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North Alabama cats own MSU veterinary graduate
By Patti Drapala
MSU Ag Communications
MADISON, Ala. -- A dog has a master, a cat has a staff, and the felines in north Alabama have a veterinarian at their command who understands their management style.
Stephanie Gandy-Moody, a 2007 graduate of Mississippi State University's College of Veterinary Medicine, recently opened The Cat Hospital of Madison, Ala., a medical facility that caters to cats and the people they own.
Cats have sensitive ears and dislike the cacophony of sounds dogs make when they bark, growl, thump tails and track toenails across the floor, Gandy said. The presence of dogs makes them nervous.
“My favorite part of the hospital is the quiet, which the cats love also,” Gandy said. “You never have to raise your voice over barking dogs and you never get dragged up the hallway by an overexcited Himalayan.”
While cats hide their emotions well, Gandy is an open book about her passion for cats. A native of Charlotte, N.C., she grew up in a home where her mother, a “dog person,” had several dogs. She had an occasional cat and received a horse, Brandy, after some serious begging.
“Growing up, I always thought I was going to North Carolina State University, but when it came time for me to make a decision, NCSU just didn't feel right,” Gandy said.
In high school, Gandy decided she wanted to fulfill her dream of becoming a veterinarian. While preparing for a competition sponsored by the Health Occupations Students of America, Gandy overheard the school secretary say her daughter was accepted to veterinary school at Mississippi State. Intrigued, Gandy applied and three weeks later received an acceptance letter from MSU.
“I was ecstatic, but my mother was completely against the idea,” she said. “My dad and I drove to Starkville for the first time, and I just fell in love.”
Gandy's first stop, of course, was the veterinary school. She met student affairs coordinator Barbara Coats and academic affairs adviser Mikell Davis, who gave her a tour of the complex.
At MSU, Gandy decided to major in animal and dairy science. She later switched to poultry science. The change in majors introduced her to two of the great loves of her life, fellow poultry science major Edward Gandy and a cat named Noah.
“I wanted a pet to keep me company while studying, but I didn't want to be tied down with a dog, and so I got a cat,” Gandy said. “Noah was great company but always into everything, so I decided to get another cat because everyone says two cats are better than one.”
She headed with a friend to the Columbus-Lowndes County Humane Society where she picked out a red-and-white tabby she named Pete. But Pete did not want to ride in the car.
“He went crazy,” Gandy said. “I almost returned him, afraid that I had picked out a feral cat.”
Pete soon settled in. Later, both cats happily approved an expansion in their family when Gandy married her classmate and good friend Edward Gandy in September 2002. The couple looked forward to the future, and Gandy prepared to enter veterinary school a year later.
Happiness was short-lived. Edward was killed in a car accident the spring semester of Stephanie Gandy's freshman year as a veterinary student.
“This was a devastating blow to a young woman just starting veterinary school and looking forward to a long productive life with her husband,” said Phil Bushby, a veterinary professor whom Gandy saw as a role model. “The courage, the perseverance, the tenacity that this young lady showed even to stay in school was an inspiration to all of us.”
Gandy bravely continued with the support of faculty, students and her cats.
“Stephanie had a great interest in becoming a feline practitioner,” said Sharon Grace, the cat specialist at the veterinary college. “She understood that cats can't be bullied into submission. A veterinarian must use finesse to work with cats and get them to trust.”
As a veterinary student, Gandy served as president of the MSU chapter of the American Association of Feline Practitioners. She took externships with some of the premier feline specialists in the country to learn as much as possible about cats.
Today in north Alabama, Gandy is earning her own reputation as a veterinarian who “gets” cats. She also has the admiration of her husband, Michael Moody, three dogs and five cats.
As a cat fancier herself, Gandy can sympathize with her clients who have the same high performance expectations as their cats have. Meeting those expectations is a real challenge for feline practitioners.
“The majority of ‘cat people' consider a cat like their child,” Gandy said. “They come in the hospital with a preconceived notion of what's wrong with their baby after reading information on the Internet. Right, wrong, or indifferent, you have to earn a person's trust just as you have to earn a cat's trust.”
Contact: Dr. Sharon Grace, (662) 325-8536