America's Favorite Veterinarian, Dr. Tim Hunt
On Sept. 30, Dr. Tim Hunt, of Marquette, MI, was voted America’s Favorite Veterinarian in a contest sponsored by the non-profit American Veterinary Medical Foundation. As it turns out, voters chose a kind of modern day James Herriot (the beloved late British country veterinarian, James Alfred “Alf” Wight, best known by his pen name). “For me, being a veterinarian is more than a job; it’s a lifestyle,” says Hunt, 49.
Unbeknownst to Hunt, a long-time client, Kris Mitchell, nominated him for the award. Her glowing description impressed a panel of expert judges, who chose a top-20 group of finalists. Among those, pet owners voted online for their favorite.
When alerted that Hunt had won the top honor as ‘America’s Favorite,’ Mitchell was positively giddy. “He’s the best vet ever,” she says.
Mitchell recalls that 20 years ago she was watching a pregnant dog for a friend when the pet became very ill. Another veterinarian suggested a bland diet of hamburger and rice. However, Mitchell knew the dog had more than a run-of-the-mill upset tummy and decided to seek a second opinion from the newer vet in town. “Dr. Hunt said the dog required emergency care and hospitalization. He saved the dog’s life, and the life of a litter, which was born healthy,” Mitchell says.
Last year, Mitchell found herself with her mother’s pregnant English bulldog. It turned out the dog required a cesarean — on Christmas Day. “It didn’t faze Dr. Hunt,” Mitchell recalls. “He’s always there to support the community.”
Indeed, Hunt supplies dog food and discounted services to the local humane society. He has a special place in his heart for pet owners who have difficulty affording his services.
“We’re in a small town (of about 20,000 people) in a community that cares about one another and helping one another — and I wouldn’t have it any other way,” Hunt says. Many clients have become family friends, and over the years he’s been invited to more client weddings and birthday parties, and attended more funerals than he can count.
Sometimes small towns have difficulty recruiting veterinarians, doctors and other professionals, but Hunt relishes the lifestyle, even though sometimes he’s on the job 24/7.
If you’re a pet owner in Marquette, you likely have Hunt’s personal email and phone number. “That’s right,” he says and laughs, “I’ve been on call since 1993.”
Hunt grew up in suburban Detroit. His dream was to be a veterinarian since he was 11 and caring for a pet Guinea pig named Maria. He owned several more Guinea pigs and three cats before ultimately attending Michigan State University College of Veterinary Medicine, graduating in 1989. Hunt has been practicing for 25 years.
When he’s not in the Upper Peninsula, Hunt is likely to be found sled dog racing. He’s raced in some of the world’s most prestigious races from the Iditarod in Alaska to competitions in the Alps. He gives back in this area, too, serving as volunteer veterinarian for local nearby races.
Saddened by the number of stray dogs he’s seen in small native Alaskan villages, and associated over-population issues, for two consecutive years Hunt took boats and planes to remote villages to spay, neuter and vaccinate dogs — all as a volunteer. This past year, he personally spay/neutered 71 dogs. What’s more, he’s secured funding so the program can grow; additional veterinary volunteers will participate in the future.
“It’s a matter of not having the education regarding spay/neuter, or the resources — even the transportation — to get it done,” says Hunt. “My hope is that, over time, we can impact cultural expectations by what the children are seeing us do to care for their dogs.”
Hunt and his wife, Mary (his bookkeeper at the practice), have a Standard Poodle and a three-legged German Shorthair Pointer, as well as four cats, as well as all their sled dogs. They also have two grandchildren, the daughters of stepson Tom and his wife, Emily Massie.
Hunt says his practice focuses on the importance of preventive care and nutrition. “So many of our pets aren’t eating the right foods for their individual lifestyles,” he says. “Combine that with the issue of our pets being so under-exercised, and the result is all the obesity we see.”
Hunt says he was surprised to even be nominated, let alone being named America’s Favorite Veterinarian.
“I’m privileged to be a part of this profession that helps family members. That’s what pets have become. I’m truly honored.” Dr. Hunt will be honored at the convention of the American Veterinary Medical Association next July in Boston.
©Steve Dale PetWorld, LLC; Tribune Content Agency