Detroiters and architecture buffs alike are well aware of the city's reputation for historical buildings. And while many of the best-known are tied to the auto industry, animal lovers will be pleased to know that Detroit holds a piece of pet history, too. Located on the city's west side, Patterson Dog and Cat Hospital is the oldest known operating veterinary clinic in the U.S., and it has been serving Detroiters and their furry friends for 177 years.
"It started out just with taking care of horses and farm animals, because that's what was here in 1844," said Dr. Glynes Graham, who is both a veterinarian and the Hospital's owner. "The original Hospital was downtown on Griswold Street, and then they moved their facility to kind of halfway between where we are now and the old Hospital."
Today, the building stands in a third location on Grand River Avenue that was constructed in 1905, and it has since been remodeled to focus treatment on dogs and cats only. Still, Graham said that those with a good eye can spot details of the building's past in design features like space previously used for horse stalls and, of course, the shape of the building itself, which to Graham resembles a "giant brick barn."
For the LGBTQ+ community, there's an added layer of history as well. Graham, who purchased the property in 1985 after years of working and volunteering there since she was a teenager, identifies as a lesbian. She came out shortly after purchasing the Hospital, and she has made a point of being authentically herself ever since.
"We don't advertise ourselves as a primarily LGBT [business], though many of my staff members are, and we try to support the community," Graham said. "We advertise in Between The Lines, and we try to make sure we have a presence in the community."
Graham emphasized that she's never prioritized her LGBTQ+ identity over the work of being a veterinarian, but she's glad that her practice has afforded both herself, her staff and pet owners a welcoming and accepting environment.
"I don't think there's anybody that knows me that doesn't know that I'm gay," Graham laughed. "It is absolutely not a secret and it never has been. So, for as long as I have been out, that's just been part of who I am. … I have certainly had employees that were concerned about their own ability to be OK [if they were out] in an [employment] situation, and I think they find it really great that here is a place you can come and nobody really cares."
Perhaps it's the unique combination of inclusivity, history and track record of quality pet care that has been the secret to Patterson Dog and Cat Hospital's longevity. Whatever it is, Graham is eager to carry on those traditions, and she looks forward to celebrating its momentous 200th birthday.
"Our history is really important to us, and particularly important to me. I think the fact that we have such an amazing history is one of the things I really love about this hospital," she said. "We had a big celebration for our 150th anniversary, we had a big celebration for 175th and, absolutely, when we hit 200, there will be another big celebration."
Patterson Dog and Cat Hospital is accepting appointments during COVID-19 restrictions. Visit pattersondogandcat.com or call (313) 832-7282.