animal and dairy science from Auburn University and attended and graduated from veterinary school at Tuskegee University.
Before pursuing veterinary medicine in an academic setting, however, Moore said he always knew the answer to the question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”
“(Growing up), we had horses and a cow and dogs and various farm animals, and I always just had a love and an appreciation for animals, and my parents recognized that,” Moore said. “And they encouraged me to become a veterinarian.
“I absolutely love that in my job, I never know what I’ll be doing,” he continued. “It is changing all the time. One minute, I’m a dentist. One minute I’m helping deliver babies. I can be an orthopedic surgeon; I can be a general surgeon. There’s really no limits to veterinary medicine, and I get to be involved in most of those aspects or all of those aspects.”
After graduating, Moore moved to Notasulga and owned a private ambulatory traveling practice. In 2006, he and wife Kate moved to Florence, to practice, followed by a move to Huntsville where his focus switched primarily to small animal medicine. But all the while, something was calling him to come back south.
“Deep down…it wasn’t Auburn,” Moore recalled. “It wasn’t East Central Alabama. We knew deep down that we had to get back.”
Moore and his wife returned to Auburn in 2010, and since then he has been offering relief work for veterinarians in the area.
“I’ve been very blessed to work at many different hospitals and for many great veterinarians in the area,” Moore said. “So I’ve been able to use that as a learning tool and know what worked well and develop a kind of style I felt like I would want in my own practice.”
With his own style secured, Moore began scouting locations to open his own practice—wanting to be close to Auburn to meet the needs of the growing community, but also in a somewhat rural setting to allow care for larger animals like horses and cows.
One Friday afternoon this past June, Moore was on his way to Notasulga to attend a friend’s birthday party, and the Loachapoka residence donning a “For Sale By Owner” sign in the yard caught his eye.
“I’d seen this place hundreds and hundreds of times, but never visualized it being a potential area to practice in,” he said. “So I made a mental note. The following Monday I returned and stopped in the parking lot and started to examine the home and just the property, so I called the owner.”
Under the previous ownership of Joe Touchton, who revitalized the property when he purchased it about 15 years ago, the former residence has been used as an antiques and art gallery and most recently an event space.
“He answered all my questions, allowed me to inspect and go over the property as many times as I wanted, and it soon became evident that this place had, even though it was built in 1907, it had tons of potential,” Moore said. “And it had good strong bones, and one thing I love about it, it’s an icon in the community—everybody knows this old house, and it just has an extreme homey feel to it.”
Since he purchased the property in August, Moore has been working with Diversified Builders, LLC out of Notasulga to renovate the interior of the old home to make it suitable for a veterinary practice that will cater to large and small animals and offer general medicine, surgery and both daily and long-term boarding, among other services.
The renovation has involved creating multiple exam rooms out of larger existing rooms, converting the kitchen into a treatment area and enclosing the back porch to serve as an ICU.
Outside, a puppy-proof ornamental fence has been added around the front and sides of the house, while a large backyard where a horse barn will eventually be added is enclosed with a chain-link fence, allowing animals adequate space to stretch their legs.
While the structure of the house is more than a century old, the interior vet’s office itself will boast cutting-edge technology including a portable X-ray generator with the ability to visit patients in the field, and computer systems allowing pet owners to check out from within exam rooms, for example.
“We’re going to start out paperless,” Moore said. “We have a state-of-the-art software system that we’re going to be using, which will enable us to have a convenient and efficient means of communicating with our clients and getting them efficiently checked in and efficiently checked out.”
As activity has returned to the 1907 home and will soon play host to cats, dogs and their people counterparts, locals and curious passersby have taken notice of the renovation efforts—and Moore has received nothing but a positive response.
“Everybody…from the City Council, the neighborhood, neighbors in the area—we’ve had many people just stop and ask questions and say, this is great that you’re taking initiative and bringing this place back to life, and helping the town of Loachapoka,” Moore said.
Saugahatchee Animal Hospital is projected to be open prior to Thanksgiving. The office will offer appreciation discounts for military, police and fire personnel, public health workers and teachers in education and will offer reduced costs for military, police and public service animals.
Moore and wife Kate have a daughter, Lauralee, 2, and a Golden Retriever, “Maddie,” who Moore calls his two biggest helpers. The couple also has another child on the way.
Find Saugahatchee Animal Hospital on Facebook or call 334-826-2009 to reach the office.
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