Sunny Brae vet Doc Woody retires

SBAC signKevin L. Hoover
Mad River Union

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.

Sherwood (Woody) Svarvari – “Doc Woody”

Sherwood (Woody) Svarvari – “Doc Woody”

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.”


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  1. Sylvia De Rooy said:

    What a loss ! I have so many memories of Woody caring for my pets. I remember bringing my big collie in because he was sick and Woody examined him and then sitting on the floor with him he first explained to the dog that he had pneumonia and then he looked up at me and repeated what he had just told the dog. Then he turned to the dog and told him not to worry because he can fix the pneumonia and assured him he’d be good as new. And- he was. When I was very squeezed for money my cat was having problems with a blocked urethra. Woody fixed him several times and then he told me he could no longer help him, he needed an operation. He said he didn’t do the operation, I’d have to take him to a vet in Eureka. I asked how much it would cost and he said, “$450. My heart sank, I told him I had no choice, he’d have to euthanize my cat, I did not have the money. Woody said, in typical Woody fashion, “Well now, if I give kitty a needle then he has no chance but if I do the operation he has some chance. Now I haven’t done that operation for a very long time but if I try kitty has a chance.” He said it would cost me $150 that I could pay off a bit at a time and take as long as I needed to. He operated and my cat had to have the stitches replaced twice which Woody did in good grace and then with a big collar on him and by keeping him contained all night for several weeks the stitches finally healed and my kitty lived quite a bit longer after that. It took me a while with $20-30 payments to pay him but he never complained. Woody is a very special person and I know that there are many Woody stories in this community like mine. Thank you Woody for so much.

  2. Tawny Jo said:

    I have had the pleasure of knowing Dr. Woody for a short time. I wish him and his wife a happy retirement. I ‘m so sorry that I wont be there for your party, but I am in spirit. Thank you for all your service to the pets in our community. You will be in my heart always…..

    Best to you always,
    Tawny Jo Mitchell

  3. Harry M. Johnson said:

    Thank you Woody for years of wonderful care for our precious animals. We have the Spot and Panda stones in a prominent place in our home. Your care and skills will be greatly missed. We wish you and Patsy a long and happy retirement and hope those cold weather tolerant wine grapes are ready for harvest.

  4. JoAnn said:

    Congratulations on a well deserved retirement, Woody! Thank you for the stellar care you’ve given my critters over the past 9 years. SBAC is a wonderful community legacy because of your leadership!

  5. g-ma said:

    God bless for all your wonderful care of God’s creatures. Happy retirement ☆☆☆☆☆☆☆

  6. Chris said:

    Thanks for the wonderful care you provided to my dogs and my family. Your kindness, understanding, and brilliant knowledge of dogs has made my ownership of pets far easier and less stressful. You Sir deserve a wonderful retirement. My dogs and I will miss you. Take care Doctor Woody.

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