ARCATA – After 41 years treating creatures great and mostly small, Sunny Brae Doctor of Veterinary Medicine Sherwood (Woody) Svarvari – “Doc Woody” to his clients’ owners – is hanging up his stethoscope.
The fondly regarded vet will be honored in a retirement celebration this Saturday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Sunny Brae Animal Clinic, located at Bayside Road and Buttermilk Lane.
It was in 1968 that Svarvari, freshly graduated from Kansas State Univerity, opened up his first veterinary practice on Giuntoli Lane. Within four years, the clinic was booming, and he decided to start afresh, on a smaller scale, in Sunny Brae.
“I just decided, I’m going to run a simple, small practice,” Svarvari recalled.
That went so well, it didn’t go according to plan – whether because of the quality care, Doc Woody’s kindly, country doctor-style bedside manner or all of the above, Sunny Brae Animal Clinic boomed.
“We started getting busier and busier,” Svarvari said.
In the early 1990s, the clinic built a deluxe new building to better meet the needs of the area’s ailing animals. In 1998, Dr. Jay Hight came on board, and today, SBAC has evolved into Arcata’s premier veterinary clinic.
Cats and dogs are the main patients, though smaller critters have scurried in from time to time. “Occasionally, we’ll check on a pet rabbit or rat,” Svarvari said. “Little pocket pets.”
A number of medical oddities have crossed Doc Woody’s examination table over the years. One time, a pet owner brought in a very large dog. “He must have weighed about 90 pounds,” Svarvari said.
The dog looked fine, had no fever and acted healthy, but wasn’t. It was vomiting, and couldn’t hold down food.
An X-ray revealed two little metal rods maybe four inches long, in parallel to each other. Svarvari did surgery, and removed a small, plastic tractor – complete with front-end loader – that the mammoth pooch had gulped down. The metal rods were the toy’s axles.
The dog went home de-tractored, but soon enough, was back with the same symptoms. Another X-ray revealed the same two metal rods. Again, Doc Woody extracted the same tractor, and sent the dog home. But he kept the aparently tasty toy.
“This time, I’m not giving that tractor back to you,” he told the owner.
Another time, a dog somehow managed to swallow a 10 inch-long knife. SBAC sent the X-ray in to a national photography contest, and won a camera.
Technology has advanced greatly during Svarvari’s career. Nowadays, veterinarians are able to email ultrasound and X-ray images to specialists and get immediate, expert assistance with treatment from a radiologist or fracture specialist.
At 72, Svarvari would love to keep going, but is ready for some personal time. A native of South Dakota, Svarvari is headed home to a 460-acre farm and apple orchard he owns there, along with wife Patsy, a Corgi named Dixie and his two cats, Harvey and Blackie.
“I’ve got a lot of things to keep me busy,” he said.
He could be just as happy staying here with his colleagues, his beloved animal patients and their owners.
“I would run it for another 20 years,” he said of SBAC. “Show me someone with a good feeling for animals, and they’re going to be good-hearted to people, too.”