Longtime Wilton veterinarian Kevin J. Craw snuggles with Piggy, his deaf and blind rescue Pug, from an old-fashioned wooden chair in his waiting room when a client slaps him on the arm of his white jacket.

“Good luck. Thank you for all you’ve done,” says the client, who has heard that Craw is retiring.

After 42 “wonderful” years, Craw said, the practice he began at 114 Westport Road when he was 24 years old is closing.

At the age of 66, he will continue to live in his house on the 3.5-acre property, with his wife Moira, who teaches piano there and has a following of her own, but because of zoning regulations, no new business will take over the vet’s office out back, which has been operating as such since after World War II.

“Now it’s time to make a change,” Craw said last week in a letter to The Bulletin, announcing his retirement to the community.

He plans on spending more time with grandchildren and vacationing in places like the New Jersey shore. His plans also include working on old cars and motorcycles.

“I love to fix things,” he said, explaining that is what drew him to his work as a veterinarian. That, and the variety as a medical doctor of treating issues from skin rashes to broken bones.

Only he did not practice medicine on people. He practiced gracious customer service with them.

“If you don’t take care of the people, you won’t have any customers. You can’t just take care of the animals,” he said, after giving it some thought.

Craw treated small animals, including cats, dogs, birds, snakes and turtles. He didn’t handle farm animals such as horses and cows.

His specialty was being an old-time, independent veterinarian. Nowadays there are national chains and corporate operations that offer animal medical services, and there is no shortage of competition.

He realized it was time to pack it in after a dinner meeting with his staff workers last year.

“They were working on my account, and I was working to keep their jobs going. It turns out they wanted to retire and they were wondering when I was going to retire,” he said.

They weaseled the information out of him, rather than ask him directly.

“Dog rabies tags come 1,000 to a box, printed with our name and number. My receptionist asked me how many we would be needing,” he said, referring to a resupply question.

It was then that they knew they had come to the end of the line.

The Wilton Chamber of Commerce wishes him the best in his retirement, “He was one of our charter members and a pleasure to work with,” said Chamber executive director Debra Hanson.

He is also a past president of the Wilton Kiwanis Club, as well as the YMCA board, and served on the former Wilton United Way a long time. He was a member of the board of the former Wilton Bank, and remains vice president of the Wilton Historical Society.

“I’m keeping up with my activities. They tell me now that I’m retired I can do even more,” he said jokingly.

Craw’s word of advice to anyone interested in pursuing the veterinary profession is to start at the bottom.

“I started as a high school student, shoveling poop. I made $1 an hour,” he said with a laugh.