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Exclusive interview: ‘Singing vet’ and his brother on how viral video led to Animal Planet’s new show Hanging with the Hendersons

Dr. Ryan, left, and Dr. Ross with their dad Dr. Tony, from Animal Planet’s new show Hanging with the Hendersons. Pic credit: Animal Planet/Discovery

Animal Planet’s exciting new series,  Hanging with the Hendersons, which premieres this Friday, is all about a family involved in the business of caring for animals in Colorado.

But it nearly didn’t happen, and only came about after one visitor from Northern Ireland overstayed his American visa. Read on!

Two years ago, the Henderson’s world blew up when the now 30-year-old veterinarian, Dr. Ross Henderson, became a viral sensation after a video of him strumming his guitar and serenading a nervous dog awaiting surgery became a must-see.

It became a huge hit and put Fox Hollow Animal Hospital in Lakewood, Colorado on the map. The video also won them a production deal.

Watch as Dr. Ross Henderson sings to his furry patient:

Now, you can see why Fox Hollow Animal Hospital, the family-run clinic with multiple dedicated Hendersons working behind the scenes, is something Animal Planet wanted to explore.

The cast includes Dr. Tony (the Northern Irish dad and vet), Debi (mom and receptionist), Dr. Ross (vet) his brothers Dr. Ryan (vet) and Cole (lab tech), in addition to “fifth son” Lord Barrington (an incorrigible pet toy thief) and a few other pets who hang out in their welcoming office.

Monsters and Critics spoke to both Dr. Ross and Dr. Ryan about their new series, the family and practice, and more ahead of the series premiere.

Monsters and Critics: I watched the first episode and I love it. Dr. Tony. Where is your dad from in Ireland, and how did he meet your mom?

Dr. Ryan: So, my dad grew up in Bangor, Ireland.

Dr. Ross: Northern Ireland.

Dr. Ryan: Yes, Bangor, Northern Ireland. And, he grew up there. He had almost a cliché Irish lifestyle.

Dr. Ross: So, he grew up in Northern Ireland. Actually, a lot, when there were the Troubles and stuff like that.

But, he was planning on being an architect, and kind of switched gears and became a veterinarian, and the second he graduated, he was planning on going on a big vacation.

He ended up helping out his friend’s dad. And, then, about a year and a half later, if I remember correctly, he followed his girlfriend over to the US. He was doing geology. He started playing rugby, and then stayed here way past his visa.

Dr. Ross: Then they broke up and he met my mom, and then he was here happily ever after.

Dr. Ryan: He actually met my mom on a blind date.

Yes. They went on a blind date through a mutual friend, and then after the lunch or dinner, I can’t remember what it was, he walked her to her car and they ended up being parked next to each other.

They knew that they were going to have four kids after that.

M&C: And then boom, they got married and your dad was allowed to stay in the USA?

Visa overstayer ‘Da” Dr. Tony and “Ma” Debi Henderson have four sons. Pic credit: Animal Planet

Dr. Ross: Yup. Yup. So, after the third one, they decided to get married. I’m just kidding.

They got married before my brother, my oldest brother was born. Just barely. I’m just kidding, again. I’m sorry.

M&C: Okay. Well, so, Dr. Ross, you went to vet school in Scotland. How did that happen?

Dr. Ross: That. Honestly, that was something that was on the radar, just because we have so much family in the UK, that I was excited when I was applying to vet schools for the possibility of studying vet medicine abroad.

Another benefit of that is, being a member of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons means that you can work anywhere in the EU or commonwealth as a qualified veterinarian.

So, it just kind of opened up the world and the possibilities what you can do as a veterinarian.

And, it was cool just knowing that I was going to go to a school that they cloned all these sheep at, for instance, and they still have Dolly the cloned sheep in one of the museums there. It’s just really cool.

In fact, a handful of my professors were involved with that project, so yeah. Just really, really cool. And, Edinburgh, Scotland, is my second home. 100%.

Dr. Ryan: It’s also considered one of the best veterinary schools in Europe. So, that’s kind of cool.

M&C: It’s a gorgeous city. I love Edinburgh. How long were you in Scotland?

Dr. Ross: I was there for four years. Just, for the full duration of veterinary school.

M&C: Okay. All right. What about you, Dr. Ryan?

Dr. Ryan: Yeah. I actually, absolutely love Scotland. I visited Edinburgh probably six or seven years before Ross went, and that was one of my favorites. I always said it was one of my favorite cities. But, that’s unrelated.

But, for me, [it was] University of Illinois. I kind of got shipped off to the mid west. There is a school here in Colorado. It didn’t work out. There are various pre-veterinary students that will just wait and wait and reapply for four or five years until they get into that school that they want.

I got a little antsy. I got into a bunch of schools. So, I was like, “No, I gotta get my life started.” So, I was like, “I’m going to the University of Illinois.” And so, I shipped off over to there, and it was amazing. Amazing people in the midwest. Very kind and nice, which I really appreciated.

I learned how to rock climb and be an adventurer in Illinois, and moved out of Colorado, and ended up learning how to rock climb while in Illinois.

I did my actual veterinary studies there, and then, I actually worked in Utah for a year, right out of school. Because there wasn’t really room for me at Fox Hollow.

And then, ultimately, a spot opened up here, and I booked it back as fast as I could. My little niece is getting born. And so, I booked it back here, and I’ve been here now, about five years.

M&C: So, your two brothers Cole and Kyle, they live nearby. Do they have anything to do with veterinary work? Or, are they completely in other fields?

Dr. Ryan: Yeah, so Kyle’s always been an inspiration of ours. He’s probably the hardest working brother.

Almost to the point of a workaholic. But, he’s so brilliant. He’s always giving us business advice, and so that’s definitely kind of the way Kyle’s involved, but other than that, not much.

Dr. Ryan: And Cole, Dr. Ross can talk about that.

Dr. Ross: Yeah, our little brother Cole, who’s the best looking one; he helps out at the office and it’s just cool having him along, to be honest. He’s actually qualified and got his degree in aviation.

He really wants to be, I think, a pilot, but he also was trying to decide between a firefighter and maybe bridging the two.

But, the last year, he’s just been loving life, and loving being with the family here at the hospital,

Dr. Ryan: He’s the Fox Hollow designated hugger.

Dr. Ross: Oh, yeah. Yeah.

Dr. Ryan: He’s the best with his hugs, here.

Dr. Ross: Yes. Sometimes, I’ll come around the corner, and he’s like, hugging one of our techs. And, then, I walk past, and then I turn around, they’re still hugging. I’m like, “Whoa, bro.”

A total thief, Lord Barrington looking up plotting his next crime. Pic credit: Animal Planet

M&C: You guys have a problem brother. The fifth one. Lord Barrington, who’s a total kleptomaniac. I’m sure you have some stories.

Dr. Ryan: Lord Barrington, will also, when we’re having serious meetings in the office, will scratch at the door numerous times. We’ll open the door. He’ll stand there. He won’t come in. He’ll just want the door to be open. And then we close the door, and then he’ll scratch the door more.

Like, he runs this place. He gets treats from everyone. Clients, wins over all the staff, obviously my dad, and he steals toys. Yeah, you remember this place.

Dr. Ryan Henderson and fiancee Natalia Cadavid posing for the camera while holding their pet chicken Carmella. Pic credit: Animal Planet

M&C: Yes. Hey, Dr. Ryan! How is your chicken, by the way? How’s Carmella?

Dr. Ryan: Aw, she’s doing good. Well, Ross knows more about chickens than me. But, she like, molted. She went through a molting. Is that what it’s called?

She like, molted, and it like, freaked me out. I was like, “She’s dying!” Like, her comb was getting all pale. This was after the show.

I was like, “She’s gonna be dead when the show airs.” Like, she’s just molting. And she lost a bunch of feathers, and she’s lookin real nice and healthy now. I was actually anxious after that. I was like, “Oh god, she doesn’t look good.”

M&C: Wait a minute…chickens molt like a lobster?

Dr. Ryan: Is it molt? Is that the word? She lost all her feathers and she just looked kinda scraggly for a little while. And then, it grew all back. I dunno. Ross was like, “uh …” Ross, look concerned.

Dr. Ross: No. I’ll have a professional conversation with Ryan later.

M&C: So, Dr. Ross. That video you made, where you were singing to all the traumatized dogs and animals; did you expect that video to take off the way it did?

Dr. Ross: No. No, not at all. I mean, to be completely honest, it just felt like…I mean, my guitar’s at work. I play between appointments, and I would sit with that dog, and I was like, “Well shoot, I’m sitting with this dog. I might as well practice some guitar stuff.”

And then, our office manager was like, “Oh my gosh. This is ridic[ulous]. I need to get my camera.”

And I was like, “Whatever.” And then it blew up, and that was 2017. And, it’s been, like, a thousand mile and hour whirlwind since.

I mean, the fact that they saw that video, then saw that I worked for my dad and brother, you know, and getting involved with production teams and then getting the show. It was just crazy. It was absolutely crazy.

It feels like it’s not real.

M&C: What’s the best part about working with your dad and working at Fox Hollow?

Dr. Ryan: I mean, for me, we have the benefit of, we’re not just family, but I think we’re actually really good friends. We hang out all the time after hours and not at work.

I can manage to hang out with my pops, like literally, three days a week. And, we basically three of the same days all week. And I can manage to work with him all week and get along with him, and I dunno, there’s just something special about that. I can hang out with my family, my dad, and my brothers, and my best friends.

One little thing is, Ross is also a middle child. So, we’re basically, clones. I’m a middle child. And so, it’s kinda nice to basically have my clone here, and that thinks the same, has the same insecurities and asks the same questions, and so, that’s kind of nice. I dunno, that’s kind of nice for me.

Dr. Ross: So, I think the coolest thing is that our family is so close. We kinda, we do lean into each other a lot for various reasons, but especially with veterinary medicine.

We get to share the victories and we also get to kind of share the burden when inevitable, with veterinary medicine, it will happen where you will intersect…where something will happen where your heart gets wrung out completely.

And walking across the office where my dad and brother are…because they don’t let me sit in their office yet. But, being able to walk over and go talk with them, as a family, a safe place, is like, I think, probably the thing that is the most valuable.

It’s priceless, really. That you have access to that kind of support. Family support’s different than any other type of support, because it’s so much unconditional. You know?

M&C: Yes. Hey, you saw a random moose and it excited you very much. You guys work on every kind of animal. What’s the biggest success story in the season; in this first season that we’re gonna see that you’re really proud of, as far as healing an animal, or a case, like an accident or a specific case that came into your offices?

Dr. Ryan: I’ve got a good answer to that. Before the show started airing, I was extremely anxious about doing maybe one of the more intimidating surgeries…I go into those surgeries without cameras on me where I’m like, “Okay, come on, let’s concentrate.” You know, I’ll sit down, I’ll get ready for it.

So maybe, like, a knee surgery. Something like that. Or, an orthopedic surgery during this season. I don’t know if any of those made it on the show.

But, something like that. That was probably what I was most proud for, that I got through the filming of that footage without fainting.

I don’t know. It’s just a different level when you’re getting filmed, I guess.

Dr. Ross: I thought, honestly, I thought Ryan was going to say when he beat me at flying drones through the office.

Dr. Ryan: Oh, but then Cole ultimately won.

Dr. Ross: Yeah. Cole.

Dr. Ryan: Cole’s the best at sports and the best looking.

Dr. Ross: And, yes, Cole won the drone race, but you’ll have to wait and see that.

Dr. Ryan: Whoa, give it away.

Dr. Ross: Yeah, we should have probably chatted with Animal Planet first.

Dr. Ryan: Look at that. Ross messed up. We’re new at this.

M&C: Dr. Ryan, are you gonna marry that girl from Boston? Natalia?

Dr. Ryan: Well, you gotta wait until episode two! But yeah, obviously, that’s my plan. I’m gonna marry her.

Hanging with the Hendersons premieres on Friday, January 11, at 9pm ET/PT on Animal Planet.

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