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Doc McKinnon Still on the Job

by Michelle Merrill

Posted on Spring Summer 2017 Issue

Doc McKinnon
photo courtesy of McKinnon Family 

Renee Renee

When a high school teacher told James Brent McKinnon he would never succeed at veterinary medicine because he did not have the chemistry background, McKinnon’s exact words were, “Watch me.” He took three chemistry classes in one semester of college and settled for nothing but “A”s.

McKinnon and his wife, ReNee, both graduated from Utah State University, she from the College of Education with her teaching degree, and he from (what was then named) the College of Agriculture. A passion for taking care of animals, particularly bovine, led him to the School of Veterinary Medicine at Colorado State University. He graduated at the top of his class, was recognized as the outstanding large animal veterinary student, and earned the name most people have known him by since: Doc.

For the next 42 years, the McKinnons, along with their daughter, owned and operated Bear River Animal Hospital in Tremonton, UT. In addition, they provided veterinary services for ranchers in Cache, Rich, and Weber counties, as well as parts of Southern Idaho and Wyoming. Dr. McKinnon said of the travel, “It’s never too far to go if there is a herd of cows to check at the end of the road.”

He was truly passionate about helping people and animals. “It was never about making money for him,” said ReNee. “It was all about what he could do to help others.”

Their service and strong work ethic extended far beyond the clinic. For many years, Doc chaired the Animal Health Committee of the Utah Cattlemen’s Association, and ReNee was recently president of the Utah Cattlewomen’s Association.

In addition to keeping a prompt schedule and beating all the cowboys to the chute, Doc always stayed current on the cutting-edge advancements in veterinary medicine. He purchased a Silencer chute on wheels, enabling him to pregnancy test cows anywhere. As new vet med technology advanced, Doc made sure he knew about it, had it on hand, and taught everyone at the hospital how to use it. Gary Rose, a friend from Park Valley, UT, once told ReNee that Doc had done more than anyone to change the face of veterinary medicine during his years of practice. 

Today, many USU students seeking DVM degrees identify Doc McKinnon as the biggest influence in their decisions to become veterinarians. Doc and ReNee say they’ve had the pleasure of working with the finest people on Earth and they built many friendships along the way. Not only did they care about animals, but they truly loved the people they helped. And it’s safe to say those people have never met more honest, hard-working, and incredibly genuine people as Doc and ReNee.