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400 faces: Getting to know your pets’ favorite doctors at Crestview Animal Hospital
Crestview Animal Hospital
Drs. John McGruder and David Sewell and their team at Crestview Animal Hospital are a favorite in the local community. - photo by Kelly Whitmire

This article appears in the August issue of  400 Life.

Many a sick furry, or even scaly, friend has found themselves under the care of Drs. John McGruder and David Sewell and their team at Crestview Animal Hospital on Pilgrim Mill Road.

Opened by McGruder, who earned his veterinary degree from the University of Missouri in 1984, Crestview has seen a lot of changes in its 35 years, including all types of animals and modernization of medicine and techniques. The original lot is still part of the current Crestview property, which has expanded to keep up with demand, most recently with an expansion in 2012.

After operating his own practice in south Forsyth, Sewell, a Marietta native who graduated from Ross University, joined Crestview in 2008.

McGruder said the area was much more rural when the hospital opened, meaning there was lots of work with pigs, horses, cattle and other farm animals. 

Today, the vets said all kinds of animals have been treated at the hospital, which is also working on innovative practices, such as regenerative medicine like stem cell or platelet-rich plasma therapies. 

While well-known to patients who walk on four legs, gallop or slither, many human residents might not know their pets’ favorite doctors, so 400 Life spoke with the pair about why they do what they do, the unique animals cared for and some personal favorites.

What made you want to be a veterinarian?

McGruder: “I grew up on a farm, and we had several different species of animals. I got out of the Army realizing a degree in animal science wasn’t a great future, so I decided I would go to vet school.”

Sewell: “Mine’s a little bit of cliché, but it’s very true: it’s just a very strong love for animals and working with animals. Primarily growing up in east Cobb, it was dogs and cats, not farming, but I always knew that I wanted to work on small animals.”

Being open since the ‘80s, have you seen a change in how people treat pets?

McGruder: “Absolutely, and a lot of things we do today, in 1985, you’d never do. People would have never paid for it. We see a lot of animals that are 14, 15, 18-years-old. Back at that time, anything over 10 was old. [Ages] 9 or 10 was about when they stopped treating them … A lot of things we do today, we didn’t do because the animals didn’t live that long.”

“Of course, anesthesia is much better. At that time… it was much more difficult to do long, complicated procedures.”

What are the most unique animals you’ve had to treat in your career?

Sewell: “I get asked this question a lot, so I have a go-to: I did an internship at LSU, and I got to do a dental procedure and extraction on [live mascot] Mike the Tiger, the Mike the Tiger that was there in 1999. That was definitely one of the most interesting animals I’ve worked on.”

McGruder: “We used to see a few big cats — lions and tigers — from Chestatee Wildlife Preserve on Hwy. 52. We saw several of those cats. I’ve seen a couple of very large pythons. I think the biggest one I’ve seen weighed about 40 pounds.

“I attempted to treat a camel once: it didn’t go so well.”

Since you work with other’s pets, do you have any of your own?

Sewell: “I have four children, so they would have an entire house full of pets if I’d let them, but we have two cats, a dog, we have chickens and, unfortunately, the ball python my son loves to torment me with. We have leopard geckos and fish and all the little stuff, as well.”

After a long day of treating animals, how do you unwind?

Sewell: “Deep breaths. I’m a gym member, so I love to get some exercise, sit in the sauna. My wife and I both play adult league soccer, that’s probably one of my biggest outlets. That’s been a great thing.”

McGruder: “For years I ran, and that was always one of the great things in the afternoon, to just go out and run for 45 minutes or so. It completely changes your attitude. I still walk a lot. Once in a while, I get on a tractor and do something. I enjoy that, it’s fun for me, and we have a little property in Dawson County that I go up to just to be outside.”

Favorite books, music, TV or movies?

Sewell: “I’m a big Johnny Cash fan, so he wrote two autobiographies, both of which I love.”

McGruder: “I like to listen to Johnny Cash, as well. I read a book last week called ‘Empire’ … it was the rise and fall of the Comanche Indian tribe in the west. It’s fascinating reading the stories of Lewis and Clark. That’s mostly what I read.”

— by Kelly Whitmire