The Stephenville area is home to some truly excellent veterinary clinics, doctors, medical technicians and administrative staff - so many amazing friends of furry and feathered pets - that we can’t possibly tell our readers about all of them.
But because of the continuous, months-long care for one of our fading old rescue cats, Ozzie, there’s one vet this reporter has gotten to know pretty well and can talk about from personal experience – Dr. Grayson Gerhardt at Animal Health and Medical Center (AHMC).
After doing his undergraduate work at Texas A&M University, he was accepted into veterinary school there and graduated in 2007. In 2008, Gerhardt joined the staff of AHMC and has been there ever since.
Gerhardt grew up in an animal-rich environment on the family’s peanut-and-cattle operation between Cisco and Rising Star.
“We had a strong Christian upbringing and that sustains me today,” he says. “I believe there’s one Creator and these animals are His creations. So are the people who bring them in to us."
It’s the relationships with people that Gerhardt feels is probably the most rewarding thing about his profession.
“When I first started out, I didn’t anticipate that. But now I value it so much," he says. "You may not be able to fix every situation but you can help people get through the rough times − and ultimately, that’s the most important component of this profession to me.”
Gerhardt’s wife, Lauren, teaches reading at Stephenville ISD and they have a place out in the Seldon area where they have enough room for cattle.
“Lauren grew up like me, out in the country. She’s from Old San Patricio, in the rural area around Corpus Christi. We were so fortunate to find a small piece of land that’s only six miles from town that we could afford,” he says. “And we have some great neighbors.”
“We’re very active at Harvey Baptist Church here in Stephenville,” Gerhardt says. “Our faith is at the center of everything, and when I was growing up, one thing our parents would always ask after we did something is: ‘Did you do it to the best of your ability, as unto the Lord?’ That’s a very good question to ask yourself in all that you do, I think.”
The family still owns and works the land he grew up on – the peanut farm is no longer in production, but the cattle operation is − and he’s actively involved in that with his brother Garrett and his dad, John.
Gerhardt’s mom is Louanne, and he has a sister, Kerstin Gorr, who lives with her husband Robert and their three kids in the Cisco area.
The family’s ties to the land started in 1904 when great-grandfather Gerhardt bought the start of what is currently ranched, so it’s a 112-year project.
“We’re always working hard to protect and restore the land,” he says.
The day we brought Ozzie in with a large mass on his shoulder Gerhardt estimated his age at around 10 years old − no spring chicken when it comes to surgery.
The doctor told us that even if the mass was removed, there that was a strong chance it might come back. But we decided to try it, and he removed the growth a couple of days later.
Following that, with Gerhardt’s help − and that of the great staff at AHMC − we were able to give old Ozzie about five months of pretty normal living in our house.
But as the doctor had suspected, the growth came back and things went downhill quickly at that point.
As anyone who has had to make the decision knows, there comes a time when the only merciful thing to do is put an animal down. In old Ozzie’s case, he simply wasn’t young enough or strong enough for another surgery, so we had to let him go.
By that time Gerhardt knew Ozzie and us well, and the decision was made, the doctor gave him the shot that put him to sleep and amazingly the last thing we heard from Ozzie was purring.
The point is, we got to have some lovely moments with Ozzie over the months prior to his passing. And there’s one more thing you should know about our “Ozzie experience” with Dr. Gerhardt.
A few days after Ozzie passed away we received a condolence card from Gerhardt with a hand-written notation that we’ll keep personal.
But suffice it to say, it was a very powerful and moving gesture that he took the time to send that card.
Now that’s my kind of vet.