Animal Planet’s Dr. Hendersons talk about vet reality and new show

Photo provided by Animal Planet
Photo provided by Animal Planet /
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The Dr. Hendersons of Animal Planet’s new family-focused reality series talk about vet life and the responsibility it entails in this interview with Dog O’Day.

Fox Hollow Animal Hospital rose to fame after a video of Dr. Ross Henderson serenading a patient went viral two years ago, and now Animal Planet is debuting a reality series following the Dr. Hendersons.

That would be Dr. Ross, his older brother Dr. Ryan and their dad, Dr. Tony. Along with two other non-related vets and a dedicated team of technicians and assistants (one of whom is youngest brother Cole) they serve the Denver suburb of Lakewood, Colorado, at Fox Hollow.

The tight-knit, fun-loving trio of doctors were kind enough to do a phone interview with Dog O’Day ahead of the premiere for Hanging with the Hendersons, the transcript is provided below, slightly edited for clarity.

Dog O’Day – What was the filming process like? 

Dr. Ross – “I think that the filming process was exciting in a lot of ways, it obviously took a little bit of getting used to, I mean, we’re just kind of in our small little world trying to be vets in a family practice working together, and then to do that, having cameras around and things took a little bit of getting used to, but honestly our production team was so amazing.

“Not only were they huge animal lovers, but they really didn’t like, have us do anything outside of what we were already doing, so we were just able to be ourselves and they were more like enormous flies on the wall.”

Dr. Tony – “The reason it worked so well – my concern as a business owner was the flow of appointments and time phases, but Ryan and Ross and myself all came in on our day off and if there was anything that needed specific camera accommodation it was well-attended by that extra person who was floating just for the sake of the hospital. So it had little or no impact on our appointment schedule, which made me very happy, clients very happy, and they enjoyed the experience, too. It was a great experience.”

Dr. Ryan – “Yeah, also, that’s just kind of how we function normally, like, if someone gets an appointment that ends up turning into a surgery, then they might miss their appointments that they were supposed to see, and so we’re used to picking up those appointments to help our family members and coworkers. And so there’s maybe a little bit of that, if need be But that wasn’t anything out of the normal, though.”

What would you say is the most rewarding part of your job?

Dr. Ross – “If I had to try to piece together or simplify the most rewarding part of our job, I think it’s the fact that you enter into an area of people’s lives that matters and gives so much purpose and fulfillment.

“And with that, obviously, there’s a cost cause there’s a weight to that, and as far as trying to steward that responsibility, but in general I feel like it’s – growing up with my dad, seeing it firsthand, I think the best way to put it is it turned from an interest into a kind of calling, just being able to have access to people and their family members is really, really fulfilling.

“And as a side note, which we also noticed with all the cameras, too, is that we do really cool stuff all the time that we often forget about, and I think this whole process has just been really cool, reflecting on how cool our job actually is.”

Dr. Ryan – “You’d think our answer would be, y’know, saving animals and all, and really that is one of the most rewarding things, but Ross is so right, the big thing is really the people connections, like Ross said. That was a very good answer.”

Dr. Tony – “When I was 14 years old I was going to be an architect/artist – we have a lot of artistic qualities in our family – and I was given the opportunity to spend the day in a veterinary office, and in that short period of time I went 180 degrees, I gave up art, I started studying chemistry (which I absolutely hate). And so the point of the story is that I actively encourage young people to spend the day at the veterinarian.

“The beauty of the TV show now is that I hopefully be able to show people now what we do on a daily basis, and how we do it, and with whom we do it. I’m really excited because it gives kids a chance to mentally shadowing us, maybe giving them a different goal in life. That in itself is really rewarding.”

Dr. Ross – “Wow, yeah. Dad just brought up a point that I’d never thought of, Like, thinking about the possibility that somebody who might watch the show, that it could change the trajectory of their life…is pretty stinking humbling. That’s wild to think about.”

Growing up in Ireland, was James Herriot was an influence on you, Dr. Tony?

Dr. Tony – “Our catalogs in the past have gone, ‘This is the James Herriot of Colorado,’ because everything that happened to James Herriot happened to me, because I did large animals – horses, cows, sheep, pigs back in Ireland. I moved here [to America] in 1977, and I also did small animals.

“If you’ve read any of the James Herriot books, those are funny, they’re inspirational, they’re gratifying, they’re sad, they’re happy. Everybody in the UK wishes they were smart enough to have written those books like James Herriot, it happened to all of us, but he wrote a book and now he’s famous. [Laughs] Great books, great read.”

What are you hoping the audience will get from the show?

Dr. Ross – “I think my hope and desire for the people who watch the show is that they get, like, a renewed sense of excitement about animals that they already own, maybe an interest in animals that are out of their comfort zone, cause they’ll very much be seeing us getting out of our comfort zone and experiencing new experiences that come with our being veterinarians, which is really cool. But generally speaking, if people can watch this and feel like a child again, I think that that would be a success in my book.

Dr. Tony – “The one thing that had dawned on me after we had completed filming was our exposure and involvement with all the rescue groups, such as the homeless people of downtown Denver. A lot of these rescue groups, most of the population aren’t even aware that these people exist, and the amount of exposure they’re gonna get through the show is gonna be a great revenue builder, they’re going to get a lot more support from people and funding, and after the show, I’m going, ‘Wow, I didn’t even realize how great an impact this is going to have for all those groups.’”

Dr. Ryan – “Maybe adding on to what my dad said earlier, I think it’s going to be a great representation of what the veterinary life is. I mean, our situation’s a little unique, cause there’s family and all that involved, but hopefully we get to inspire a younger generation, we get to give them an honest representation of what it’s like to be a veterinarian.

“I mean, it’s not always just kissing puppies and playing with kittens. It gets a little tense and there’s a lot of communication with actual humans, and it’s not just interacting with animals all the time. So that will be a benefit, too, that I’m excited about.”