Being a veterinarian can be a stressful job, but for Dr. Diarra Blue, the vocation is the realization of a lifelong dream, and a chance to spend each workday with his best friends. One third of the veterinary trio featured on Animal Planet’s The Vet Life, Dr. Blue works alongside Dr. Aubrey Ross and Dr. Michael Lavigne at the Cy-Fair Animal Hospital in Cypress, Texas.
“It’s been a really great friendship, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. It makes work really easy,” Dr. Blue tells Dogster.
Growing up in Detroit, Michigan, Dr. Blue’s love of animals started early.
“I didn’t have the luxury of being around farm animals because we were in the city, but my father and mother actually showed dogs in AKC dog shows. They were one of the few people who had a breed called the Staffordshire Bull Terrier at that time, in the mid-80s to 90s,” he explains.
When his parents bred their dogs, young Dr. Blue helped with the pups, and he was often caring for litters of neighborhood kittens.
“This was something that I really enjoyed — it was a feeling I have always had.”
He says fish were his first animal love, and remembers a power outage that nearly killed one of the seven piranhas his older brother gave him for his 11th birthday.
“My mother talks about this all the time. I actually took an air hose and shoved it down his mouth and started breathing for him and resuscitated the fish. It’s a true story.”
The piranha made it, and so has Dr. Blue. A graduate of the Tuskegee University School of Veterinary Medicine, the vet met his business partners and best friends while studying there. Doctors Ross and Lavigne were two years ahead of Dr. Blue at Tuskegee, but the three aspiring vets clicked in a way Dr. Blue didn’t expect.
“You kind of think the friends you make for life are gonna be the friends you met in childhood, or going up through high school, but I actually met these gentlemen as an adult and we really bonded,” he explains.
After graduating, Dr. Blue worked with Dr. Lavigne in Las Vegas. A couple of years ago, the three Tuskegee grads got the idea to open their own animal hospital in the Houston area. Seeing how well the three men worked together, Dr. Blue’s sister — a reality TV show producer — pitched an idea of her own.
“None of us really wanted to do it. Number one, because we are veterinarians and we were worried about our business. Number two, we’re not actors. There was a lot of negative connotation that we saw with reality shows.”
Eventually, Dr. Blue’s sister, Nawara, helped the trio see that a show on Animal Planet would be far from trash TV.
The show’s first season coincided with the opening of Cy-Fair Animal Hospital, and Dr. Blue says scheduling was the biggest challenge at the time. There was a lot going on for each of the three doctors, who were already balancing the demands of medicine and business before the cameras started rolling.
“Being entrepreneurs is the hard part, veterinary medicine is the fun part,” Dr. Blue explains.
He says working with his friends makes work seem like recreation. The camaraderie is especially helpful on days spent caring for animals at the end of life.
“That helps with the compassion fatigue,” he explains. “We’ve got each other for support.”
After work, Dr. Blue goes home to another support system: His wife, two young sons and the family pets. The Blue household includes a lizard and two dogs. The pups are Bambi, a Chihuahua-mix rescued by a client in Las Vegas, and India, a 145-pound South African Mastiff.
Dr. Blue’s children are learning all about responsible pet ownership, and so are The Vet Life viewers, who encouraged the trio of doctors to do a second season.
“We’ve got so many letters and emails from children who say, ‘I want to be a veterinarian. I want to go to Tuskegee.’”
The second season of The Vet Life premieres Saturday, April 15, on Animal Planet.