Donald “Doc” Gibson and the team at All Creatures Veterinary Care recently celebrated a true small-business milestone – 25 years of service and care for Carter County’s and the Tri-State’s pets and farm animals alike.
“I went all in on Grayson,” Gibson said during a break between patients, recalling his first visit to what was then Gross Veterinary Clinic to meet with Dr. Gross’ widow, Viola, and one of his sons to make a deal on the then-idle veterinary clinic.
“We agreed on a price. I borrowed the money and, Wow, 25 years later …” he said.
From ‘the middle of nowhere’
Born and raised in southeast Kentucky on Knott County’s Carr Creek (near Alice Lloyd College), Gibson grew up on the family farm and was the son of a coal miner.
“I’m from down in the mountains in the middle of nowhere on a farm. My dad became a coal miner and he wanted us boys to do something with ourselves besides coal mines. He loved underground mining but he had lung and safety concerns,” Gibson said.
The Gibson farm’s livestock ranged from cows and chickens and pigs to horses and mules, used for plowing and logging jobs. As on any farm, animal injuries and illness sometimes required the help of a local animal doctor.
“I was always intrigued by the local vet,” Gibson said, explaining the man was “grandfathered in” as a veterinarian, and educated only by experience.
“It seemed like a fun thing to do,” he said.
As a young boy, Gibson decided he was going to college when he was old enough, although he admits veterinary school was not his first career choice.
“My initial love was auto mechanics. But, when I found out there was no college required to be an auto mechanic, something clicked and I said, ‘Alright. I’m going to be a veterinarian.’ I wanted to be one of the first in my family to go to college. Myself and my cousin were the first two.”
He first attended Morehead State University and was accepted at Auburn University upon his first application.
“I remember our first client on July 4, 1995. Bob Caummisar had a puppy that was having siezures. We fixed that puppy and he lived happily ever after!”
Gibson said he was blessed to find community support in Grayson, and that “Jack Strother and Commercial Bank of Grayson stood by me from the beginning,” in addition to his own father and family members.
He recalled meeting a group of local farmers for the first time.
“They told me I had big shoes to fill following Doc Gross,” he said, smiling at the memory.
“I think Doc Gross was looking down on me. We joked about his ghost being there when unusual things happened at the old clinic.”
The fundamentals of animal medicine have remained, although the technology and techniques involved have changed tremendously.
“The technology from then to now is almost daylight to dark,” Gibson said.
“For example, Dr. Gross had a Polaroid X-Ray machine with imaging in reverse – so, bone was black on the film. I used it for many years. Now it’s all digital and it takes six seconds. With the Polaroid, you snapped the shot, then pulled the exposed film and several minutes later you got a reverse-image picture.”
Credit Where Due
“Our goal is to provide the best care and do what’s right by that animal. You can’t always meet, but sometimes you can exceed expectations,” Gibson said, citing the importance of the people who work at All Creatures Veterinary Care.
“I owe a lot to my staff, from the beginning to the ones working today and the ones working for me in the future,” smiling, he added “They do the dirty work, so to speak.”
All Creatures (Almost)
Dogs and cats make up the bulk of the All Creatures Veterinary Care files, although Gibson and team often work with unexpected species. The business name is a nod to James Herriott’s book “All Creatures Great And Small,” Gibson noted.
Pet rats, primates, “birds of all kinds (including an owl), a baby elephant, a giant tortoise, and an egg bound spotted Gecko (“I had to hit the books and go online for that.”) are among the clinic’s more unusual patients.
“It was goats this morning and it will be horses this afternoon,” he said, explaining he was working with 4-H kids that day.
“I won’t see unscented skunks or venomous snakes, but anything else we’ll pretty much see.”
Family, Fun and Flight
Gibson and wife, Cindy, who have four dogs (three Golden Retrievers and a Chocolate Lab); two cats; a Clydesdale horse and a miniature pony as their own pets, share a passion for flying. Gibson has been a licensed private pilot for more than two years and is now finishing up work to obtain his instrument rating.
When opportunity allows, they enjoy flights to the Florida Keys, where they were married. Florida also provides Gibson a chance to work with a non-profit sea turtle rescue organization – including two invitations to help release turtles last year.
“I also have two grandkids I want to spend more time with,” Gibson said, adding the family also enjoys time on Grayson Lake, which he called “a gem in our backyard.”
“With this pandemic, you just don’t know … We have stepped back and changed the way we do business,” Gibson said, explaining staff members have voted to continue with curbside service for safety reasons.
“Who knows where this is going to go or what is going to happen?”
“I want to continue doing community work,” the longstanding member of the Carter County Fair Board said.
“I’m happy with my decision to become a vet,” he said, grinning before he added “I wasn’t good enough to make it at any sport!”
For more information about All Creatures Veterinary Care, located at 406 East Main Street, Grayson Kentucky, call (606) 474-5146 or visit
Story by TIM PRESTON
Photos by CINDY GIBSON
Carter County Post