When you meet up with a guy at his favorite watering hole and he starts telling you about the times he tackled an alligator, chased down a deer and snipped a lion, it’s a pretty sure bet he’s putting you on. Unless that guy happens to be veterinarian Randy Ceballos, in which case it’s all in a day’s work.
• The 9-foot alligator hadn’t eaten for nearly a month when Ceballos—who spends most of his days at Sunridge Animal Hospital in Henderson—arrived at the Las Vegas Zoo, lassoed the reptile’s jaw, jumped on his back, taped his muzzle, performed an exam and took blood. Ceballos admits he wasn’t exactly sure what he was doing, but the alligator started eating a few days later, so it all worked out.
• He caught up with that deer at Bonnie Springs Ranch. “Getting near one of those things is damn near impossible,” he says. When Ceballos finally got close enough, he tranquilized the leggy creature with a blow dart, then worked fast to neuter him before the drugs wore off.
• And then there’s the vasectomy he performed on a 300-pound lion. Ceballos explains the necessity of this: If you were to simply neuter him, the cat’s hair would fall out; he’d lose his mane—hardly acceptable for a Vegas show cat.
The 41-year-old Ceballos is the man called when MGM’s 35 lions need a look. Magicians Dirk Arthur and Rick Thomas have him on speed dial. It’s no wonder reality TV has come calling.
But the majority of his work is dogs and cats. He sees only a few exotics each month, compared with the hundreds of domestic patients—but those few are memorable.
Rescue cases are his favorite: He tells me of the falcon found struggling in a pool. The bird had an injured wing and a dislocated shoulder joint. Ceballos put her under anesthesia, set her wing and wrapped it, all at his own expense. He fed her chicken livers and rodents while she recovered for nearly two months, then he passed her on to a bird rehabilitation specialist. Six weeks later the falcon took to the skies.
His own dog, Crash, a Rottweiler-mutt mix, was also a rescue, found 11 years ago alongside Interstate 215. She’d been hit by a car. Her pelvis was badly crushed and she was bleeding internally. Ceballos patched her up, repairing both hips. “It took me three months to teach that dog to walk again.”
Ceballos, who has been practicing in the Valley since 1999, is concerned about the recession’s impact on animals. Many people can’t afford to pay to clean their pets’ teeth or give them shots. When houses are foreclosed upon, some residents flee and leave their pets inside. Or worse still, they leave them out: “In this area it’s terrible, because that’s just coyote food,” he says.
He runs various promotions to try to help out. “We extend ourselves, you know. But we’re not making the money we once did.”
Suddenly, his eyes light up again. “Did I tell you about the elephant?”