The good doctor

Paul Wise

Photo by Daniel Taylor

Celebrating one’s 98th birthday would certainly seem like a noteworthy event. But for Chico veterinarian Dr. Paul Wise, Sept. 5, the day he turns 98—“if I make it,” he cautions with a laugh—is just another day on the job. A veteran who served during World War II, Wise graduated from the College of Veterinary Medicine at Colorado State University in 1950. He went on to own his own practice in Orange County for many years before “retiring” to Magalia in 1976. He was hired part-time at Evers Veterinary Hospital in Chico shortly after that, where he’s been a veterinarian, mentor and, by all accounts, a genuine character ever since.

What’s your secret to longevity?

I think it’s never catch something that the doctors can’t cure.

How long have you been a veterinarian?

Since 1950. About 66 years.

How have things changed over the years?

When I came out of veterinary school, we thought we were practicing real modern medicine because we wore rubber gloves when we did surgery. Before that, they were doing surgery bare-handed. When I graduated from school, primarily you did your diagnosis at the exam table by what you saw, what you felt and what you heard. If you needed laboratory work done, you had to collect a specimen and mail it to some college and wait for them to run it and mail it back, and by that time, the patient would be either dead or over it. Now, we do laboratory work right here in the clinic. It’s more of an exact science now.

Why did you decide to start working again after you sold your practice and moved up here?

We bought two lots. My idea was I’d build a house on the one and put a little veterinary clinic on the other. But I got to thinking, “If I build a clinic up here, I’m right back to where I was.” So I did nothing for a year; never picked up a scalpel or a syringe. My wife told me one day, “I’m gonna tell you like Casey Stengel’s wife told him: I married you for better or for worse, but not for lunch every day.” So I took a hint that maybe she wanted me out of the house some of the time.

How long do you plan to keep working?

As long as I can get up and down the hill. As long as I have a driver’s license to get from there to here. Who knows? Tomorrow maybe, or 10 years from now. Once, I was asked, “If you had your choice in how you’d die, what would you prefer?” And I said, “Well, let’s see. I would prefer to be shot by a jealous husband at about 105.” Maybe I’ll make it 110. But so far, no jealous husbands.