Last week was bittersweet at River’s Edge Veterinary Hospital as Dr. Charles Diekroeger’s name was replaced by Dr. Russell B. Jones’ name on the front door. For 52 years, “Doc” Diekroeger has taken care of Massac County animals large and small, as well as their owners. I have heard countless stories about Doc’s kindness and compassion, not only to animals, but to people. Doc graduated from the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine in 1954 and was immediately enlisted in the Air Force as a meat-inspector until 1956. He then practiced in St. Louis before coming to Massac county in 1961, working for Dr. Tom Garrett. He went out on his own in 1965. He is a mentor and also a father figure to me, about the same age as my dad would have been if he was still living. And Doc reminds me of my father in so many ways. While Dad and Doc are both small in stature, both their physical and mental strength are astonishing. Same goes for their easy ways around horses, cattle and people, they naturally make everyone feel comfortable around them. My dad didn’t get mad very often and was always soft-spoken, but somehow he exuded power and confidence and I never wanted to disappoint him, ever. I spoke to one of Doc’s three daughters, Susie, and she said her dad was very much that way as well and is, in fact, something of a Horse Whisperer. When I first considered starting my practice in Metropolis in 2007, I meet with Doc and he welcomed me with open arms. He had been ready to slow down for a while, he said, but was hoping someone would come along to take up the slack. He decided to close his practice when I opened mine and gave me instant credibility by letting me put his name on our door. No one in Metropolis had ever heard of Dr. Karla but when they saw Doc’s name below mine they said, “If Doc says you’re OK, that’s good enough for me.” For several years, Doc worked on Fridays at River’s Edge but soon decided he would be happier just doing routine vaccines and blood testing horses, his first love. Which he is going to continue to do, he promised! He’ll also remain a familiar face around River’s Edge Veterinary Hospital, where we get the pleasure of seeing him at least several times a week.
It was my intention for Doc’s name to remain on our door until he passed to be with his beloved Mary, who died very unexpectedly in January 2008. But about a month ago he told me that it was time to put Dr. Jones’ name in place of his. Dr. Jones had started his career with us in March, after graduating from Ross University’s Veterinary School in January. A Paducah, KY native, Dr. Jones is a perfect fit for our practice. He is smart, has great surgical and diagnostic skills, and has that same easy way with animals and people as Doc and Dad. It has become clear that Dr. Jones is here to stay and Doc, the class act that he is, recognized that. Since I ignored his first request, Doc told me again it was time and this time he said, “Karla, take my name off the door, I’m tired of people bothering me.” I know good and well that Doc is not tired of people bothering him, he just is one of the most honorable people I know and he knew it was time to let Dr. Jones take his reins.