Paul Kennedy has looked after pets and farm animals in Prince Rupert for the last 41 years (Matthew Allen / The Northern View)

Heart of Our City: Four-legged care

Paul Kennedy has spent more than 40 years working as a vet in Prince Rupert

In the 42 years he has worked as a veterinarian in Prince Rupert, Paul Kennedy has seen it all.

From farm animals to household pets, Kennedy has taken pride in looking after the region’s furry companions.

While he is now retired, the 68-year-old has cared for more than 1,000 animals in his practice.

“Animals are taking a more important role in people’s lives than they did before, they’re being treated more as family,” said Kennedy. “So to be able to help them feels good.”

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Kennedy grew up on a dairy farm in Salmon Arm where milking cows twice a day was as routine as taking out the garbage. He said he was inspired to pursue a career in taking care of animals while watching the local vet tend to animals on his farm. When he was 10 years old, the Kennedy family cat was injured and the vet diagnosed and treated it.

“He told us that it was a pelvic injury, and if we took him home and kept him comfortable he would be fine,” Kennedy said.

Sure enough, after a few weeks, the cat made a full recovery and Kennedy knew what he wanted to do with his life. He went to the University of British Columbia before attending the University of Saskatchewan’s Western College of Veterinary Medicine for four years of study.

Initially, Kennedy thought he would be a large animal practitioner and work on the types of animals he grew up with on his farm, but after graduating he found himself drawn to working with smaller animals.

“I found smaller animals to be more of a challenge,” he said “You can do more surgery on them when they require it, and you can repair broken bones, which with some of the larger animals you couldn’t really do at that time.”

After graduating and spending some time at a larger clinic in Kelowna, Kennedy decided to start his own practice, and decided to open it in Prince Rupert after a friend from Terrace recommended it to him.

Six months later, Kennedy moved to what he described as “a friendly, growing community” and quickly received his first case. A younger family with several young puppies came to him because one of them was sick due to a lack of calcium.

“I hadn’t even gotten the clinic open, but they phoned me where I was living at the time and asked if I could look at the dog,” Kennedy said. “Fortunately the medication had already arrived so I was able to treat it.

“It was one of those cases where after you give the dog the calcium, they’re back to normal after 30 minutes, so they thought that was quite amazing.”

Kennedy settled into a routine of conducting appointments and surgery locally, while providing additional care in the region, sometimes doing horse and cattle work in Haida Gwaii.

As the practice grew, so too did the number and variety of his cases. Kennedy said one of the strangest animals he ever saw was an anteater that was brought in off a cruise ship from South America.

“They dropped it off for a week, and then when the cruise ship came back around they picked it up again,” he said.

Not all of his cases were quite as exotic, but Kennedy said they could still be strange.

“You see a little bit of everything, we have animals who have eaten all kinds of things” he said. “We had a lab come in with wool, a cassette case, a rock and some other miscellaneous items in his stomach. He chewed it up, but we still had to remove it.”

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Kennedy retired from the clinic in July, and while he will still assist if they need him, he said enjoying the free time that comes with not coming into work every day.

“I walk everyday now and do things that I couldn’t do when I was working,” he said. “Forty-two years isn’t bad. As some people put it, I did my turn.”

Kennedy said he still misses his clients and working with the animals.

He may be far removed from his farm in Saskatchewan, but curiosity and love for animals will never leave.

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