colin hair vet
Colin Hair, Vet at Dart Vale Veterinary Group
My Job by Colin Hair of Dart Vale Veterinary Group
Who are you?
I’m Colin Hair. I’m a partner at the Dart Vale Veterinary Group, and have been a vet for 30 years.
What does your job involve?
We have six surgeries and we cover a huge area, from Slapton to Post Bridge to Newton Abbot. I cover Totnes and Dartmouth, and do a fair amount of farm and equine work. The nature of the job has changed over the years.
Vets used to work a lot on farms, looking after individual animals. Farms were smaller and there were a lot more of them. Nowadays farms are bigger, there are fewer farms, and the farmers tend to carry out a lot of the animal care themselves.
We get called out for the ‘fire brigade’ work – difficult calvings, awkward lambings, whelping bitches. But the dairy side of our work has diminished a lot – there just aren’t as many cows around.
The small animal side of the work is more prevalent these days. Mostly cats and dogs, some exotics, but we don’t see many of those. The work is always interesting – I’m constantly learning new things even after all these years. And it is good dealing with the public and being part of the community.
What other changes have you seen?
Definitely an increasing cat population. They’ve taken over from dogs. Also people expect more for their animals, and quite rightly so, and they get more. We can offer a greater degree of medical care, surgery and preventative medicine.
The standard of treatment for animals in all things has improved greatly. New discoveries and treatments are coming out all the time. We also have specialist referral centres where, if we can’t deal with something here, we refer the animals to specialists who do a better job dealing with these difficult and rare cases. Typical examples would be hip replacements in dogs, orthopaedic procedures, chemotherapy for dogs and cats, surgery for equine colic.
Another big change is that the profession is becoming increasingly female. It is now largely dominated by girls – 85 to 90 per cent of graduates are female and I think it’s because the girls work harder and are more focussed.
How long have you worked there?
Since 1982. My father came here in 1953 and bought the practice in Totnes. He joined forces with Wilf Beaumont a year later – there are quite a few people who still refer to the vets as Hair and Beaumont.
As a small boy I would go all around the farms with my father, thinking I was helping but not doing very much really. I loved it. It seems like a different world looking back to the small family farms of the 1960s. I always wanted to be a vet. I went to Glasgow University and worked for a time in Lincolnshire before I came back in November 1982, and I’ve been here ever since.
There are five partners, four more full time vets, three part time and a whole huge team of support staff who keep everything running smoothly, including Angela (pic. above) who answers the phone in the middle of the night if there is an emergency.
We are on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week – and if the client thinks it’s an emergency then it’s an emergency. That’s the tricky thing with animals – they can’t tell you what’s wrong. So we go out and see the animal or try to get the owner to meet us at the surgery. Thankfully we’re not Vets Direct yet!
Do you live nearby?
I live in Stoke Gabriel. It’s not far from where I was born, in Totnes. I went to school at Meadow House, then Montpelier in Paignton and finally Blundell’s in Tiverton.
What do you like to do when you are not at work?
I love all sports. I used to play rugby, now I play tennis and golf, and do a lot of walking. I support Torquay United. I’m very interested in natural history. I’m a member of Rotary in Totnes and used to be in the Round Table.
I’m the chairman of the Friends of St Mary’s Church in Totnes, and a former president of the Western Counties Division of the British Veterinary Association and the Totnes Show. I do get recognised – by the animals! The Totnes Show secretary’s dog, Baxter, only has to spot me in the crowd and he barks and barks.
Do you have any pets of your own?
I did. My yellow lab Ben died in December. He was fourteen and a half. I’m still very sad about it – it’s certainly too soon to get another dog at the moment. But it is good for vets to own pets – essential for understanding what our clients are going through.
What is the best thing about your job?
It is always interesting meeting people, working with the public and taking on new cases. We are very lucky that most pets are very well looked after and most pet owners are very nice people. As a profession we are dealing with a nice section of the community – the pet owning population is a very caring section of the public.
First Published March 2011 By The Dart