Arts & CultureEveryday People

Everyday People


Photo Credit: Emily Patrick

Dr. Angela Dodd

Angela Dodd never gets tired of taking care of animals. She says she feels lucky to be able to do something she loves in a town that she loves. Originally from Toccoa, Angela has made Athens her home for almost three decades, and she has been pursuing veterinary medicine for almost as long. She works with dogs and cats for the most part, but, occasionally, she sees guinea pigs, ducks, turkeys… and a 68-pound boa constrictor.

Private practice, Angela explains, is not the only place to work as a veterinarian. DVMs often work for the USDA and other research organizations. Angela chose private practice, however, because she enjoys both people and animals. Flagpole sincerely hopes that Angela will never give up human fellowship, because she can tell a highly animated and entertaining story.

Flagpole : What do you do at the clinic?

Angela Dodd: We see mostly cats and dogs. We do sometimes have other little pocket pets like guinea pigs and hamsters, stuff like that… We do a lot of routine cases… wellness things where we do annual exams for pets that are not sick… vaccines and things like that. And then, we also see sick animals, and we diagnose them based on their clinical signs, and then we can do diagnostic tests to see what’s wrong with them, and that is very interesting to me. I always want to find something that we can fix or do something about.

FP: And you also do acupuncture for animals?

AD: Yes. Basically, I just decided that there are too many things that we just kind of get to a certain point, and we’re like, “Well, we just can’t do anything else for that. Here we are, Western medicine, we can do this, this, this and this. After that, don’t know.” So, I decided I would like to have another toolbox to pull from. Another whole mindset to use. Another entire way to address a problem and maybe get some help that way, too. So, I do integrate traditional Chinese herbal medicine, and we do acupuncture here. I do, anyway. I took a class that lasted over about a year’s time. I would go once a month for a week at a time to the International Veterinary Acupuncture Society for certification… It’s been really awesome, and I’ve had great results.

FP: Do you have many animals of your own?

AD: I have four dogs and four cats, and that is down from more. It’s a situation where you see a lot of animals who need homes who come through here for one reason or another. All my animals are rescue cases and basically animals that no one else wanted. I have to limit myself. I have to make sure that I don’t take on more than I can take care of because this is a job where your hours are long and you’re not home all the time, so I definitely don’t want to have a situation where I have so many animals at home that they don’t get the care that they need.

FP: People sometimes say that pets look like their owners. Do you ever observe interesting things about the relationships between people and animals?

AD: I do, I do. We do sometimes see that, and it’s kind of funny. It’s a small town, so I’m not going to go into huge details, but we do sometimes see strikingly physical similarities between people and their pets, and it’s why I try to choose really good looking animals to be my pets. [Laughs.] Just kidding—I don’t do that. But it’s kind of funny because you’ll have the Irish Setter with the long red hair and the prominent nose, and you’ll have an owner with kind of the same… Back in the ’80s, I had a poodle, and I had a perm, so maybe there’s something going on there.

FP: You mentioned you grew up somewhere very rural. Where was that?

AD: I grew up in Northeast Georgia. I grew up in Toccoa… I guess when I was in high school, I didn’t appreciate the beauty, you know, I didn’t [because] there’s [nothing] to do. You know, we came to Athens or Anderson, South Carolina.

FP: Did you have animals?

AD: I was not allowed to have many animals growing up. My family, they were not animal people, really, and I begged and begged and begged. I would come across a stray kitten, and I would bring the kitten home from school on the bus, and then, I would plant the kitten in the front yard and run into the house and look out the window and go, “Look! Look what’s in the front yard!” And that worked like twice, but after that, they caught on that I was planting those animals out there.

FP: So, you said you went to undergrad and vet school at UGA. How have you seen Athens change in the years you’ve been here?

AD: Well, obviously, downtown changes a good bit, because I remember seeing R.E.M. play before they were really—Mike and the Discos, I think they were called—at some little bar somewhere because they wanted to just play. They were R.E.M. already, beyond belief. This was the mid-’80s… It’s always been, to me, you can find places that you feel like you fit in because there’s such cultural diversity. You can be a lot of different things here, whereas, if you’re in a small town, everybody kind of believes the same way, has the same political beliefs. And if you vary from that, you kind of feel like an outsider, and it’s a little bit easier to fit in here because there’s so many choices that people can make, and everything is more tolerant as far as what I can see anyway from other places, at least in the South.

FP: Is that what you like most about Athens?

AD: I don’t know. I like Athens. It’s home to me, even though I wasn’t born here and didn’t go to high school here. It still feels like home because I’ve lived my adult life [here]. It’s my chosen place to live. I think [what I like most] is that it feels like home, and I have a lot of friends that I’ve had for years here. And, I also have friends—it’s a transient place, in a way, because a lot of people you grow to love and be friends with, and they move on because they’re done with grad school or they’re done with whatever they’re doing, but you still can keep in touch and everything, and [Athens] is kind of still home to them, too. I’ve always just loved Athens. It’s always felt like where I’m supposed to be. I was fortunate to find a job here after school here. I was real fortunate, and I don’t take that for granted at all.

FP: What is the strangest animal you’ve ever worked with? Any snakes or giraffes or anything unusual?

AD: Well, I have seen a snake. This is back when I was a technician, not even in vet school yet. There was a duffle bag on the bench there, and a little guy, and he was so upset, and Rocky was in the duffle bag, and I could see the duffle bag moving a little bit. And this is in the days when I had to stand on the scale and take the animal and weigh the animal with me. And so, he’s like telling me the history: “Rocky is sneezing; Rocky has nasal discharge; Rocky, this.” And the poor little guy looked super, super concerned. So, I have my lubed thermometer in hand, and I’m looking down at the bag, and I say, “All right, can you lift Rocky out of the bag for me?” And he lifts out this giant, giant boa constrictor, and I really just about lost it. And I knew something was up because I could hear people shuffling at the door, the closed door. I could see feet underneath the door, and I’m like, “Damn,” you know? But then, I look in the guy’s eyes, and he’s so concerned, and this is his baby. This was his family.

So, I wondered where to put the thermometer for a minute, and I was like, “Hmm. There’s got to be something somewhere.” He was room temperature. I mean, they’re cold-blooded animals. I didn’t really think about that at the time. But I had to get him up on the scale, so I’m up on the scale with him, and he’s draped behind, and, literally, his head and his tail were on both sides of me on the floor. And he started to massage my neck, and I thought, “Well, maybe he’s feeling too poorly to whip around and choke me.” He weighed 68 pounds.

So, I put him down, and I go out with my sheet, and I open the door, and I knock down, like, everybody: the receptionist, the doctor, the other technicians. They were totally messing with me. And I just busted the door open, and I said, “Rocky, a six-year-old boa constrictor, weighs 68.2 pounds and is less than 70 degrees…” We ended up referring him to UGA, because he was one sick snake.

FP: So, can a snake sneeze?

AD: I don’t know. I never heard him sneeze. That’s just the history that I got. Apparently, the history also was that the guy had moved in with his brother and sister-in-law because he had lost his job, and the sister-in-law was not keen on sharing her abode with Rocky the snake, and he suspected some foul play was involved. I think what it was is that the house was just too cold. Snakes need heat; they need warmth, and I think the snake did get sick from the change of the environment. Plus, the snake apparently would only drink water from the toilet and knew how to open the door to the bathroom, and that might have happened a couple times on the sister-in-law. So, I don’t know that foul play was not involved in that. It’s so long ago, I feel like I can speak about that. I don’t know if there’s any confidentiality with that, but that has been a long time.

But we have [seen some unusual animals]; we’ve seen big turkeys. We see some interesting animals here sometimes… This was a pet turkey that had been bitten by a dog and was OK. Just had a little feathers ruffled and just needed a little something under the wing… It was, like, four feet tall. It was a little bit scary, yeah.

We see ducks sometimes. I love ducks. I’m game for whatever. If people can go to UGA to be referred for things that I’m not familiar with, I’ll send them, but if they can’t, then I’ll gather any information I can. I’ll resource any resource I can resource to figure out what to do to help this animal if I can, if I’m all they’ve got.