Dr. Jeff Berry and his wife Rhonda MacDonald smile together at Lake Louise during their move to the West Coast. (Photo courtesy of Rhonda MacDonald)

Dr. Jeff Berry and his wife Rhonda MacDonald smile together at Lake Louise during their move to the West Coast. (Photo courtesy of Rhonda MacDonald)

Tofino welcomes much needed veterinarian to town

West Coast has not had a full-time vet since Dr. Jane Hunt surrendered her licence in 2004.

The West Coast is always happy to welcome new residents to its communities, but local pet owners are particularly jubilant about the arrival of a semi-retired couple from Ontario because, for the first time in a longtime, a full-time vet service is on the horizon.

Dr. Jeff Berry and his wife Rhonda MacDonald purchased a property in Tofino roughly five years ago and planned to retire in the community, but waited until their two youngest daughters, twins who were both in Grade 9 at the time, graduated high school before heading to their dream destination.

“We had the green light to move permanently to Tofino once all our kids were in university,” she said. “It’s kind of a semi-retirement thing. Both of us have lost parents really young in life and we thought, there is no point in waiting until we’re 65 to retire because, statistically, it’s not good.”

They arrived from their Southampton Ontario home late last year with their one-year-old retriever named Rosie and 17-year-old cat Smokey in tow.

Berry had spent time tree planting in Tofino during the 1980’s while attending university and he and MacDonald moved to Vancouver Island together after graduating, with Berry taking his first job at a veterinary clinic in Mill Bay.

After two years though, the couple traveled back to Ontario to raise their family.

“We always talked about coming back someday,” Berry said. “I always said if we ever went back to the Island, I’d love to go to Tofino…I love to fish and the kids love to surf and we both love the beaches and the outdoors.”

READ MORE: VIDEO: Vancouver Island’s Long Beach named one of world’s best

Serendipitously, all four of their daughters have wound up in B.C., three attending UBC and one attending UVIC, well within long-weekend travel distance of Tofino.

While they had targeted Tofino as their retirement spot and arrived ready to relax, the couple learned that the West Coast has not had a full-time veterinarian since new regulations forced Dr. Jane Hunt to surrender her licence in 2004.

READ MORE: West Coast communities to discuss lack of vet services

Having owned and operated a veterinary hospital in Ontario for about 25 years, both Berry and MacDonald felt a sense of duty to their new neighbours so they launched the Tofino Vet Clinic.

“Jeff really loves medicine for the sake of medicine, but I think it’s a service that you have to do for a community. It breaks my heart that people desperately need medical care [for their pets] and they can’t get it. I’m frustrated for them. I think you just have to do it as a community service,” MacDonald said.

“As we got to know the community and the need for the vet, we decided that it would be a good thing to do to get at least a small clinic set up,” Berry added.

READ MORE: Parvovirus puts absence of veterinarian in Tofino and Ucluelet under microscope

While Berry has enjoyed a successful veterinary career and treated all kinds of animals beyond dogs and cats, including lizards, ferrets, birds, rats and even a timber wolf that needed surgery on its hip, he cautioned the West Coast against expecting a full-fledged, 24/7, animal hospital out of the gate.

“We’re trying to find that balance between still being able to provide veterinary services because I love doing that, but also not working too much. We’re trying to find some balance in our lives as well,” he said.

“We don’t want to let people down so I don’t want to raise people’s expectations that it’s going to be the emergency room at the hospital, it’s just one person, at least initially,” MacDonald added. “I’ve been joking with Jeff though; I give him six months before he wants a big surgery [hospital]. So much for retirement,” she laughed.

Berry has been maneuvering through the hoops of establishing a vet service in B.C. since May and has nearly navigated his way through with an inspection by the College of Veterinarians of B.C on Jan. 19 representing his final hurdle.

He expressed confidence that he’ll be up and running “a few days” after that.

“The initial accreditation is going to be just a house-call practice,” he said, adding he’s looking for a permanent location to establish a clinic. “We’ll be able to do some medical procedures, minor surgery, lab work and see sick patients. We won’t have a big surgery or overnight facilities set up to start.”

He has a vehicle set up with medical equipment and plans to be mobile and able to serve Ucluelet and local First Nations as well as Tofino.

In the meantime, the new West Coasters have enjoyed settling into their new hometown, which MacDonald noted is similar in size to their previous community of about 2,500 people.

“Despite the fact that I’m not related to anybody in Tofino and I feel like I was related to everybody in my small town, it’s still that vibe,” she said, adding she joined the Tofino-Ucluelet choir last September.

“It’s quite a little family, that choir, and it was really nice.”

READ MORE: Tofino-Ucluelet Choir’s magic connects Coast



andrew.bailey@westerlynews.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Tofino Resort and Marina has temporarily shut down after several staff members tested positive for COVID-19. (Nora O’Malley photo)
COVID-19 confirmed at Tofino Resort and Marina

Resort apologizes to Hesquiaht First Nation for Valentine’s Day boating incident.

An investigation is underway after a man was shot and killed by Tofino RCMP in Opitsaht. (Black Press Media file photo)
Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation man shot and killed by Tofino RCMP

Investigation underway by Independent Investigations Office of British Columbia.

Visitors relax at the natural hot springs located within Maquinna Marine Provincial Park. (tofinohiking.com photo)
Maquinna Marine Provincial Park boardwalk project on track

“The walk down the two-kilometre boardwalk to the springs itself is by far one of the most incredible experiences.”

WILDLIFE TREE: Tofino Poet Laureate Christine Lowther stands next to a giant cedar tree on District Lot 114, the site of Tofino’s controversial affordable housing project. The tree was pinned with an official Ministry of Forests yellow wildlife tree sign to educate fallers that the tree needs to be left standing for food, shelter and nesting. (Nora O’Malley photo)
Tofino author Christine Lowther calling for poetry about trees

“I’m thrilled to be of service to trees through poetry.”

Tofino will elect a new mayor and two new councillors on March 6. (Westerly file photo)
Tofino’s mayoralty candidates lay out key differences

Tofino will elect a new mayor and two new councillors on March 6.

Island Health chief medical officer Dr. Richard Stanwick receives a first dose of Pfizer vaccine, Dec. 22, 2020. (B.C. government)
COVID-19 vaccination set to start for B.C. seniors aged 80-plus

Long-term care residents protected by shots already given

Det. Sgt. Jim Callender. (Hamilton Police Service screenshot)
B.C. man dead, woman seriously injured after shooting in Hamilton, Ont.

The man was in the process of moving to the greater Toronto area, police say

Wildlife advocate Gary Schroyen captured this picture of a one-year-old cougar in the Sooke Hills using a homemade trip camera. Vancouver Island is home to approximately 800 cougars, which makes up about a quarter of the total population in B.C. (Gary Schroyen photo)
Wildlife advocate Gary Schroyen captured this picture of a one-year-old cougar in the Sooke Hill using a homemade trip camera. Schroyen presents Animal Signs: The Essence of Animal Communication on Nov. 30. (Gary Schroyen photo)
Declining Vancouver Island cougar populations linked to wolves

Large carnivore specialist says human development still plays biggest role on cougar numbers

Police have identified the vehicle involved in the Feb. 14 hit-and-run in Chemainus and are continuing to investigate. (Black Press Media files)
Police seize and identify suspect vehicle in hit-and-run

Investigation into death expected to be lengthy and involved

(Black Press file photo)
Child in critical condition, homicide investigators probe incident near Agassiz

The child was transported to hospital but is not expected to survive

Sewage plant in Lower Mainland, operated by Metro Vancouver. (Metro Vancouver screenshot)
‘Poop tracker’ launches as researchers test Lower Mainland sewage water for COVID-19

‘Studying the virus in wastewater allows researchers to look at an entire population…’

This poster, spreading misinformation regarding COVID-19 restrictions, has been popping up in communities across Vancouver Island.
UPDATED: Poster popping up in Island communities falsely claiming COVID restrictions are over

Unattributed poster claims COVID restrictions ended March 1; Island Health responds

(Pxhere)
Compensation fund opens for B.C. students negatively affected by incorrect exam marks

Marks for 2019 provincial exams were incorrectly tabulated

Most Read