Rescuing a sea turtle caught in a fishing line, castrating a goat, extracting a horse’s broken tooth and tagging sharks — it’s all in a day’s work for veterinarian Scott Sims.
Piloting a plane he built himself, the Kauai-based doctor travels all over the Hawaiian islands to treat his patients. His practice is the subject of the Nat Geo Wild series "Aloha Vet," which premieres March 21 with an episode that follows him as he treats a couple of dogs, rescues a horse with a broken leg from a creek, trims a potbellied pig’s toenails and parrot’s beak, and repairs a goat’s hernia.
Born in New Jersey and raised in California, Sims got his veterinary training at the University of California, Davis, and moved to Hawaii in 2001. “I came here on vacation in 2000 and fell in love with the land,” he says. He also fell in love with science and animals from an early age, growing up with a pet dog and cat, a parrot and a horse. “I took my first horse-riding lesson when I was 4 years old. I bought my first horse at 7 years old with my own money,” he says. In his sophomore year in college, “All my friends were in the biological sciences so I gravitated to it and haven’t looked back since.”
Buddy the dog takes a nap in Sims' lap.
Sims moved his clinic, Pegasus Veterinary Clinic, from Novato to his new residence in Kauai. While he dislikes paperwork and giving bad news to people when he can’t save an animal, he loves “helping animals and people, the science and challenges about the job. I love surgical cases the most, but I love a great challenge. Or when the owner is really attached,” says Sims, whose practice consists of 40 percent domestic pets, 50 percent farm animals and 10 percent exotics.
Though he loves it, his work does have its hazards. “I was kicked in the knee by a horse and went airborne after the kick. I traveled six to eight feet in the air. I had a few months of recovery,” Sims says. “I took a hard blow on that one.”
“Mentally, the most difficult moment was treating Pony Boy, a horse that belonged to an 8-year-old kid and needed surgery, but the family couldn’t afford it. So our staff still did it, but when they were waiting to take him home, the horse slipped and fell, then died. The kid watched the horse die, which was the hardest part.”
Sims has clients as far away as Texas, but his average travel day is 100 miles by car or several hundred by air. “The most remote location was when I hiked up in the hills to help horses that were stuck,” he says.
He took up flying for fun after he graduated high school. “It was hard for me because I get motion sickness, so it took longer than normal because we had to go back to the runway and cut lessons short. But I still learned!”
Today, Sims, a bachelor, lives with an African gray parrot and a few horses in paradise. When he's not caring for patients, he enjoys riding, woodworking, photography, writing, scuba, and building things. Some of his patients belong to celebrities, and that’s what led to the TV series.
Professional surfer Laird Hamilton “was shooting a reality segment about himself when his dog was badly injured, which required multiple check-up exams. He came in for one with his film crew and I later got a call from Shine America, the production company, to do a show,” explains Sims. It’s been a positive experience. “The crews are incredibly professional and I really enjoyed it. ”
While Sims says he’s done most of the things he has wanted to do in life, there are a few things left on his to-do list.
“I have been developing this practice and having a lot of fun," he says. "I want to finish writing my book, ‘Eating Horses Don’t Die.’ I would like to fly my private plane and land in all 50 U.S. states, and build a house and be able to park my airplane in a garage connected to the house.”
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