Dr. Bill Anderson can remember getting bitten by an animal just once in 44 years as the Fort Worth Stock Show vet.
He holds up the tip of an index finger and displays a small scar. A bucking horse named Budweiser who wasn’t pleased to have Anderson looking around in his mouth chomped down — hard.
“He grabbed on and wouldn’t let go,” says Anderson, of Colleyville, who went on to describe the smashed and grisly results.
He knew the owner, and in fact knows most of the regulars who come to the show every year. Anderson’s Stock Show roots run deep. His dad, Dan J. Anderson, became Stock Show veterinarian in 1946, and his son was beside him every year from the time he could walk.
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“I helped him my whole life,” says Anderson, who did a lot of work at the 1979 show and got the job in 1980 after attending undergraduate school at Texas A&M University and veterinary school at the University of Missouri.
The head vet has a calm unflappable demeanor that probably should be a requirement for the job. He sees them all — cattle, rabbits, pigeons, pigs, chickens, any of the 29,000 show entries a year, plus rodeo rough stock such as bucking bulls and saddle broncs.
Injuries can happen during unloading or loading, in the stalls or in the show ring. But Anderson says trailers are much safer, roads are better, feed has improved and problems are far fewer now than in his dad’s day.
In the arenas, he says, “the rodeo stock fares better than the cowboys and cowgirls.”
As far as ailments, he says they’re about equally split between respiratory and GI problems, “just like the people that come here.”
He treats any animals that become sick — or give birth — at the show. He would rather people didn’t bring pregnant cattle to the show, but it happens and then he oversees the whole process. Owners of animals he treats pay him just as they would at his private practice.
Anderson also makes sure stock coming in is healthy by going over their health certificates and inspecting the animals as they arrive. Any animal with anything contagious (ringworm in cattle, for example) is “excused. No ifs, ands or buts about it.”
Besides the obvious problem with exposing so many animals, he is protecting the Stock Show’s reputation. As competitors go from show to show, word would spread if an animal got sick after leaving Fort Worth.
Anderson works long days during the show’s 23-day run. When the barns are full, he comes in around 6 or 7 a.m. and makes rounds through the horse, rodeo and cattle barns and the children’s barnyard every morning and evening.
Then, he has to stay on the grounds until the rodeo ends. Under Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association rules, he has to be available until it’s over, usually around 10 p.m.
Anderson’s love of animals is not just professional. He goes home to four Jack Russell terriers that he claims have adopted his own persona and are generally fairly laid-back.
That came about when he went to look at one pup, took two, decided to breed one and kept two more. He also once had eight or nine horses that have gone “by attrition.” That may not last.
He and his wife bought a home with two horse stalls. Just in case.
Judy Wiley, 817-390-7843