Fort Valley State alumni land show on National Geographic Wild

by Latasha Ford

Posted on Jun 03, 2019

"We made Critter Fixer a household name locally and hopefully now nationally." - Dr. Vernard Hodges

The "Critter Fixers" show will air in the fall on Nat Geo Wild.

An international cable television network will soon provide exclusive insight into the world of two middle Georgia veterinarians.

Drs. Terrence Ferguson and Vernard Hodges, Fort Valley State University alumni and owners of the middle Georgia veterinary practice Critter Fixer, are living the dream they envisioned 20 years ago. However, having their own television show on National Geographic Wild (Nat Geo Wild) surpasses their wildest dreams.

The business partners learned in March 2018 that the network was interested in filming them at their Byron and Bonaire locations. "They asked if we wanted to be on television. I initially ignored them. I thought it was a prank," admitted Hodges, who grew up in Fort Valley, Georgia.

Ferguson, a native of Talboton, Georgia, was also skeptical when Hodges first told him but soon realized this was no joke. "I knew it was a possibility, but I still thought it was a farfetched possibility. We are two country guys from Georgia," Ferguson emphasized. "Would we be interesting enough to watch on television? That was my initial thinking."

A year later, the Critter Fixer duo landed a show. Shocked by the news, Hodges and Ferguson knew that this platform was huge for their business but also for their alma mater.

"We plan to make Fort Valley proud and put our HBCU (Historically Black College and University) on the map," Hodges said.

Before they became the Critter Fixers, Ferguson and Hodges first became friends 30 years ago on the then Fort Valley State College campus. Although they earned different undergraduate degrees (veterinary science for Ferguson and fisheries biology for Hodges), they both earned a Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) from Tuskegee University in 1997 (Hodges) and 1998 (Ferguson).

Thankful for their undergraduate experience, the two alumni pay it forward by employing numerous veterinary technology graduates from FVSU's College of Agriculture, Family Sciences and Technology to serve as technicians. Approximately 30 students have gained work experience and several currently have careers as veterinarians.

FVSU veterinary technology graduate Clarrissa Porter said working with Ferguson for three years was a great learning experience. She realized the importance of building a personable relationship with the patient and client. Now with her DVM from Tuskegee University complete, she will begin working for Banfield Pet Hospital in Macon, Georgia, in July.

The 40-year-old Tazewell, Georgia, native said Ferguson and Hodges were instrumental in keeping her on track and motivating her throughout the process. Porter is proud to see two of her mentors getting their own show on Nat Geo Wild.

"They couldn't have picked two better people to represent this side of the world," she said.

Ferguson and Hodges hope they can encourage others like Porter through the show to go after whatever profession they desire no matter where they come from and expose more African-American youth to a career in veterinary science. "African-American veterinarians make up 1.6 percent of the veterinary profession," Hodges noted.

In addition, they hope viewers of the show will see the uniqueness and lively spirit that they bring to work every day.

Critter Fixer sees more than 20,000 patients annually, which includes dogs, cats, hamsters, donkeys, birds and snakes. The most unusual pet they have seen for this area has been a camel and a few pet skunks.

"We want our clients and patients to leave knowing they received the best possible care," Hodges said. "That is how we have achieved success over the last 20 years. It starts with them. We wouldn't be anything without them."

Ferguson and Hodges opened the first Critter Fixer in Byron in May 1999 and then opened the second facility in Bonaire three months later. Without the benefits of social media at the time, they relied on door-to-door marketing with flyers.

"We are definitely living witnesses that with perseverance, grace, mercy and blessings, you can achieve anything," Ferguson said.

Amused, Hodges said the first business name Ferguson considered was the Veterinary Associates of Byron. Describing himself as the kooky one of the pair, the "Bet on Yourself: From Zero to Millions" author thought of a name that evokes originality and a southern flair.

"We made Critter Fixer a household name locally and hopefully now nationally," Hodges said. The "Critter Fixers" show will air in the fall on Nat Geo Wild. The network has not released the exact date. Production filmed six episodes.

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