Editor’s Note: This is the fifth article in a series created by Dorothea Gordon where she showcases individuals and business owners in the Comox Valley who had a dream, goal, or vision and made it come true, benefiting their community in the process.
I first met Dr. Stacey when my pet rabbit Bruni had a swelling under his eye that wouldn’t go away. I mentioned Bruni’s condition to my friend in Alberta who was flying in to look after him while we would be away on holidays. She then told my plight to her rabbit-owning sister in Courtenay who enthusiastically recommended Dr.Stacey. I was a bit skeptical having met many a vet over my 40 years of pet ownership. But what a pleasant surprise….. and I’ll go more deeply into my experience further into the article.
Dr. Stacey was born to Greek immigrant parents in Toronto and raised there by his grandmother while his parents were out working. He didn’t even speak any English until he started school and so grew up surrounded by the culture and values of his ancestry where deep feelings and their expression are encouraged. Cultivating a connection to the heart, a sense of community, sharing, celebrating life with food and dancing are common reflections of Greek traditions.
Unlike some veterinarians who already know at the age of three that they want to be vets, Dr. Stacey had no such inclination. He went to forestry school because he wanted to work in nature and with animals and thought he could do that through a career in forestry and wildlife management. But there were only trees in the forestry picture. And since it was his dream to work with animals, he knew there was only veterinary medicine that would allow him to do that. At first, he thought his decision was completely accidental, but there had been a deeply impacting experience in his childhood which he now realized had a lot to do with his new choice.
One day, when he was just an awkward seven-year old boy, he noticed a fledgling robin that had fallen out of its nest. Worried about the dangers that poor creature was facing, he tried to catch it and put it back into its nest. But in his eagerness to help he accidentally stepped on it. He picked it up and ran home hoping he could still save it, but the bird died in his hands. Very powerful, archetypal feelings came up: guilt, sadness, shame, remorse, and being judged, all of which he internalized. The worst part, however, was that all the girls on the block who had witnessed the scenario called him ‘The Birdkiller’. Quite a label to carry!
Eventually he got over the embarrassment and all was forgotten. Or so he thought. Only many years later did it occur to him that this bird had given its life to guide him to his veterinary career. (Often events and experiences, which we have long put aside, turn out to be instrumental in the life choices we make. This applies to successes as well as failures. But there really are no failures in life – there are only lessons that serve as stepping stones to greater levels of awareness.)
To this day it takes determination and dedication to overcome the challenges facing aspiring vets in Canada. The University of Guelph has many applicants, but only a few spots for students. So in order to improve his odds to get accepted, Dr. Stacey volunteered at the Guelph Large Animal clinic and with the swine herd for genetic research on pigs. He soon found out that his chosen field allowed him to use many of his talents: empathy, communication, manual dexterity, diagnostics, flexibility, intuition, heart to heart connection with animals and people.
During his studies he fell in love with a vet colleague, Dr. Tammi Whelan, and they got married after graduating in 1991. They also traveled to South America and, after their return, started looking for a place where two vets were needed. That was the Comox Valley – which they had never heard about. Being innovators, they created the Sunrise Vet Mobile Clinic and Surgery to look after the Valley and outlying islands, and then settled in Merville for 14 years in a Small Animal practice before moving to their present location in Comox.
Dr. Stacey derives great satisfaction from his general practice, but also from being able to educate people about animals, their emotional as well as physical needs and how to meet them in order to have happy family members. He is fascinated by the results he has achieved in the area of compassionate dog and cat behaviour training. Animals have feelings like happiness and sadness, and often quite a lot of anxiety. The latter can lead to aggression like biting or nuisance behaviour like barking – all of which means suffering for the animals and their owners. He offers puppy and socialization classes and goes to schools to teach children about kinder ways to interact with animals.
Dr. Stacey possesses excellent diagnostic and communication skills with animals as well as owners. I had the opportunity to observe this approach when my pet rabbit was first suspected to have an abscessed tooth (which actually turned out to be three). I felt completely included in the pre- and post-operative decisions. What blew me away, though, was Dr. Stacey’s profound empathy for my pet’s and my own position: I was three days away from leaving for an extended trip and didn’t know if the pet sitter would be able to cope with the administration of oral medication and injections. When I shared this concern with the Sunrise staff, Dr. Stacey called me back and invited me to bring Bruni back to the hospital to be taken care of for two weeks – all FREE of charge! Such generosity of spirit can only come from a deep well of empathy for all concerned. We are truly fortunate to have him in our Valley.
Sunrise Veterinary Clinic
Fax: 1 877 837-1691
800 Shamrock Place
Comox, BC V9M 4G4
Bio: Dorothea L. Gordon, B.A., M.Ed., Public Speaker, Educator
Her passion is teaching people to unlock their true potential, achieve their goals, and live a life they absolutely adore. For over 30 years, Dorothea has been studying universal laws. As a certified DreamBuilder coach, she is now teaching them to people who are ready to pursue their dreams. She is helping them get greater clarity about what they really want, accelerate their results, and create richer, more fulfilling lives. Dorothea is a former high school teacher of foreign languages and has recently retired to the Comox Valley – where she is living her dream life.
Important note: If you have a story about yourself or know someone else residing in the Comox Valley who had a dream, goal, or vision and made it come true, please contact Dorothea at email@example.com or visit her website dtlc.ca