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Meet Hawaii's Tireless TV Veterinarian: The 'Aloha Vet'

Apr 25, 2015 07:47 PM EDT
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Being a vet doesn't always seem like an exciting job. Sure, meeting and saving furry friends has its own brand of gratification, but it's not the kind of work that will get your blood pumping. That's not so for Dr. Scott Sims, a veterinarian who moved to Hawaii in 2001 to take on a whole new kind of work day. He recently spoke with Nature World News (NWN) about his practice, his passions, and the reality TV show that has been part of his life for the greater part of the last year.

Through his clinic, the Pegasus Veterinary Clinic, the Kauai resident flits from island to island , making house calls, performing surgeries, and tending to livestock in trouble, but it wasn't always the island life for Sims.

"I worked in the northern Bay Area in a little town called Novato for 13 or so years," he told NWN in an exclusive interview.

"I had a very successful practice there and I liked it a lot," he added. " And then I made the mistake of coming to Hawaii on a vacation with a friend. It wasn't like anything I thought it was going to be!" (Scroll to read on...)

Sims had expected crowded beaches, tourist traps, and souvenir stands as far as the eye can see. Instead, Kauai - the fourth largest of Hawaii's main islands at about 560 square miles - presented the veterinarian with a lush green and rural paradise. He fell in love with the place.

"When I went home I immediately started closing doors," he said.

Paradise is Busier Than You'd Think

Sims has now been in Kauai for just about 14 years - longer than he was a veterinarian in California. But if you think living in paradise is like one long vacation, think again.

Sims told NWN that a typical day will start at 8 am and won't finish until about 12 hours later. Often, especially in the case of some delicate surgeries, he can find himself working past dusk - even forgetting to eat! (Scroll to read on...)

That's because, even with help from his two assistants, Dia and Ella, Pegasus is just one of only about 20 listed veterinarian practices in all of Kauai. By comparison, Novato boasts a stunning 230 private practices, clinics, and pet emergency centers. And while the little Californian town boasts about 52,000 people living within 28 square miles, Kauai boasts 65,000 residents living in secluded pockets of the large volcanic island.

"But the interior of the island is really wild. You can't just drive on over," Sim's added.

Instead, the vet often takes to the saddle, water, or sky to get where he needs to go. He even built his own airplane - a modest single seater with more than enough range to go island hopping.

"It sounds a lot more impressive than it really is," Sims said. "It's just a giant plastic model with a real engine." (Scroll to read on...)

What Makes a Great Veterinarian...

But while Sims can be bashful at times, he's an exceptionally charismatic human being who clearly loves the animals he works with.

"I think people love animals because they are really honest," he explained. "Even if they can't talk, they will still tell you what they are feeling and how they are feeling... and people like that."

However, he's quick to add that we should be careful not to anthropomorphize them, especially in the case of wild animals.

"One common problem for when people bring in wild animals is that they want us to treat them [immediately] - 'It's got a broken wing! We gotta help it right now!'"

"I'd have to tell them 'No, actually what we need to do is back off, get it stabilized... let it catch its breath, and then we can finally go in and fix whatever is wrong.'"

Sims explained that the tiny hearts of wild animals are delicate things, and if you try and fix everything all at once, you wind up just stressing them to death.

Still, he added that how quickly people become invested in animals they even just met is no-doubt a good thing.

... Also Makes Great TV

It may have been that level head and charming optimism which also earned Sims a spot on television. As of last year, a film crew has been following the vet around, watching him work, play, and generally treat each day as an adventure.

"I guess I'm just quirky enough for TV," he said with a chuckle. "It's not like I didn't have enough to do already... but I want to show people that we can do a lot better (in terms of caring for animals and the environment) without working very hard at it." (Scroll to read on...)

What he means by that is exemplified in the episodes of "Aloha Vet," which premiered on National Geographic Wild just last month. In these episodes, he suggests safer ways for farmers to tether their livestock, showcases good grooming habits for pets, and helps a lot of animals out of tough situations.

And he seems to have a lot of fun while doing it.

"I don't want to give too much away, but just last Christmas Eve I got this call to go see a horse that was stuck in a ditch," he told NWN.

"I'm driving out through this field at 10 o'clock at night on the night before Christmas and I can't even see where I'm going because the grass is so tall. And when I finally come upon where they wanted me, the grass parts to reveal this guy dressed up like Santa Clause who's peering into this deep ditch."

"And I'm thinking 'boy there better not be a sleigh at the bottom of this river!" he said laughing.

We won't spoil the whole story, but rest assured that Rudolf and the rest of the reindeer team are happy and healthy.

"It's been very interesting experience and it's been fun to see how people get so invested in their animals," Sims added. "And that's a good thing! Animals are an important part of our lives."

For more great nature science stories and general news, please visit our sister site, Headlines and Global News (HNGN).

- follow Brian on Twitter @BS_ButNoBS

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