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Dr. Ralph Derrickson operates on a cat at the Rowan County Veterinary Clinic. Derrickson opened his practice nearly 40 years ago.

A veteran vet

story by Carly Geraci

The Rowan County Veterinary Clinic is always a busy place: Wrestling big dogs to clip their nails. Spay and neuter surgeries. Cleaning cats' teeth without getting bitten.  And, occasionally, putting a suffering pet out of his misery. But still, Dr. Ralph Derrickson and his staff keep the atmosphere laid back and friendly, which is one reason people have been coming here for four decades.

There were no other animal clinics in the county when Ralph, a Lexington native who grew up in Jackson and Morehead, purchased the property in 1978. With a lot of support from his wife, Patti, the two opened the Rowan County Veterinary Clinic. Most clients have been taking their pets there for years, if not decades.  Ralph started helping Linda and Burl Hogge when they had cattle on their farm nearly 40 years ago. Linda went to high school with Ralph and admires his gentle nature.

"Morehead is a unique community," Linda says. "How many places can you love and get to know everybody?"

The clinic is a valuable resource for students in the pre-veterinary program at Morehead State University who need volunteer time. Ralph says he and his staff always try to do what is best for an animal, regardless of its owners' financial circumstances. A couple of months ago, a client was checking out and worried about paying the bill of $300 or $400.

Another client in the waiting room noticed the man's worry and paid the bill as soon as he left.

“That makes you feel good about the people you have here, the people who come in,” Ralph says while operating on a cat.

Clients describe Ralph as a gentle, caring professional who works well with their animals.

“He has integrity and the people of this community know that," says Anna Justus, a vet technician. "They know they can put their trust in him."

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Jan Dacci holds her chihuahua, Bella, before checking out at the clinic. Jan rescued Bella from the Tri-County Animal Shelter after her original owners wanted to euthanize her.

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Patients wait to see Perry during a busy morning at the clinic.

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Ruby Parnel, a veterinary technician, kisses Baxter, who is suffering from a leg injury.

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Ralph works on the teeth of a dog.

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Amanda Smith of Morehead says a final goodbye to her dog, Baby, at the clinic. Baby was euthanized because of a heart murmur.

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Anna Justus pets her dog Lizzie after putting away patient files at the clinic. Lizzie is dying from bone cancer.

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Heather Conn (left) checks on animals in the kennel while Dr. Perry Brown takes a nap at the clinic. Perry fills in for Ralph when he goes to his second job or on vacation.

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Ralph's grandson, Paxton Derrickson, 5, poses after picking up his dog at the clinic. His dog ate a batch of brownies the night before.