HUDSON — Dr. Jack Musgrave was a bear of a man with a big laugh and an animal lover's heart.
The owner of Dr. Musgrave's Acupet Veterinary Services spent most of his career in Pasco County, where he treated animals using acupuncture, homeopathy and other alternative methods.
Loyal clients drove their pets in from other counties to see a man who said he wanted to deal with the causes of illness, not just cover up symptoms.
They came to value the man as much as the care he provided. Dr. Musgrave was the rare veterinarian who would not only euthanize their animal when it was time, but cry with them afterward.
All of which makes his unexpected death that much harder to bear.
Dr. Musgrave died Feb. 26, the same day he suffered a stroke. He was 62.
"He had the ability to walk into a room and immediately warm everything up," said Barbara Allen, his hospital manager and head technician. "He had a demeanor that made everyone comfortable. He spoke with confidence and knew what he was talking about."
Said Dr. Tony Remillard, his partner at Acupet: "He was a super nice guy, and all the clients loved him. It was like going to see your grandfather."
Dr. Musgrave began getting interested in alternative medicine more than a decade ago, around the time he stopped practicing in New Port Richey and set up shop in Hudson.
He often used acupuncture, photon and laser therapies instead of drugs, and could even get cats to sit still for it.
"You would think that if you stick a lot of needles in cats, they would not be too happy about it," said Diane Aldrich, his office manager. "But they just lie there on the table. They are fine about it."
Now 37, Aldrich has been working for Dr. Musgrave since she was 18. She recalled the first time she saw her boss implant gold beads in a dog, a tan mutt hobbled by arthritis.
"I thought it was a bunch of (bunk). 'He's going to do what? And this dog is supposed to be able to walk?' "
When it was time to let the dog loose to see its owner, Aldrich said, "It jumped past me and ran down the hall."
Joan Rees, of New Port Richey, a 31-year client, had a similar experience with Dixie, an arthritic border collie mix.
"The morning after he did (implanted gold beads)," said Rees, 77, "I could see how she was, like, feeling her body. And she just kind of scampered. It was like, 'Oh, I don't hurt anymore.' "
A native of Lima, Ohio, Dr. Musgrave graduated from Ohio State University and its veterinary school. After moving to Pasco County, he did house calls out of a mobile unit and practiced on Rowan Road in New Port Richey.
Like most vets, Dr. Musgrave treated all kinds of critters, though he swore off horses after a mare's kick narrowly missed his head.
He gravitated toward alternative medicine and found a calling in it. He traveled the country training veterinary students.
At his clinic, he was known for treating animals that had been deemed too aggressive elsewhere.
"He's got a really good reputation," said Dr. Gerald Wessner, a veterinarian in the Ocala area who also uses acupuncture. The therapy is gaining in acceptance among veterinarians, Wessner said, in part because it does not have harmful side effects.
"You have drugs approved by the FDA," Wessner said, "and they say, 'There are all these side effects, and maybe death.' We don't have that as a disclaimer."
Unlike human therapies, the benefits of alternative therapies on animals cannot be dismissed as placebos.
"You can't tell the dogs, 'We're going to stick needles in you and it's going to make you feel better,' " Aldrich said. "The dogs don't understand that. All you can go by is their actions. They are not limping afterward, and they can move better."
Allen said she will always remember a house call she performed with Dr. Musgrave. An elderly woman needed her beagle mix euthanized, but was too infirm herself to make the trip.
"He sat on the couch and put his arms around her," said Allen, 45. "She was crying. He was crying. He held this woman, and he rocked her.
"That's the kind of man he was."
Andrew Meacham can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 892-2248.