I grew up on my family’s dairy farm in rural Kentucky, where we also grew and harvested tobacco. We had an array of animals, which included Holstein dairy cows (you may be familiar with the breed as the Chick-fil-A cows), draft and pleasure horses, a mule to plow the tobacco fields, chickens, dogs and barn cats. I knew by the time I was eight years old that I wanted to become a veterinarian and studied at University of Kentucky and Auburn.
I went to Jacksonville, Florida, to complete my internship, and stayed there through 1965. While working in Jacksonville, I met my wife of 51 years, Helen Harrod. She was a school teacher from Mississippi, and we hit it off. I returned to Las Vegas in January 1966 and I worked there for two more years.
One night after I returned to Las Vegas where I worked awhile, I received an emergency call from a lady who asked if I would make an emergency house call to see about her sick dog. She said her name was Mrs. James, and she gave me her address at the Desert Inn Golf Club. When I got to her home, I knocked on the door and when she opened the door, it was Betty Grable! I continued to care for her three dogs for the next two years. When we moved, she gave me a black and white head shot and wrote a nice thank you note to me on the photo. It has been hanging in my office since our doors opened in 1971. I also had the opportunity to care for Wayne Newton’s horses on his ranch just outside of Las Vegas, as well as pets of other celebrities, including Frank Sinatra when he was in town to entertain. It was an exciting time to say the least!
We moved back to the South and I worked in Atlanta for the next three years before opening Dunwoody Animal Hospital in August 1971. The hospital was the first Williamsburg/Colonial style building in Dunwoody. Larry Morris, who developed Dunwoody Village Shopping Center, liked the architecture of my building, and the next year he patterned the village after my hospital. In 1972, I received an award for animal hospital design from Veterinary Economics magazine.
There were very few commercial buildings in Dunwoody at that time. In 1969, when I purchased the property to build Dunwoody Animal Hospital, Dunwoody Village was a hog farm, and Cary Spruill lived across the street in the Dunwoody Farm House. He always kept two or three cows, a mule, and lots of chickens. I could look across the street and see Cary Spruill plowing his garden and corn with his mule.
Cephus Spruill, the former postmaster of Dunwoody, owned the land where the Dunwoody Hall/Publix Shopping Center sits today. I bought the property for my hospital from G. Tom Bailey. Like the Spruills, Mr. Bailey was a large land owner. His property ran from Spalding Drive to Dunwoody Club Drive, where Dunwoody Country Club is located. I was told that years ago, there was a blacksmith shop located on my property. Mr. Bailey was quite the character. He had owned a number of movie theatres throughout Georgia, and he always carried a holstered pistol on his hip. In the early years of my practice, I treated some horses and cattle, but I primarily had small animal clients. Today the practice is entirely small animal. My wife and I have four children, and my oldest daughter followed in my foot steps and graduated from Auburn’s Veterinary School in 1995.
Dunwoody Animal Hospital has had the honor of receiving some awards in the past few years. The Dunwoody Homeowner’s Association gave us the award for “2016 Business of the Year.” This year, Perimeter North Lifestyle magazine readers voted for us to receive the 2017 Best Veterinarian/Animal Care Award. It has been an exciting time for Dunwoody Animal Hospital.
Veterinary medicine has been very good to me, and I have thoroughly enjoyed practicing for more than five decades. Since I opened my practice in Dunwoody, I have had 21 high school and college students that worked with me go on to become veterinarians. I am amazed by the progress and new technology each year. Every day is different, and new challenges crop up along with new and innovative equipment and pharmaceuticals. It has been a wonderful ride, and I am so grateful for all of our clients throughout my 46 years in Dunwoody!