Paws for Thought

Alyce Gorter

Dr. Lori Forester, with a patient in her Tamworth veterinary hospital. (Photo by Barry Lovegrove)
[This article ran in the February/March 2016 issue of The SCOOP.]

When James Alfred Wight started authoring stories about his experiences as a country veterinarian in Scotland, he could not have known how they would influence the life of a little girl from Regina, Saskatchewan. However, when Lori Forester read a paperback edition of his book All Creatures Great and Small, penned under the name James Herriot, during Grade 7, she immediately decided that she, too, would one day be a veterinarian.

Growing up on a farm surrounded by first horses, cats and dogs, and then cattle, Lori knew that entry into vet school could be achieved by only two routes. Either good marks plus work experience with a licensed veterinarian, or such excellent marks that the school would overlook her lack of experience. Not taking any chances, Lori worked hard and achieved excellent grades, but from the age of 18, she also assisted a female veterinarian who owned her own practice. This role model juggled the challenges of her job with motherhood – of ten carrying her child in a sling on her back while she tended to the needs of her four-legged patients – proving to Lori that it was possible under even demanding circumstances to be both a mother and a successful businesswoman in a male-dominated field.

High school was followed by two years of pre-vet Science courses at the University of Regina, then four additional years studying animal husbandry, behaviour, surgery, medicine, and science at the Western College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Saskatchewan. Lori notes that for those now considering a career as a veterinarian, the path may even be longer. More people are applying, so universities can be very selective. It is unlikely that any student with less than a four-year university degree prior to application would be accepted into the Veterinary Medicine program.

After graduation in 1995 with a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree, Lori began working in Alberta for a mixed-animal practice doing ambulatory (farm visits) as well as office treatments. In the prairie provinces it is more common for the animal patient – no matter what size it may be -- to come to the doctor than it is for the doctor to visit the patient. Therefore, most vet clinics contain stocks and chutes to hold cattle and horses.

Being in small animal practice since 1998 has allowed Lori to develop her interest and skills in surgery, medicine, and dentistry. Over these years she has done countless knee surgeries, cancer surgeries, and abdominal operations on both dogs and cats in addition to routine spays and neuters and has treated innumerable medical cases, some requiring extensive investigation and research to try to get to the bottom of an issue. 

She has had special training in veterinary dentistry. Proper treatment of dogs’ and cats’ teeth can be complicated. Both species have teeth that can have multiple roots and as much tooth below the gum line as they do above, making extractions especially difficult.

After working as a veterinarian in Ontario for 13 years, Lori, like her mentor, became the mother of a now one-year-old son. Seeing a need for a veterinary hospital in the Tamworth area and wanting to work near her family and in her own community, Lori surveyed 200 Tamworth residents to determine the local desire for such a business and began plans to open her veterinary hospital. 

Beginning in 2014 and over the intervening year, she consulted with Stone Mills Township officials and the Quinte Conservation Authority to come up with a zoning plan to allow the property to be used as a veterinary hospital while at the same time continuing to protect the Salmon River and the interests of the community. Lori has a strong belief in keeping things within the community that she loves and all work being done on the project from the realtor, architect, building contractor, and sub-contractors, to the interior design, sign and fa├žade design, computer-technology expert, water-systems company, and business development planner has been sourced locally. The result?

Tamworth Veterinary Services opened on January 27 in the newly renovated building across from the Tamworth Elementary School. Dr. Lori Forester, DVM, provides a full service small animal veterinary hospital including wellness exams with vaccines, routine and elective surgery, medical diagnostics and treatment, diagnostic and dental radiology, dental cleaning, and surgery. The hospital has two wards to accommodate patients who may require overnight treatment as necessary. Once established, the practice may introduce a large animal mobile service. Also in the future is the possibility of an in-house groomer.

Business hours are Mondays and Tuesdays from 10:00 a.m to 6:00 p.m, Wednesdays through Fridays from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., and Saturdays from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. The clinic is located at 6667 Wheeler Street, and you can book an appointment by phone at 613-379-5900.

For local animals and their owners, this is all good news. James Herriot would have certainly agreed.