Respect for Animals and Science Expertise Lead Father And Daughter To Veterinary Careers
George Woodley And Jesse Woodley Benefit The Profession With Their Talents
By Mara Soloway
Since earning his doctorate of veterinary medicine from Auburn University in 1982, George H. Woodley, 64, has treated numerous large and exotic animals such as sick tigers, an emu that was attacked by a dog and a kangaroo that needed surgery after swallowing rubber bands. But it has been the 32 years of caring for companion animals at First Colony Veterinary Clinic and Kennels that have been the most meaningful.
“This is the best pet-owning clientele in the world. You have smart people who make a good living and proactively take good care of their pets,” George said. “I’ve had the opportunity to see the animals come in as puppies and kittens and treat them through their lifetimes. It’s really great that now we’re seeing our clients’ kids bring their pets in. I hope their grandkids do too someday.”
George has invested years of skill and effort into building First Colony Veterinary into the success it is since 1985, when he and his wife, Marcy, moved to Sugar Land and he took over the practice. It has been in its current location since 1988, a year before their first daughter, Hanna, now 27, was born. And he knows the clinic will be in good hands whenever he retires to tend to his horses out on the family’s acreage. That’s because their daughter Jesse, 23, plans to join the practice after she graduates from the Texas A&M University veterinary college in 2019.
She earned her B.S. degree from A&M in animal science and human psychology in 2015 by attending school most of the year round. At the same time, she also worked at an emergency clinic, as an on-call technician, and at A&M’s small animal clinic. “I wanted to learn as much as I could so I would be comfortable in the work situation,” Jesse said. “I do have an advantage over some because I have general knowledge of what to do and why you do it, hands-on experience, and also experience performing under pressure, like prepping for and being in emergency surgery.”
In addition to choosing the same career, this father and daughter also think along similar wavelengths, finishing each other’s sentences during conversations of rapid speech. George calls Jesse the smarter one, but that’s another similar trait: modesty, such as Jesse’s modesty about the special affinity for animals she has had since her childhood. Her father has long been impressed by it.
“Her relationship with animals has been special since almost the minute she was born. I went out one morning when Jesse was about four and heard rustling in the leaves. It was her coaxing a lizard into her hands,” George said. Just like Harry Potter, snakes at the zoo turned to look at her through the glass. A wide menagerie of animals came under her influence as a child. “I got a fish tank when I was four – that was awesome and made me really interested in marine life – I took honors oceanography at A&M,” Jesse said. “I got a bird for my sixth birthday, I got riding horses when I was eight – that was big. We had rabbits and a bunch of cats and dogs.” She was also around goats and cattle.
“I’m not surprised where she is at all. I think she’s smart enough and works hard enough that she could have done anything she wants to and be successful at it,” George said.
They agree that Jesse having a background in psychology will definitely help her seeing animal patients. “It helps you understand why people behave the way they do about their animals. I also took comparative psych class,” Jesse said. George said, “I can promise you sometimes you’re more concerned about the owner.”
Those human owners of George’s patients have lauded him for discovering symptoms of diabetes and the long-term effects of parvovirus and getting their pets on the road to recovery. “It takes an unbelievable number of hours of instruction and then practical experience to gain that skill. What we do in that exam room is an interrogation,” he said. “You have to know what you’re looking at with the pet, and other information that the owner sees is valuable to know.”
It also takes the incredible appreciation that Jesse and George have of animals as the phenomenal creatures that they are. “For many of us horses are a luxury, but there are plenty of working cowboys who rely on those horses every day, and it’s a heck of a thing to see. Any animal doing its job is a pleasure to watch, whether herding, hunting and protection dogs and cutting, jumping and rodeo horses,” he said. “I take care of Fort Bend County law enforcement canines, and they’re just astounding critters who are doing the job they have the talent for.”
More than 35 years will separate the Woodleys earning their doctorates of veterinary medicine. Over his career, George has seen the changes in the profession and feels that “Degree of specialization is probably the most significant thing we’re seeing – dermatology, neurology, internal medicine, oncology, ophthalmology and others.” He’s also impressed with how technology is affecting veterinary science, such as the ultrasound now being a portable device. Jesse’s professors have said the MRI will be in use in general veterinary practice soon. They both have seen that advances made in human and veterinary medicines can get incorporated into the other.
George doesn’t consider age to be a defining measure of someone’s ability as a veterinarian. Today’s students like Jesse are benefitting from learning new techiques and getting clinical experience. “I tell the interns that I’m going to get as much out of them as they’re going to get out of me,” he said. “My obligation is to give everything I can to the group of veterinarians coming behind me and make their life easier as they move through the profession.”
George is appreciative of many things in addition to having that opportunity to teach and to learn from people based on their abilities, not their age. “I’m proud to have all these great clients over all this time. It’s been very meaningful for me to have known them and known their animals. And I’m proud to have someone as talented as Jesse to pass First Colony Veterinary Clinic on to.”