Vets and their Own Pets

posted April 15th, 2007 by
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Story by Pat Atkinson

 Area veterinarians share open homes, open hearts, and wide open spaces with a variety of four-footed family members.

Horses, dogs, and cats are most numerous, and there’s a scattering of rodents, reptiles, birds, and fish making themselves right at home among the vets’ pets.

And much of the time, special pets of yesteryear guided their humans to the path to veterinary medicine. 

We thought you’d like to hear some personal pet talk about these furred, feathered, finned family members.


Dr. Melissa Montgomery
Head Vet at the Big and Tiny Zoo

Dr. Montgomery says senior citizen Wellington, a Morgan, "seems to know what I'm thinking" during their 23-year relationship.

There should be a sign in front of the rolling acreage south of Jenks welcoming all visitors to “The Big and Tiny Zoo,” which is what Dr. Melissa Montgomery’s daughter calls the family home.

That figures.  In residence are five cats, three dogs (from a big Mastiff to a little Pomeranian mix), four Morgan horses (all big!), and various smaller species including birds, rodents, and latest arrival Mr. Fishy, a red Beta.

Dr. Montgomery, in private practice for about 20 years, is now the Tulsa SPCA’s veterinarian where there’s no shortage of dogs and cats in need of a foster (or permanent) home.  And, yes, a few have “followed” her home.

The group’s longest-timer is Morgan horse Wellington, age 27, who moved into Dr. Montgomery’s life 23 years ago.  “He seems to know what I am thinking,” she says. “He takes care of our (3) children when they ride him, so he has a special place in our hearts.  And now he goes into his stall and looks around as if to say, ‘Why did I come in here?’ just like I do in the house!”

Other “special” furry friends include Gwyneth, an unforgettable English Mastiff rescued from death row at a municipal shelter (her name means “love and happiness”) who shares 125 pounds of unconditional canine love, and Owen, a most “Garfield-like” cat who once kissed Dr. Montgomery just above the left eyebrow, the exact spot where she kisses him.

Another equine, a pony named Beauty, was this young country girl’s first pet, shared with her brother and sister.  “Beauty was old and kind of lame, but she and I explored the county together.  As I got older, I would take off on her and be gone all afternoon.  I am profoundly grateful to my parents for allowing me that independence.”

After leaving for college, she missed the many family farm animals and soon found that majoring in veterinary medicine “became attractive as a way to be in contact with many animals, but not necessarily have to support them!  So, I guess all the dogs, cats, horses, cows and other animals that I grew up with brought me to my life’s work.”  

And about that “Big and Tiny Zoo” name.  When daughter Bonnie was 3, she had a plan to charge admission to the “Zoo,” but Mom would get in free since her job was to vet the animals! 

Dr. Montgomery, formerly in private practice, is veterinarian for the Tulsa SPCA.

Dr. Robin Johnson
A Big Heart for Pets in Need


Dr. Johnson takes a break for some playtime with Hank, one of her eight rescued dogs.

 You might guess that Hank the Australian shepherd loves rounding up chickens.

And those chickens probably get plenty of runaround at Dr. Robin Johnson’s home on an acreage populated with eight dogs, five horses, two cats, and a turtle.  All the dogs are rescued from the City shelter or adopted from groups, except Hank who found a safe haven on the family porch during a frightening thunderstorm.

Three of the eight dogs are dalmatians, a favorite of Dr. Johnson’s and the breed that was her first pet.  “A dalmatian named Rocane was my mother’s dog before she was married and the dog lived until I was in junior high school,” she recalls.  And, while in veterinary school, she adopted dalmatian Queenie the Weenie, her constant companion for 16 years.

Dr. Johnson’s life-long animal attraction may have started when a young Robin met a woman who “had an amazing dog named Tippy that did wonderful tricks like playing the piano and singing.  I was mesmerized watching that dog and I wonder if that’s what lighted the (veterinary) spark when I was a child.”

But she could have strayed into the plant world rather than pets.  “My parents are artists and encouraged me to do what I wanted.  I have always loved plants and animals and I knew my career would involve one or the other,” she says.

She says “unconditional love” is what she likes most about her pet pals – and there’s plenty of that at her home in the country wrapped in packages covered with fur, feathers and even a golden turtle shell.

A veterinarian for 25 years, Dr. Johnson owns Riverbrook Animal Hospital.

Drs. Jennifer and Chris Adolph  
Of Hoof and Paw Prints

Drs. Jennifer and Chris Adolph are at home with Topper the pony, Rex the Doberman, and Scratchy the cat (sleeping elsewhere).

Much like Hansel and Gretel’s bread crumbs, trails of hoof prints and paw prints will lead you to the Drs. Jennifer and Chris Adolph.

Dr. Jennifer cares for horses at her equine clinic and makes calls at area ranches and farms. Dr. Chris treats small animals at his Broken Arrow hospital.

And, it all comes together in Bixby where the veterinarian couple and their three children come home to happy tail wags from Rex the rescued Doberman, soft nickers from “ancient” fuzzy pony Topper, and a yawn from fat yellow cat Scratchy.

Animals big and small led the way from the earliest years to today’s career decisions for each of these veterinarians.

Here’s a bit about them and the pets who helped along the way.

Chris Adolph

Butch the beagle grew up with his best buddy Chris.  When Butch became sick, Chris’ father set out to follow the family’s country custom of ending the dog’s misery at the end of a gun.

But not 13-year-old Chris.  With his life’s savings in hand, Chris convinced his father to take Butch to an area veterinarian for help.  “I know now that what was wrong with Butch was a large abscess that is treatable.  But, I didn’t know anything then and as I watched the doctor help Butch for me it was magic.  He saved Butch from what I thought was certain death.  I knew then what I wanted to do,” he recalls.

Jennifer Adolph

Hoss the dog understood conversational English.  “I’d mention ‘dinner’ and he’d be in the kitchen before I got up from my chair and he was so sensitive to emotion that I wondered if he could read my mind.  I often joked that he wrote deep poetry when I was at work,” she says.

And Mirah was her first horse.  “I took such joy in the day-to-day care of her that I knew I wanted to work with horses for a living.  The most fascinating part was when the veterinarian worked on her.”

Both of these animals pointed her to veterinary practice.  “Mariah helped me feel confident as a teenager and gave me a sense of who I was and helped me grow up.  Hoss was with me through veterinary school and some intense personal times, an incredible dog.”

The Adolphs agree that today’s furry family members are great companions for their children.

Rex, rescued from Broken Arrow animal shelter, joined the family at age 4 months, disfigured from scissors used to cut his ears and tail in someone’s backyard.

Named Rex because his ragged ears give him a T-Rex look, he’s Mr. Cool about 4-year-old Shea’s pestering with baby blanket wraps and sitting atop him.  “He takes care of our three kids,” Dr. Jennifer says.  “One of my colleagues explained it this way – ‘Rex has been to hell and he knows this is not it’.”

Indeed.  The furry Adolphs bring lots of personality to the family clan.  Rex chases “anything that happens to be flying through the air – water from the hose, snowflakes, balls, birds,” Dr. Jennifer says.  Topper the fuzzy pony adds his commentary with soft “horse-speak” greetings each morning and plays like a little circus horse when turned out. Scratchy the fat yellow cat?  Our guess is that he’s champion sleeper.

Dr. Jennifer Adolph owns Tulsa Equine Veterinary Service, based in Bixby, and Dr. Chris Adolph’s practice is Southpark Veterinary Hospital, Broken Arrow.

Dr. Mark Shackelford

Combining Interests – Medicine and Pets

"Hurry up! I'm ready to chase," is Liesl's "dog speak" to Dr. Shackelford during a regular romp in the park.

Life is a romp in the park for Liesl, 1-year-old German shepherd who takes Dr. Mark Shackelford for a game of chase-the-tennis-ball as often as possible.

Liesl is still a youngster and “seems to have her internal clock set for this activity for a certain part of the afternoon or evening, and she will let us know when it is time to go.  We both get outdoors and get some exercise that we probably wouldn’t get otherwise,” Dr. Shackelford says.

This big puppy, named for one of the children in “The Sound of Music,” shares homelife with senior citizen cat Bartholomew, 15; Sterling, 4, a bottle-fed kitty upon arrival at age five days; Harper, 2-year-old cat, and five Koi.

While Dr. Shackelford doesn’t identify a favorite pet (“It’s almost like asking if you had a favorite child”), he remembers his first pet, English bulldog Gussie who tolerated the family’s five children and was the only family pet he recalls having puppies “which made quite an impression on me at age 3 or 4.”

He notes the family “always had five or six animals as pets when I was growing up.”  Regular trips to the veterinarian’s office combined with his interest in medicine.  

“My father was a dermatologist, so I grew up with the culture of medicine, including journals with graphic photographs of different skin diseases.  I suppose my epiphany came during a tour of an open house of the veterinary school at Oklahoma State in Stillwater.  After that tour, I knew that was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.”

Dr. Shackelford, a veterinarian since 1982, is a partner in 15th Street Veterinary Group.


One Response to “Vets and their Own Pets”

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