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Dr. Leon Leishman of DBA Thone Animal Clinic in Blair examines, in 2012, Pee Wee, one of the kittens abandoned at the Jeanette Hunt Animal Shelter.

Being a veterinarian is about relationships with people as much as it is taking care of animals, Leon Leishman said.

"You take care of their animals, yes, don't me wrong," he said. "But if you're somewhat successful (developing relationships) is part of what happens to you."

Leishman retired May 17 after 40 years of taking care of people's pets and 20-and-a-half years owning Thone Animal Care of Blair.

"You kind of wake up all the sudden, and you realize over half your time, you've been here," he said. "You didn't realize you had that much time."

Leishman, who grew up helping out on the family ranch in Alliance, took part-ownership of the animal clinic in 1998 and full ownership in 2011. Before that, he spent time working with other vets at a clinic in Ralston and 15 years by himself in Herington, Kan.

Over his 40 year career, and two decades in Blair, Leishman said he's seen at least one change in the vet business. He said clinics used to have practices that served both large and small animals, but have somewhat moved away from that. At Thone, he said about 95 percent of the patients are small animals.

"There's just not much large animal left in the county," Leishman said. "My terminology is the county is farming more houses than anything."

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Leon Leishman poses a few days after selling Thone Animal Care of Blair and returning from a late mid-May trip out to his ranch in western Nebraska.

Leishman sold Thone to veterinarian Joe DiMari, who's been co-owner of Harvey Oaks Animal Hospital in Omaha. Though the keys changed hands, Leishman said his final minutes weren't without a final stamp on a long career.

"Five o'clock May 17 was my last moment," he said. "Strange enough, just as we closed the door, a lady come driving up with her dog that was passed out. He was OK now, so we didn't need to look at him. When she got there he was OK."

In retirement, Lieshman said he might spend some time at the family ranch, homesteaded in 1912, but he'll be sure to spend a lot of time close to Omaha where his daughters and granddaughters live.

Reflecting on his time in Blair, Leishman said he's found being in a place for a long time nets someone friends rather than customers.

"You get to know your clients and they become more your friends than just a number," he said. "You get to know their family, both the four-legged family and the other, too."

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