Dr. Stephen Pope was born in Athens, Georgia and spent most of his childhood in South Georgia and Alabama, with two years of high school in Pennsylvania, just outside of Pittsburgh. It was there he began working at age 15 for a veterinarian and shifted his focus away from medical school to vet school, with his heart set on Auburn. He returned to Alabama and graduated high school from Charles Henderson in Troy, Alabama in 1985. He then entered Auburn University as an undergrad, earning his B.S. in Biology in the pre-vet program. In 1988, he started vet school at Auburn and graduated with his DVM in 1992. Immediately afterwards he started work as an associate vet with Pets are People, too in Dunwoody, part of a three hospital practice that grew later to five clinics in the Atlanta area. In 1997, he switched to ER and continued as an ER vet until the summer of 2006, when he accepted the medical directorship and moved back to day practice. He lives in Buford, Georgia with his two guinea pigs, Gertie and Butters. His interests are cooking, going to movies and comic/toy collecting.
Growing up I knew few things outright at a young age, but two of those things were: 1. I was going to be a doctor when I grew up and 2. I was really fascinated by animals. I knew the first one because my grandmother told me so, constantly. I knew the other because I spent a good deal of time with my grandparents on their farm in south Georgia with my own pony, a mustang named Blackie, and thirteen dogs, at least one of whom was also named Blackie. Also, because my favorite show was €œMutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom€ and Marlin Perkins was my hero. What I didn't know then, or really give any thought to, was that I could make both myself and my grandmother happy in one swoop, by becoming a veterinarian. It had never occurred to me then. I didn't realize this until I met Greg Serra.
Greg lived across the street from my aunt in Pennsylvania, where I moved to in high school for a couple of years. He was my age, in the same grade, a friend of the family and worked in an animal hospital, along with his brother, as a kennel boy. He was a meek, friendly, math whiz of a kid with blazing red hair and a Ford Falcon. We became fast friends and shared many a late night battling it out in Risk and playing baseball on his ColecoVision. Not long after meeting he asked me if I'd like a job replacing his brother who was leaving for college and I thought the extra money could come in handy. I said of course, so at the age of fifteen I got my first real clock-punching job and started working the kennels with Greg.
By the time I turned sixteen, I announced to my grandmother and my aunt that they could still have a doctor in the family, but it'd have to be on my terms. Despite the noise and the smells and the back-breaking labor in the kennels, I knew I had found my calling. My usually hard to please grandmother took it in stride and in her broken English, Greek-laden accent took to calling me €œDr. Dog€. By seventeen I was accepted into Auburn and started my journey towards fulfilling my dream.
Eventually, I moved back to Alabama and soon after starting my second year of undergrad, I got a phone call telling me that Greg had died in a car wreck, alone on a dark and winding Pennsylvania back road. I was eighteen. It was the first time I lost someone so close to me in age and in spirit, and I have never stopped mourning that day. Two years later, I got my acceptance letter from Auburn University School of Veterinary Medicine and 25 years later, here I am, practicing the craft I had finally chosen and chased so many years.
So to answer why it is I do what I do, you can definitely appreciate both my grandmother, GiaGia Fannie, and Marlin Perkins for laying the groundwork. You can thank all the vets who encouraged me along the way. You can give a shout out to the many clients and pets that have touched and affected me on my journey. But the one person who deserves the most credit, all of my thanks and my eternal gratitude is my friend Greg, who put it all together so many years ago and gave me the one gift I never knew I wanted. For without him, I don't know where or what I would be, but it most certainly would not be a successful and blessed veterinarian.
Thanks, Greg. You are missed.