By Lanier Laney
Mark Guilloud (pronounced Gill-yard from his French Huguenot ancestors) grew up in Athens, Ga., but spent every summer on his grandfather’s cattle ranch in Texas. Both his father and uncle were veterinarians, so exposure to the world of animals came early. (His grandfather had him driving the cattle trailer at age 13 on the ranch).
He met the love of his life, Alison, who is from an old Savannah family, in a physics class at UGA. “It was love at first sight, although she was sitting on the back row and I sat on the front row because I needed to get a good grade and raise my GPA to get into vet school,” says Mark with a laugh. They were married the following year and Alison went on to get a degree in Microbiology and Mark got his DVM.
After college, Alison got a coveted job as a Merck pharmaceutical rep and Beaufort was part of her territory. “She was the one who brought me here,” says Mark. “And it proved to be a great decision when we moved to Lady’s Island after college. I love the small town life and lovely people here. Every time I leave and return I wonder why I left.”
They raised two wonderful children here, Blake 22, and Bailey, 19, who are at the College of Charleston.
Mark opened his own veterinarian practice here 23 years ago — The Animal Medical Center of the Lowcountry on Shorts Landing Road (about four streets behind Publix off Sams Point Road on Lady’s Island). Alison left Merck and became his practice manager, aka “My boss for 23 years,” says Mark, adding, “She’s a fantastic organizer and motivator and I’ve been lucky to have her by my side. She put together the best support staff I could ever imagine working with.”
These include Gina, Frank, Shelly, Abby, Cora, Erin, Ashley, Tara, Sumor, Tammi and Stephanie. The practice has now grown to also include another great vet, Dr. Caroline Webb Wreden, as well as Julie Snyder who does acupuncture on animals with back, leg, and other problems. Most of their business has come from client referrals over the years since they are not on the main road.
The practice at Shorts Landing Road has grown to include boarding, bathing, acupuncture, chiropractic treatments, weight loss therapy, lots of geriatric work, dentistry, behavioral counseling, and surgery. They’ve frequently been awarded “Best Vet” by The Beaufort Gazette and The Island News Reader Choice Awards over the years. Says Mark, “I am truly blessed to be doing what I love. To be able to get involved with many families, in good and bad times. Solving ‘puzzles’ presented to me. I employ a humble approach to each case, and treat each as if it was my own pet. I look for non-verbal clues in the animals and combine those observations with state-of-the-art tests to tell me what steps to take. I’m lucky to be surrounded by a like-minded highly trained staff.”
Mark jokes that the closest he’s come to being famous is when he performed successful emergency surgery on Barbra Streisand’s dog. “And I also once gave an enema to a dog that regularly played with Steven Spielberg’s dog in the Hamptons,” says Mark with a laugh.
I asked him if there are any special challenges that face summer visitors to the Lowcountry when they bring there pets here. “Yes,” Mark said, “there are lots of summer problems here people new to the area don’t know about — from parasites to heart worms.”
He was very surprised to find that in a national survey, only 50% of owners administer heart worm protection. “Thirty-five percent of that untreated half will contract and most likely die from heartworm, which is very sad because it’s such a easily preventable disease — just one tablet a month.” He added, “just one mosquito bite can infect a dog with 50 heartworm larvae.” He also feels that neglected dentistry problems causes many pets to die years earlier than necessary. “The life span of pets can be increased by two years or longer with proper dental care,” says Mark.
As far as the future is concerned, Mark says with a smile that he’s “halfway to retirement and looks forward to continue doing what they do best — listening to their clients needs and filling them.”
“Acquaintances become friends when they realize you genuinely care about them and their pet. My staff and wife help me and each other when a sad loss occurs. I am reminded all too frequently that life here is very temporary. I can only hope to affect as many as possible in a positive manner. Pets never cease to amaze me with their amazing personalities, unique only to them. I love my people and I love their pets. I love working in a positive environment with great employees. I think our best work is yet to come. It’s exciting to be in this evolving field!”