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Community mourns loss of Park River Veterinarian

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PARK RIVER, ND (WDAZ)—The state is mourning the loss of a community leader, as a man died doing what he loved to do—rescue animals.

It was the intersection of Highway 17 and 32, where a Park River Veterinarian died. He was headed out on a call to help cattle at a local farm, but never made it to his destination.

“It’s never going to be the same. Christmases are going to be really hard,” said nephew of Dr. Dahl, Russ Nelson.

Russ Nelson is referring to his uncle and mentor, 75-year-old Gerry Dahl.

“He was the one who taught me how to drive. He was the one who kind of sparked a lot of my interest in agriculture,” said Nelson.

A man many people called, “Doc.”

“We are feeling a huge loss, because Dr. Dahl was not only our employer, but he was also my family, my friend. Yeah, I loved him,” said Office Manager Karen Chyle.

Doc’s passion for animals extended far beyond his Park River Vet Clinic. He was known statewide. Dr. Dahl discovered the state’s first case of West Nile in 2002 and worked with farmers to prevent the spread of anthrax, shortly after the turn of the century.

It was a dream come true when he was asked to work with White Cloud, a rare female albino buffalo that attracted thousands. From big to small, Dr. Dahl loved them all, operating a shelter for cats and dogs without a home.

“With Doc, the animals always came first. It was his passion and his love for the animals that kept me here,” said Chyle.

“You could drive by at 1 o’clock at night, and the lights were still on.”

A light that is now out in the small town.

“I always look forward to hearing Gerry’s voice. He has a very distinctive voice. There was always a sense of comfort when he spoke,” said Russ Nelson.

A family in shock, with questions about how the 2015 North Dakota vet of the year died.

“We don’t really know exactly what happened. You can’t put a finger on what needs to be done to stop it,” said Nelson.

And the fate of his vet clinic, which has been operating for nearly 50 years. For now, they’re finding homes for all the cats left in the shelter—adopting them out for free in his honor.

The shelter does not yet know what will happen to the shelter after the loss of Nelson.

“But that’s a decision that will be made yet. I can’t say for sure, but there’s definitely a need,” said fellow Veterinarian, Dr. Jeanette Bjornstad.

A family and state mourning the loss of a man who died doing what he loved.

Services for Dr. Dahl will be held all weekend starting on Friday at 5 pm.