Visionary / Co-founder The Lands at Hillside Farms
Dr. Doug Ayers was born in Wilkes-Barre and attended Coughlin High School and King’s College, Wilkes-Barre. His childhood was spent primarily on his family farm, which is nestled in the deep mountains of State Game Lands #57 in Noxen. Here he bonded with nature and the outdoors while working on his father’s cattle farm. This background led Doug to study biology in college.
While attending King’s, he spent summers attending marine science courses on an island in the Atlantic Ocean. Doug also worked at a Primate facility in Texas, which had 150 Chimpanzees that were housed in order to re-socialize them and transform them from dysfunctional laboratory, home, or circus reared environments to a more normal Chimp family social structure. Doug’s appreciation for biology and animals led him to pursue a career in veterinary medicine at The University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine. During this time he also worked at Harvard Medical School doing research on the AIDS virus. Ultimately, he declined offers from Harvard and Penn to attend Post Doctorate degrees in order to come home to Northeastern PA.
His interest in small animal veterinary care provided him with the opportunity to create Plains Animal Hospital in 1994. Doug’s farm boy ethic and conservation minded approach to life allowed him to become a successful leader in the non-profit world where he and friends started the North Branch Land Trust and The Lands at Hillside Farms. Doug enjoyed working with and caring for all species including people. He hoped his endeavors would influence as many folks as possible in order to redirect society toward a more kind, loving, responsible, and sustainable walk in life.
Chet Mozloom, Executive Director
The Lands at Hillside Farms
During the winter of 1999 I had a sick puppy on my hands. I did not have a regular veterinarian, so I page through the phone book looking for one in close proximity. I called Plains Animal Hospital, took the pup in with my wife, and my life was completely changed from that day forward.
The veterinarian was Dr. Douglas Ayers, or as I call him "The Doctor". During the appointment he essentially interrogated me and, at the end of the appointment he said, "Don’t be cheap. Join the North Branch Land Trust. It’s only $35.00. We have to help save the world from its current trajectory."
Through the next few years our friendship grew and I was shocked to have met a person so self-sacrificial, so true to his word, so disciplined and so caring, even of those he did not know. The Doctor was the real deal, a leader through example, passing every test throughout time by never showing signs of selfishness or hypocrisy.
The Doctor eventually did well as a businessman, but continued to give everything away, as he did when he was barely making it. His house was sparsely furnished, his truck was dented and rusty and he went from performing surgeries throughout the day to voluntarily fixing roofs and shoveling chicken manure in the evening on an almost daily basis. He did this so he could provide a place and the opportunity to touch lives and change lives, by holding people responsible for themselves and providing opportunities to our community. He simply cared about you. He lived to create a place for all of us to enjoy and reflect.
He used the word sustainable on a daily basis. Most minds immediately steer towards environmental issues at the sound of that word, but for him it was sustainability on every level, family, loving neighbors, making decisions based upon the impacts on others, not just economics, the deteriorating social fabric, love of country, etc. For him, this was driven by his faith. In this sense, the simple act of recycling is not about environmental activism as much as it is about caring for your neighbor by not making the world less inhabitable. It is about providing equal opportunity to future generations, good stewardship. Hem operated in the area of logic where intellectual adversaries could come together for the good of us all.
On September 12, 2017, The Doctor lost a decade long battle with leukemia. We lost a great one, a legend to those who were fortunate enough to know him. Beyond the difficulties of nearing death, he gave us his last days by directing his wishes for his continued gifting to our community through his life’s work and estate. He imagined and demanded that what he earned would make the world a better place after he was gone. As a community we were lessoned through his loss, but will recover through the opportunities he will foster in the future, through is benevolence.
While The Doctor is not with us his ideas live on. And there is hope that, like him, we will be like a comet crashing into our tendencies and changing the trajectory of the world. Please consider gifting your time, talent and treasures to those in need and in ways that result in a more sustainable world. Generosity comes in many forms and acts of kindness and we are all capable of and responsible for lending a hand, selflessly.