Opelika Animal Hospital

Celebrates 40 years

When Dr. Jere Colley ’78, DVM, and his wife, Judy, opened the doors to Opelika (Ala.) Animal Hospital 40 years ago, they were the sole staff. He was the veterinarian and she was the receptionist.

The couple’s children went to the clinic to clean the animal cages after school.

Now, Colley is one of four veterinarians at the clinic, including his business partner of more than three decades, Gary Hunt, as well as Lybbi Epperson and Andy Wagnon.“

Vet medicine and Lee County have been good to us. They’ve been very good to us,” said Colley, who earned his DVM after playing football for the Tigers. “There’s no doubt veterinary medicine is the best profession in the world.”

Alumna Authors Children’s Book

Dr. Betsy Sigmon ’81, DVM, recently enthralled children at the Cary (N.C.) Community Library when she brought a black Labrador named Molly so the audience could listen to her heartbeat.

Sigmon brought Molly to the library to coincide with a reading of her new book, Cha Cha ChocoBelle & The Canine Conga, to combine “a little bit of science with a good old story time.”

Sigmon, who owns Creature Comforts Animal Hospital in Cary, N.C., said it is “rewarding to listen to their questions about mammals and tie together basics of dogs and people.”

That is one reason she wrote her first book—to tell the story of a mixed-breed dog who dreams of finding a home but instead discovers a love of dance.

As a veterinarian for 34 years, Sigmon has seen everything. “I love the diversity and the challenge of patients that can’t really tell you what’s going on, and trying to figure it out,” she said. “It’s hard sometimes, but it’s really rewarding.”

Sigmon’s 10-year-old Chihuahua-dachshund mix, Taco Belle, is a driving inspiration for the ChocoBelle character in her book, along with other rescue animals.

In the book, ChocoBelle begins her adventures in a junkyard. “[Taco Belle] keeps me grounded as I make tough decisions—medically, surgically—about patients to remember that there is a family with this animal, that this is not just a case number,” said Sigmon.

Throughout the book, the pictures are left uncolored in black and white outlines. ChocoBelle encounters disabled and rescue animals, including a three-legged Great Dane and a blind poodle, who take part in ChocoBelle’s dance night.

The book costs $8.99 and can be ordered by emailing

Army’s Warner Provides Emergency Aid in Air

U.S. Army Capt. Samantha Warner ’17, DVM, has been part of the Army family for her entire life. During a recent trans-Atlantic flight, she drew on her training and experience to provide basic life support to a fellow passenger in need.

Warner is the officer in charge of the Veterinary Treatment Facility at Royal Air Force Feltwell, United Kingdom. She and her team primarily work with Air Force patrol dogs at the base, but also provide care to service members and their families’ privately owned animals and inspect food that is served or sold to service members and their communities.

She recently was returning from a temporary duty assignment at Camp Pendleton, Calif., when she stepped out of her comfort zone to provide basic life support to a fellow passenger.

“I woke up because I heard a woman yelling for help,” Warner said. “None of the flight attendants were present at the time since it was the middle of the night. I got up and saw a man lying unconscious, face down in the aisle.”

Warner rolled the man onto his side to ensure an open airway, checked his vitals and provided him oxygen. She stayed by his side as he slowly regained consciousness and began to speak. While this appeared to be an isolated event, she stayed with him to ensure his safety until he fully recovered from the event. The flight attendants maintained his care for the duration of the flight and the passenger eventually walked off the plane with no further medical assistance needed.

Warner said she relied on the basic lifesaving skills she learned as a soldier and U.S. Army veterinarian. “Everyone thinks someone else will help, or that they are not qualified enough, but sometimes you just have to step out of your comfort zone and react,” said Warner. “You could be the most qualified person after all.”

As a student at Auburn, Warner raised service dogs for America’s VetDogs, an organization providing service dogs to disabled veterans and first responders free of charge. Warner raised nine dogs in seven years.

“I love the bond animals and humans create,” Warner said. “I always wanted to work with animals, and training service dogs helped me get a foot in the door and made me realize I would like to do more for them. Service, search and rescue, and military working dogs provide such a valuable service, and I do my best to ensure they receive the best care they can get.”

Walker to Head Tennessee VMA

Dr. Danny Walker ’79, DVM, has been named president of the Tennessee Veterinary Medical Association. He practiced in Jackson, Tenn., from 1979 to 2011 before becoming an associate professor of veterinary technology at the University of Tennessee-Martin. While serving on the UT-M faculty, Walker has been the recipient of the Association of Veterinary Technician Educators’ Elsevier Teaching Excellence Award in 2017 and the UT Alumni Outstanding Teacher Award for 2019.