Outtakes: The adventures of ‘Aloha Vet’

Mar. 24, 2015 | 0 Comments

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BY MIKE GORDON / mgordon@staradvertiser.com

Reality television often looks stranger than fiction, but there’s no way a writer could invent the life of Dr. Scott Sims, the barefoot veterinarian from the north shore of Kauai.

As the star of “Aloha Vet,” the new series from Nat Geo Wild, Sims offers stories about setting a dog’s broken leg with plates and pins, removing a tumor from a guinea pig, operating on a goat with a hernia (which goes well until the goat wakes up early) and rescuing an unconscious horse from a rocky stream.

COURTESY NAT GEO WILD Nat Geo Wild’s “Aloha Vet,” Dr. Scott Sims, is a veterinarian who travels the islands to treat animals in need.

COURTESY NAT GEO WILD

Nat Geo Wild’s “Aloha Vet,” Dr. Scott Sims, is a veterinarian who travels the islands to treat animals in need.

That’s actually the routine stuff.

Sims once operated on an angelfish. He gave it general anesthesia so he could remove a cyst. When a nene goose broke a leg, Sims grafted a piece of cow bone to make it whole.

He once nearly lost a Hawaiian coot when it wouldn’t wake up after surgery. Sims revived it with to mouth-to-beak resuscitation, his own mind racing with a fear that he would contribute to the decline of an endangered species. He wasn’t so successful with the diabetic parrot that arrived at his clinic in a coma.

“It’s crazy,” he said last week during a stop in Hono­lulu to promote the series. “I have a really busy practice.”

If none of that strikes you as unusual, consider that the 59-year-old Sims makes house calls — even if he has to fly to a neighbor island in the single-engine plane he built himself. And just as he does when he operates on an animal or drives around Kauai, Sims will be barefoot in the show.

“What else could I do that could be as rewarding and as fun as that?” he said. “I really love what I do.”

But it’s a lot of work — about 10 to 14 hours a day, six days a week — and not what he envisioned when he moved to Kauai from Novato, Calif., about 14 years ago. Sims had a successful practice in Novato, a semi-rural bedroom community in Marin County, and figured he could scrape together a modest living working part time on Kauai.

He didn’t want to get rich, he said. He wanted to be semi-retired and share a home with his parents, whom he brought with him when they were in their 80s.

Instead, he got very, very busy.

“I’m foolish enough to take on any case,” he said. “I don’t shy away from taking on difficult or unusual cases.”

SIMS HAS been an animal lover all his life. Growing up on an acre in Danville, Calif., Sims, an only child, was surrounded by horses, dogs, cats and birds. When he sees an animal in trouble, it’s his instinct to help.

“I have real trouble saying no when someone comes in and needs some help,” he said.

Nat Geo Wild approached Sims about a year ago. He had come to their attention when the veterinarian was treating a badly injured dog owned by big-wave surfer Laird Hamilton. The dog, which had been attacked by a neighbor’s pit bull, required several visits to the vet’s clinic. During one surgery, Hamilton was being shadowed by a film crew.

By summer, Sims had his own entourage, which included several cameramen and a drone pilot. Initially, they were on Kauai only a short time but returned in September and followed Sims every day for two months. They shot enough for eight episodes, maybe more, Sims said.

The premiere episode, which aired Saturday, finds its drama in the unconscious horse. Sims knew the animal was special to its owner and raced to the stream.

Sims loves a challenge, but he also doesn’t like to lose a patient.

“I lose sleep when I lose one I didn’t expect to lose,” he said. “I’m always trying to figure out what I should have or could have done.”

The horse looked especially bad. It had stumbled through a quarter-mile of streambed overnight.

“I think the horse staggered and fell multiple times,” Sims said. “I honestly don’t know how he didn’t die.”

“Aloha Vet” airs at 3 p.m. Saturdays in Hawaii.
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Mike Gordon covers film and television in Hawaii for the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. Email him at mgordon@staradvertiser.com and follow him on Twitter. Read his weekly “Outtakes” column Sundays in the Star-Advertiser.

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