Local boy turns from Border Patrol to animals

Alpine Small Animal Practice and Large Animal Services veterinarian Zach Dodson stands in the clinic’s horse treatment facility. 

After college, Alpine veterinarian Zach Dodson started his career with the U.S. Border Patrol, but his independent spirit led him to a life of helping animals.

His mom Mary is a veterinarian at Alpine Small Animal Practice and Large Animal Services, his grandfather was a veterinarian, and his dad is long-time Brewster County Sheriff Ronny Dodson.

The youngest Dodson signed on with the Border Patrol immediately after finishing his undergraduate work at Texas A&M. He served in Marfa from 2008-2012.

“I like to think on my own,” said Dodson, “Working for the federal government, I didn’t feel like I could think on my own. I wanted something where I could use my own thought process. Everything in working with animals is a puzzle, and I’m a big puzzle guy.”

Dodson then applied to veterinarian school at TAMU with the intent of returning to Alpine to help his mom with her practice, and to add large animals to the mix.

Upon graduation in 2016 and before obtaining his license, Dodson worked at a practice in Granbury for about 10 months. He got his license in February 2017, returned to Alpine, and started practicing with Mary in March 2017.

“We have plans for expansion, and have been trying to get another veterinarian onboard. The big question is how to get one out here,” said Dodson. “It almost has to be someone from here who wants to be out here, is willing to work beyond regular business hours, and is willing to work for less than $100,000 a year.”

Since he’s been practicing in Alpine, Dodson has learned there’s never a time when he’s not on call. The phone rings a lot outside of business hours, and he tries to help out wherever and whenever he can, but he noted it was very difficult to have any separation of work and leisure time.

Animal Small Animal Practice serves primarily dogs, cats, and horses, and also performs spays and neuters for Alpine Animal Shelter at a discounted rate.

Dodson said the most satisfying aspect of his work was seeing an animal with a severe problem return to being a happy animal again, whether it involved major surgeries, fixing broken legs, or dealing with endocrine-type issues.

He stressed that client education was also important.

“People think dog food is dog food, but there’s a big difference among foods,” said Dodson.

The 2004 Alpine High School graduate said the clinic’s short-term goal was to “get another veterinarian here so my mom can retire or eventually go part time.”

Once they have some form of commitment from a vet, they will potentially add more exam rooms, a larger waiting room, a specific cat entrance apart from the dog entrance, and more.

“We have no timeframe, and with the difficultly of finding another vet to come to the area, that’s what will set the tone. The moment we do find one, we can proceed from there,” said Dodson, adding, “I’m looking forward to continuing a promising career in the area, and we thank all the clients who support us and depend on us for their animal care.”

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