ER bio photo Dr. Elizabeth Rivers grew up in the small town of Pickens, SC. She spent much of her childhood dreaming of becoming a veterinarian and spent the next 18 years achieving that goal. She has been working in veterinary clinics for 11 years. She started as a kennel assistant and became a veterinary assistant. In 2009, she earned her Bachelor of Arts in molecular biology from Colgate University in Hamilton, NY. She graduated magna cum laude and was a member of Beta Beta Beta honor society. At the University Of Georgia College Of Veterinary Medicine she focused on small animal medicine and surgery and was a member of Phi Zeta honor society. In 2014 she graduated cum laude with her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) degree.
She was practicing small animal veterinary medicine in Columbia, SC prior to moving to Charleston. She is a member of the South Carolina Veterinary Medical Association (SCVMA), American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), and American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA). Dr. Rivers’ interests include preventive care, soft tissue surgery, and behavior. She lives on Johns Island, SC with her husband, their 3 dogs, and their cat. Her interests outside veterinary medicine include spending time with her family, volleyball, and woodworking.

“My sister and I found a kitten while sleeping over at a friends house.  We snuck that kitten into our overnight bag and brought him home.  The meowing surprised our parents later that day.  That cat, named “Mo” and I were inseparable after that.  I knew then that becoming a veterinarian was what I was destined to do. ”

 Dr. Rivers purchased Angel Oak Animal Hospital in 2018.

Thank you for allowing Ben and Tanya to be a part of your lives and the community for the past 20 years. I am so excited to become a part of the Angel Oak Animal Hospital family! Ben and Tanya have had a huge impact on my life, and I am thrilled about the opportunity to continue their legacy. I am looking forward to continuing the excellent standard of medicine and customer service that Angel Oak Animal Hospital has always provided.


Dr. Gruhler was born and raised down beach from Atlantic City, NJ. He spent summers as a kid fishing, crabbing, or playing at he beach with his family, and excelled at academia and sports, He also took piano lessons for a number of years. Dr. Gruhler was a young entrepreneur who delivered 200 newspapers (4 routes) every morning from 6th grade through high school. Great customer service came naturally to him. If it were raining, he would stop and place an elderly person’s paper in between the doors even though it took much longer. Dr. Gruhler began working for his hometown vet at age 19, and hung on his mentor’s every word. It was here that he learned the “art” of veterinary practice.

It seems all children love animals but young Dr. Gruhler’s connection to them seemed to run even deeper, and a desire to care for them became a natural passion. He knew he wanted to be a vet by age 12.

“We had some distant relatives, Joe and John, visiting from England.
When I told them I thought I wanted to be a vet, they sent over a series of James Herriot paperbacks not yet published in the U.S. I could not put them down. Herriot’s life was full, and no day ever the same. I laughed, I cried…reading story, after story, and I marveled how his experience was much like the hills of the Yorkshire Dales he drove through every day. Yea, I know kind of corny, but that was the life I wanted.”

Dr. Gruhler founded Angel Oak Animal Hospital in 1998 within 2 years of graduating veterinary school in a small bungalow with a lot of potential. He, Tanya, friends and family renovated, remodeled, and added on to the 1941 structure and that little bungalow evolved into a charming and welcoming place for pets on Johns Island.

“Our clients and their pets are my life….my focus, my passion, my responsibility, my worry. Everyday. I do not rest until I know that all of their needs are properly met. We tout excellent client service just like every other vet, but we consistently deliver that, and then some. Clients will perceive unsurpassed value from the personal experience they will have at our practice. I have a lot of pride in being able to deliver outstanding service with a small but mighty staff. I cannot describe the satisfaction I feel protecting or restoring a pet’s health, and relieving their pain and suffering….I have been blessed.”

Tanya and Ben have 2 cats (Trout, Fiddler-Chipotle), and 2 dogs (Pilgrim, the Labrador & Tico, the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel).

  • Education: NC State-DVM, East Stroudsburg Univ-BS Biology
  • Hobbies: built log home, gardening, working out, piano, chickens
  • Experience: 31+ years in the vet field
  • Memberships: American Veterinary Dental Society
  • American Veterinary Medical Association
  • South Carolina Association of Veterinarians
  • Trident Veterinary Medical Association
  • Interests: Small Animal Dentistry/Client Service


Dr. Allison was born and raised in Cape Town, South Africa. She moved to the U.S. when she was 10 and has been in Charleston since 1983. Since she was very young, she always knew she wanted to be a veterinarian. She spent her childhood exploring nature, riding horses, and playing with dogs and cats. Her love and passion for science, people, and animals naturally led to a lifetime of studying the human-animal bond and the importance of this relationship and how instrumental it is to healing. Along with her love of animals, Dr. Allison also spent her childhood playing the piano, violin, tennis, and volleyball. She started working for a veterinary practice at 17, and since graduating vet school has had the opportunity to work in emergency medicine, develop and teach 2 classes at the Veterinary Technician program at Trident tech, teach workshops about healing and the human-animal bond, and work at a variety of practices all over the low country doing relief work. She is very excited to be a part of  Angel Oak Animal Hospital once again.

Today you will find Dr. Allison outside in nature or by the water, traveling across country, listening to live music, or attending a live sports event. She is married to Tristan Jerue, and has two children, Haley and Luke. She lives in the country and provides a home to 4 fun and wonderful cats- Wally, Itty Bitty, Speedy, and the LB.

“One of my favorite quotes is by Dr. Albert Schweitzer who said: “”A good doctor simply awakens the physician within.””  My passion and purpose is life has always been, how can I be the best veterinarian possible? How can I help ease pain and suffering, both in your pet and in you? How can I help facilitate healing and help the human-animal bond? I absolutely love and care about people and animals, and want the help above all else. I believe a good doctor awakens the physician within, not just through the medicine we deliver but through compassion, kindness, and understanding. Ultimately it boils down to one thing, love heals all.” -Lara Allison, DVM. 

  • Education: B.S. in Animal Science at UGA, DVM at UGA
  • Hobbies: traveling, music, movies, reading, yoga, and zumba
  • Experience: 31+ years
  • Memberships: American Veterinary Medical Association, Trident Veterinary Medical Association, International Academy of Pain Management, and Human-Animal Bond Society
  • Interests: Mind-body medicine, healing, the human-animal bond, internal medicine, behavior and pain relief


Tanya Bio PicTanya is a native of Charleston, SC and can’t imagine living anywhere else. Describing her as a water rat is an understatement! She spent many of her childhood days with family at Lake Moultrie or Folly Beach, or with her friends, water skiing, sailing, or exploring in the Stono River. She excelled in academia, drama, sports, and singing. She began working with a local veterinarian at the age of 14. Tanya and Ben co-founded Angel Oak Animal Hospital while she worked as a nurse in the surgical ICU at Roper Hospital. Tanya gave up nursing after 7 years to join their busy veterinary practice full-time.

Today, Tanya is the head receptionist, practice manager, and co-owner of Angel Oak Animal Hospital. She suffers from a severe fishing addiction. If she is not on the water tossin’a line, she is somewhere basking in the sun reading a good book, singing, or listening to country music.

“I am a people person, and especially enjoy public relations and client services. Chances are, if you have stopped in only once, I will know who you are the next time without even asking.” – Tanya Dowdy, R.N.

  • Education: Winthrop University/MUSC BS Nursing
  • Hobbies: flats fishing
  • Experience: 26+ years
  • Interests: Public relations/client service


Acacia was born in Cumberland, Maryland, and then moved to Baltimore, MD for college. She attended Stevenson University and graduated with a B.S. in Biology and Chemistry minor. She moved to Charleston with her husband Joshua in May 2014. They have a Mini Dachshund named Lyla and a cat named Mr. Wilson.

While in Baltimore she worked for a large emergency vet clinic, where she gained many valuable skills and knowledge. She realized that this career was her passion, so she decided to pursue a degree in Veterinary Technology, at Penn Foster College. She then decided she wanted a smaller clinical setting where she could really get to know her clients and have a more set schedule. She and her husband also wanted a change in environment and a more outdoor lifestyle at the beach.

Acacia and Joshua got married in October 2016 and enjoy spending time with friends and their dog, Lyla, at the beach.

“I love knowing that I have a part in the lives of the clients’ pets, whom they care greatly about and think of as family. When I get to know a client/pet it is like they are a part of my family and helping them live happy and healthy is very satisfying and important.” – Acacia Felten

  • Education: Stevenson University: B.S. Biology w/ chemistry minor
  • Hobbies: being at the beach, shopping, traveling, being outside, music, and sports
  • Experience: 6 years
  • Interests: dentistry, client services, management


Alysha was born and raised in a small town outside of Albany, NY. She and her boyfriend, Ryan, then moved to Charleston in early 2017; because of a job transfer for Ryan. They have a small furry family: a german shepherd, Sophie and an orange kitty, Ziggy.

While in New York, she worked at an all cat clinic as an assistant for 2 years. She learned many skills and techniques. After moving to Charleston, she wanted to continue to expand her skills and knowledge in a small animal practice. She hopes to go even further in this career path by starting classes with Penn Foster College to achieve her veterinary technician degree and to become licensed.

“Animals don’t have a voice, we are their voice. They’re always counting on us to make the best decisions for them, even when it hurts. Being in this field you have to have a strong stomach, patience, and compassion. This job is the hardest, yet the most rewarding job I have ever had. This job isn’t for everyone, but it’s definitely the job for me” – Alysha Sisson 

  • Hobbies: hiking, motocross, beach, being outdoors, water sports
  • Experience: 3 years
  • Interest: surgery, dentistry