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Magic touch

Veterinarian Grant Patrick, left, talks with Sylvia Luz about her dogs Cooper, on table, and Jake, at the Montecito Veterinary Center in Santa Rosa.

CHRISTOPHER CHUNG/PD
Published: Saturday, March 2, 2013 at 3:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, February 28, 2013 at 2:17 p.m.

Santa Rosa veterinarian Grant Patrick has treated a multitude of cats and dogs during his nearly 30 years of practice, but his patient list isn't limited to domestic pets.

When Wildlife Fawn Rescue of Sonoma County needed treatment for a young deer with a gunshot wound last year, Patrick was the man who took the case.

“Grant stayed late, after closing time, and kept two of his assistants overtime,” said Marge Davis, founder of Wildlife Fawn Rescue.

Patrick wasn't able to save that fawn, but he remains dedicated to helping wounded wild animals.

“When you look into a three-pound baby fawn's eyes, it's hard to say no,” Patrick said.

No matter how full the parking lot and waiting room might be at Patrick's Montecito Veterinary Center, he always makes time to treat hurt wild animals, Davis said.

“He has never once turned me down, and he has never charged us a cent,” she said.

The veterinarian shows just as much compassion for tame animals as wild ones, said Charla Paine of Santa Rosa, who has been taking her family's cats and dogs to Patrick since the early 1990s.

“He cares for his patients in a very deep, personal way,” she said. “He treats each animal as if it were his own.”

Treating the medical needs of pets also means working with their owners, and understanding the bond between the two, Patrick pointed out.

“These animals are members of the family,” he said. “Owners know their pets so well. And your dog spends every waking moment analyzing you, and noticing whether you just put on your work shoes or gym shoes, which means going for a walk.”

The veterinarian's magic touch with tame and untamed animals might lead people to assume he spent his childhood in the wilderness or on a farm, but he comes from an urban background.

Patrick, 56, was born in Detroit, Mich., and lived there until he was 12, when his father, Walter, a General Motors factory foreman, retired to Santa Rosa. His father died in 1988, but Patrick's mother, Pat, a retired elementary school teacher, still lives in Santa Rosa.

Shelley Nieman, a longtime member of Dr. Patrick's staff, knew the veterinarian's father, and has no trouble identifying the source of the doctor's love for animals.

“His dad, Walter, used to carry a miniature poodle in his pocket,” she recalled.

Grant Patrick began his work with animals in 1972 as a student at Montgomery High School, when he joined a program that put students to work at local businesses.

“I started working here at Montecito Veterinary Center with the owner, Dr. Kerry Ridgway, and I fell in love with veterinary medicine,” Patrick said.

After graduating with a degree in veterinary medicine from UC Davis in 1984, Patrick went into partnership with Ridgway, then took over when his mentor left the practice in 1987.

Patrick isn't married and has no children, but he and his “life partner,” Dorothy Rose, have been together for 30 years.

“All of my children are fuzzy and four-legged,” he said.

The extended family at their Santa Rosa home currently includes a dog, three cats and two horses, plus “a pack of wild chipmunks and a herd of deer.”

Rose is “very understanding” about Patrick's affinity for animals of all kinds, and his dedication to caring for them, he said.

“We've adopted all sorts of rescue animals,” he explained. “We had a horse that had its teeth smashed out with a baseball bat. I've adopted racehorses that weren't running fast enough, and were headed off to the meat factory.”

In addition to several decades of volunteering with wildlife rescue organizations, Patrick also has given free care to pet mice and rats at local school classrooms, adopted mistreated horses and even befriended feral cats.

“Wild animals have no one to pay their bills,” Patrick said. “So I'm an advocate for wild-animal care.”

He may give them medical treatment, but that doesn't mean he tames them.

“I can't pet the feral cats,” he said. “But they will come up within a few feet of me at feeding time, because they know me. I've been doing it for years.

“Many times, the wild animals become very subdued when we're treating them. They play dead. Coyotes or foxes just freeze.”

One recent afternoon at his clinic, Patrick bore a bright red scratch on his left forearm, but like nearly all of his minor work-related injuries, that didn't come from any wild beast.

“Puppies are probably the worst, because they come running up and jump on you, and they have sharp little toenails that scratch you,” Patrick said. “They're just frisky.”

You can reach Staff Writer Dan Taylor at 521-5243 or dan.taylor@pressdemocrat.com. See his ARTS blog at http://arts.blogs.pressdemocrat.com.

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