STRATFORD — When it comes to sick animals, Thomas Milos has seen just about everything.

A longtime veterinarian, the 80-year-old helped heal injured horses, nursed sick lizards back to health and once saved the life of a rattlesnake that ate a catheter by mistake.

But after more than 45 years of caring for Stratford residents’ pets, Milos has decided to retire. Shakespeare Veterinary Hospital, his practice on Nichols Avenue, will close on February 17.

“I’ve had an excellent race,” said Milos. “I’ve loved working with people and animals. It’s been interesting work.”

Although Milos hopes to retire, he would prefer that the hospital remain open. He said he has searched for a vet to take over the practice since 2019, but has repeatedly been unable to find anyone interested in buying it.

Instead, he plans to sell the building, which sits near Barnum Avenue and downtown.

Shakespeare Veterinary’s closure comes amid a growing shortage of veterinarians across the country. According to a study conducted last year by Mars Veterinary Health, the country will need another 41,000 veterinarians by 2030 to meet the growing demand for medical care for pets.

In addition to the shortage, Milos said he suspects that part of the reason he couldn’t find a younger vet to acquire the practice is because newly graduated vets often carry large student debt.

“The cost of learning veterinary medicine has skyrocketed,” he said.

Born and raised in Chicago, Milos studied veterinary medicine at the University of Illinois. He paid his tuition with money he received in a settlement after he was struck by a car while crossing the street.

“It was enough to get me into college,” he said. “I come from a working-class family and they couldn’t pay to send me.”

After graduating in 1970, he decided to travel east and soon found a job as a veterinarian in Connecticut. In 1977, he moved to Stratford and opened Shakespeare Veterinary at its original location on Woodend Road.

The hospital got its name from the nearby American Shakespeare Theatre, a once-popular venue that closed in 1989 and burned to the ground in an arson attack in 2019.

“In the evening, when I got off work, my wife and I would go to the theater to see plays, which was very nice,” he said.

Over the decades, he cared for untold numbers of pets, including traditional cats and dogs, but also exotic reptiles and rare birds. Because she sees a wide range of animals, she has had to master different techniques to care for each one.

In recent months, she has worked to find new sitters for her clients’ pets and transferred their medical records.

He credited his practice’s longevity to his former business partner Brenda Murphy, who recently retired after helping run the office for years, and its staff of technicians, assistants and receptionists.

“I have had wonderful staff working for me, and I could never have done this job without them,” he said.

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Twitter @RichChumney.