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Stephen F. Austin State University

Dr. Anthony Holcomb: Healing Hands (April 2017)

Dr. Anthony Holcomb: Healing Hands

By Deborah Burkett

A childhood ambition led to a lifelong journey. One filled with passion, dedication and endless hours. These are the building blocks; the foundation of a successful business located on Highway 84 in Rusk. Shakespeare might have described the journey as "such stuff as dreams are made…"

Walking into the Cherokee Animal Clinic in 2017, one is impressed with the entire operation-especially when the back story is revealed. Located where the old Mac's Bait and Tackle Building stood, this current state-of-the-art facility is where animals, large and small, are treated by a local veterinarian and his faithful staff. Each instilled with a caring heart and healing hands, all the while employing state of the art medical techniques.

Born March 29, 1965, at Nan Travis hospital, Anthony Jay Holcomb knew early on what he wanted to do. In elementary school this young boy assured his teacher he was going to be a vet!

Along the way to achieving his goal, Holcomb faced many obstacles. Had to make tough decisions such as the one put before him by parents, James Ernest Holcomb and Mary Doris Carpenter.

After he completed undergrad school at A & M, Anthony's parents sat him down and gave him a choice. They'd buy him a bass boat or send him to vet school. Bass boat or vet school--Anthony had to think-he did love to fish. This was indeed a test of his resolve.

Animal lovers throughout Cherokee County are extremely grateful he chose vet school. Holcomb also chose a life partner, who would be with him every step of the way. He shared, "Chris and I were high school sweethearts in Rusk-we married when I was a junior at A & M---married in 1986---at 21 years old…"

One of their primary goals was to return to Rusk, be with family, friends and open a clinic. To achieve this part of the dream several things needed to fall into place, one included taking care of a tiger!

Holcomb received his DVM from the LSU School of Veterinary Medicine. While completing his degree there, he took care of Mike, the LSU Tiger.

According to Chris, "Anthony and I have been together since high school-knowing how much he wanted to be a vet-going through college, writing papers, knowing we could work together in grad school and vet school---I fully supported him-told him we could do this together. And it's been wonderful. There are no words to describe our struggles from long ago to what the business is now. We had a vision..."

With passion clearly evident in her voice, Chris continued, "When we started the business, we had no building -we saw cows in our front yard---we had a calf on an IV under the swing set---we saw patients on the patio-saw patients in our house on our table…"

During one of my last visits with the late Marie Whitehead, I asked her about Dr. Holcomb. Would she give me a quote for a column I wanted to write? In true Marie fashion-she didn't skip a beat.

Marie acknowledged, "…By all accounts Holcomb's a wonderful vet, my husband Emmett thought the world of Anthony's father-and his mother too…they had business and city dealings…"

When I asked Whitehead if she wanted to add anything else, she smiled and said, "Anthony comes from good stock…"

High praise for a veterinary physician and I certainly concur. Besides one never disputed anything Marie Whitehead said.

Note: In full disclosure, I'm a bit prejudiced. I first got to know Dr. Holcomb and his superb staff when I bought home two kittens from the League City Animal Shelter. That's how far I had to travel to find a Russian Blue mix to replace Smokey Joe. Unbeknownst to me, they had the cat flu. Dr. Holcomb and Dr. Will Prachyl literally saved their lives. Each time I visited the clinic, I wondered, "What makes Dr. Holcomb tick? Where did the dedication come from? What makes him care so much about each and every patient and their human owners too?"

I never dreamed Dr. Holcomb's story would include a tiger, a cow with an IV under the swing set and a bass boat!

Graduation, all smiles.

Before a building, treating a calf with an IV in the front yard.

A bass boat or vet school?