Dr. Richard Wood was adamant that a 50-year celebration of his career be more about the North Peace Veterinary Clinic he helped build than himself.
“The conditions of me showing up today, I wanted to know if this was a funeral or a retirement party,” Wood said with a laugh. “They said neither one, so I said OK.”
About 100 people gathered in the barn at the North Peace Fall Fairgrounds July 30 to hear about the history of the clinic and how much it has grown alongside Wood’s practice.
“He’s a shining example of perseverance and dedication, and a little bit of stubbornness, which goes a long way,” said Dr. Corinne Spitzer, who not now co-owns the clinic with her husband, Dr. Perry Spitzer, but is also Wood’s niece.
The day’s events included a slide show of old family photos, newspaper clippings, and shots of Wood at work in the clinic.
The vet clinic got its start in 1965 when Dr. Peter Cribb set up shop in Fort St. John. Two years later, he hired a freshly graduated Wood to take over the practice. Wood had graduated at the top of his class from Ontario Veterinary College.
“The deal was Dr. Wood would work for Dr. Cribb for a month, then, when he took over, Dr. Cribb would work for Dr. Wood for a month,” said Dr. Perry Spitzer. “Dr. Wood recently told me Dr. Cribb still owes him a couple weeks.”
Wood practiced out of his own home for many years, and it wasn’t unusual to see a truck backed into his carport with a cow needing surgery or help with a birth.
“The neighbourhood children were always excited when it was calving season, they’d watch and learn and were very attentive,” said Linda Wood, who has been married to Wood since 1969. “I don’t know if their parents ever knew or approved, but it was definitely an education.”
As the only rural veterinarian, Wood travelled to distant farms to work, often gone for days at a time.
“You’d drive 12 or 14 hours to the farm, spend about half that doing your work, and then drive back,” said Wood.
Eventually, Wood moved the clinic from his home to its current location just north of Fort St. John. It has grown from a single person to a staff of around 20 people, including veterinarians, technicians, and support staff.
Wood has no plans to stop working, and is thankful the Spitzers allow him to continue performing surgeries and other work.
“I really appreciate the staff at the North Peace Veterinary Clinic that have allowed me to carry on with my strange work schedule,” he said. “It’s really been a pleasure working there—more as an employee than a boss.”