The inside story of the vet who went from caring for Red Dog to owning a million-acre farm and hosting Lady Gaga

The crew of Desert Vet. Image: Supplied.

An actor played him in the movie Red Dog but now Rick Fenny has his own chance.

The veterinarian, who in real life treated the kelpie who famously roamed WA’s Pilbara region in the 1970s, is to star in his own documentary-style TV show.

The cameras from Sydney-based Projucer, a digital first entertainment house, follow Fenny on a 3000km journey up and down the state of Western Australia to treat pets and livestock.

His story, which includes laying Red Dog to rest in 1979, is now the subject of Desert Vet, a 1-hour TV special on the Seven Network on Wednesday, January 10, at 7.30pm.

The 2011 movie Red Dog, based on a true story, mostly follows the novel Red Dog by Louis de Bernieres.

“I treated Red Dog many times over the years and he was incredibly unique, an amazing character,” says Fenny.

“But in terms of heart-wrenching and heart-warming cases I’ve been involved with, his is just the tip of the iceberg.

“I’ve always loved the open road, the gypsy life, and being able to talk to and help animals and their owners – it’s no surprise really to me that this is the course my life has taken. And to have a documentary made about what I do has been quite a humbling experience.”

Rick Fenny. Image: Supplied

The TV program captures his working life-on-the-road that began in 1972 when, fresh out of vet school, he set off for the West Kimberley, to take up a job as a government vet.

The 70-year-old father of seven and grandfather of 10 is still dusting up the dirt roads.

He has also built one of the largest networks of vet practices in Australia which includes a dozen Pets & Vets clinics scattered across Western Australia.

The Rick Fenny Group also includes the tourist destination Ocean Park Aquarium in Shark Bay, co-owned by his marine biologist son Ed, which features in the TV documentary.

His company also owns Carbla Station near Shark Bay, a 1 million acre pastoral lease running meat sheep, goats and cattle managed by Rick’s son Sam, and where his daughter Julia also works.

The group also includes the luxury retreat, Maitraya, at Albany, Western Australia, which counts international pop superstar Lady Gaga among its guests.

Picture: Roadshow Films

“Desert Vet has given me the opportunity to tell my personal story and journey in life as it encompasses not only my career path and what I am actively doing living the dream but also many of my values and beliefs,” he says.

“Leaving a legacy is what it’s all about — and that doesn’t just mean later — that includes while you’re living.”

Desert Vet follows Projucer’s reverse-engineered funding model, with Tourism WA and Hill’s Pet Foods featuring as major partners of the show alongside Channel 7.

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