Dr. Kevin Fitzgerald often recalls the time a little boy recognized him in the airport.

Dr. Kevin Fitzgerald of Alameda East Hospital (credit: CBS)

“You look like the guy on Animal Planet,” the boy said.

“Well, I am, little boy,” said Fitzgerald, sweetly.

“You wish!” the boy replied.

It’s one of dozens of real-life stories Fitzgerald handily slides into his comedy routine. Fitzgerald, also known as “the hardest working veterinarian in show business” has been doing comedy for 23 years, and even learned to tap dance at age 50. But in his day job, Fitzgerald is the kind and cool Senior Veterinarian at Alameda East Hospital in Denver. He also finds time to teach the craft.

“It’s stressful in its own way — but nobody’s dying … except maybe me, in my stand up routine,” Fitzgerald said.

Fitzgerald is well known for his pivotal roles in Animal Planet’s “E-Vets” and “E-Vet Interns,” as well as appearances on talk shows such as “the Late, Late Show.”

He has toured with Dennis Miller and Joan Rivers.

Back in the 1980s, before he attended veterinary school, Fitzgerald ran security for acts such as the Who, Willie Nelson, and the Rolling Stones. In fact, Fitzgerald credits a conversation with Keith Richards for his decision to go back to school.

“He goes, ‘The public’s fickle, this isn’t going to last forever, and you can’t be bouncing forever. Why don’t you do something with yourself?'” Fitzgerald said.

Fitzgerald now treats all kinds of animals, day and night. He is one of only a handful of turtle surgeons in the nation. And he’s known for his research on polar bears and rattlesnakes. He surgically inserts transmitters into snakes to learn more about their range, health issues and lifestyle.

“It’s been a great life for me to be a little boy from Denver and getting to put radio transmitters into snakes and see the polar bears,” said Fitzgerald.

(credit: CBS)

Fitzgerald shares that life with a little dog named Yoda, whom he rescued after Yoda’s mom died.

“He’s totally psyched every day. He’s a great role model,” said Fitzgerald. “That’s my goal, is to be totally psyched every day.”

Yoda recently had knee replacement surgery and is undergoing physical therapy at Alameda East that involves walking in a water tank.

“If you would have told me I’d be watching a dog do an underwater treadmill, I would have laughed at you, but no one’s laughing now. Just like my comedy,” joked Fitzgerald.

It’s evidence of a quickly growing trend in the United States. People will do just about anything for their pets.

“As we become more urban, we want to have animals. We want to have a lion on the couch or a wolf in the back yard, even though he’s a Dachsund, you know?” Fitzgerald said. “People know more about their own health, and it’s filtered down to our pets. People expect way more.”

Fitzgerald said his biggest concern with today’s pets is obesity.

“It’s not just a cosmetic thing. It’s the biggest problem I see as a vet. Measure your food, get them some exercise, maybe use ice cubes as treat or break the treats into quarters and give them just as many, but smaller. We’ve got to burn off more than we put in the cooker,” Fitzgerald said.

This October Fitzgerald will return to the Arctic for his latest in a series of trips to study polar bears.

“The animals are talking to us. We’ve got to listen,” said Fitzgerald. “There’s 10 million other life forms on this planet. We’re just one of them. We leave a huge footprint and we’ve gotta be cool.”