After nearly 57 years of servicing local pets, livestock and everything in between, Lakeside Veterinary Clinic closed its doors Friday, Jan. 27. For the first time since its construction, the office, …
After nearly 57 years of servicing local pets, livestock and everything in between, Lakeside Veterinary Clinic closed its doors Friday, Jan. 27. For the first time since its construction, the office, located on the northern edge of Paris, lies dormant.
More so than the building itself, the man behind the operation leaves an impressive mark on Paris.
Robert Dykeman Davis, known commonly as "Dyke," is a local boy and a University of Illinois graduate who poured countless hours into mastering his profession. After completing nine long years of studies, Davis briefly worked in Danville, before returning to his hometown to establish his own practice.
In the spring of 1966, Davis, with the help of some family members, broke ground on what eventually became Lakeside. Sara Davis-Lahman, Davis’ former wife, remembered the work ethic required to build Davis’ clinic.
“He was anything but lazy,” she said. “He’s always been a hard worker.”
Brad Davis, was another first-hand witness to his father’s resolve. One bitter cold November evening on the open Illinois prairie, Dyke Davis spent hours replacing the faulty motor in his Oliver tractor, alone, as his son watched in awestruck wonder.
“He was tough,” Brad Davis said. “Just a tough guy… He’d tackle anything by himself.”
After digging an well and finishing construction on his new office, Dyke Davis moved on to the work he was truly passionate about: animals.
Over the course of his decades-spanning career, Davis handled everything from housecats to horses. Some of his exploits sound superhuman in nature.
“He was tough,” recalled Davis-Lahman. “I’ve seen him pick up a (newborn) calf by its legs and swing it around to get the fluid out of its airways.”
Davis’ feats are made more extraordinary by the circumstances he overcame as a teen. In high school, doctors diagnosed Davis with polio, which rendered his right arm useless for six months.
Fortunately, his diagnosis never stopped him. Davis recovered and made his way onto the football team at Paris High School. Eventually, he donned the Orange and Blue as an Illini fullback before retiring from the game to focus on his studies.
“He’s proud of the fact that he worked his tail off,” said Roz Davis, Dyke’s daughter, of his recovery.
Whether birthing calves or birthing cats, Dyke Davis’ knowledge of his community and his profession remain unmatched. Often, Roz Davis enjoyed a front-row seat to his masterful work.
“He would wake me up to go on a cattle call, or to watch a colt being born,” she recalled. “I watched him do amazing things, even if they were not always fun.”
Brad Davis found himself pulled into his dad’s work on numerous occasions as well.
“I don’t know how many times the phone rang during dinner,” Brad said. “We’d get a call anytime a dog got hit or a calf was being born. We would just leave our meal on the table and go.”
Dyke Davis’ work in and around Edgar County acquainted the vet with every backroad and alley, so much so that some claim his knowledge of the area rivals the fire department. Davis’ razor-sharp memory manifested itself in other ways as well.
“When it came to medicine, he had a photographic memory,” recalled Roz Davis. “He memorized it all. It seemed easy for him.”
Perhaps the only thing more impressive than Davis’ larger-than-life feats or his sharp mind is his commitment to his family and clients, furry or otherwise.
To celebrate Roz’s eighth-grade graduation, Davis surprised his daughter with a horse — one that he managed to cram into the compact waiting room at Lakeside for a surprise reveal.
For Roz Davis, however, her father’s steady support and encouragement left a greater impact. When asked about the life lessons she gleaned from her time on the job with her dad, she shared an abundance.
“(He taught me) you can do anything you put your mind to,” she said. “He never told me I couldn’t or shouldn’t do something, even when working outside or working with tools was mostly male-oriented.”
Dyke Davis’ infectious ambition motivated Roz Davis to open her own business, Lady Fix-It, in Indianapolis, Indiana. Davis ran that business for roughly 35 years before returning home to help at Lakeside, and she plans to reopen in Paris in the coming months.
Dyke Davis’ drive and determination extended to his son as well.
“There is no doubt that his work ethic is instilled in me,” said Brad Davis. “I just can’t sit still.”
Davis’ work was motivated by his patients.
“He helped everyone, and he knew he wouldn’t get paid sometimes,” said Roz Davis.
“He just wanted animals to be cared for,” added Davis-Lahman.
The trustworthy service that Dyke Davis provided at Lakeside was enough to pull in customers from as far as Terre Haute, Clinton and even Chicago.
As a member of the community, Davis has been involved in a plethora of groups and events.
Davis was the official veterinarian for the Edgar County Animal Shelter, and was heavily involved with the American Legion, the local Shriners, and sat on the Paris 95 school board for two straight terms, but his work with animals always commanded his attention.
“It (veterinary work) kept him going constantly,” said Roz Davis.
“Most days he was out until dark working,” Brad Davis added. “He just enjoyed what he was doing.”
Currently, Dyke Davis resides at Paris Health and Rehab Center, but if he had his way, he would still be hard at work according to Davis-Lahman.
“He told me ‘I won’t retire, I’ll drop dead here (the office),’” she said.
In a time when climbing the corporate ladder and staying on the move are measures of success, Dyke Davis’ work serves as a worthwhile reminder of the importance of investing in your local community. While the clinic he established is closing its doors, Davis’ legacy of hard work and perseverance will benefit Edgar County for years to come.