George Bitgood Was Middletown's Very Own Dr. Doolittle
April 22, 1998|By AMY ASH NIXON; Middletown Extra Editor
MIDDLETOWN -- — I happened to answer the phone last week one day when Annette Champion called our news office to see if someone might be willing to do a story about her father, Dr. George Bitgood Jr., who died on Easter morning at the age of 93.
Right away, a rush of childhood memories of going to Dr. Bitgood with our cats and dogs came back, and I asked to be able to write the story since I had a connection and an understanding of this man.
I went over to the property on Silver Street where Dr. Bitgood and his wife, Muriel, had run their unique veterinary practice for more than a half-century, and got a chance to hear more about the extraordinary life they led.
One of Dr. Bitgood's favorite quotes was ``Turn the other cheek, you'll never win an argument,'' his family said. He did that, and created a world in which he devoted himself to what mattered most to him: to his family and to the animals who would find their way to his door.
Another family story is about how Dr. Bitgood would go visiting the priest at St. Mary's on South Main Street often. And the priest would come pay him visits, too. Once, the priest's dog walked himself over for a visit with the good doctor!
When Dr. Bitgood came to Middletown in 1935, he came into the field his father and uncle had been in for many years already. His uncle, Ellsworth Bitgood, ran a veterinary practice in Middletown, and George Bitgood Jr. came to take it over as his uncle's health was failing.
Between them, the Bitgood vets served pets in Middletown for more than a century.
Mrs. Bitgood always wore a little nurse's uniform, and her nickname was ``Tiny,'' her daughters said. Their father, who wore white shoes, and a white jacket and pants, was known as ``Doc.'' The two were a devoted husband-and-wife who raised five children and worked side by side in a practice that pulled them to work every hour and day of the year. They never took time off, their children said.
Muriel Bitgood died five years ago, and her death made it hard for her husband to continue to work as much as he still wanted to despite his age, his children said.
Dr. Bitgood was still doing a lot of phone consultation with old patients, and occasionally, a patient would still pull in and ring the familiar bell at the side entrance, and he'd come out, his children said.
At one point in his career, and in his service to injured animals, the police department -- appreciative to have a place to bring a hurt animal any time day or night -- named him honorary police chief, his daughter Annette said.
During the years after the Great Depression, Dr. Bitgood would have a free clinic night once a week, and people would line up and wait for his help. The cars would be lined up down Silver Street, residents of the neighborhood recalled. The policy extended to nights other than the free clinic night, too.
April 22, 1998|By AMY ASH NIXON; Middletown Extra Editor http://articles.courant.com/1998-04-22/news/9804190041_1_ext...