The pet lover and veterinarian answers questions on loves, fears and guilty pleasures
Growing up in Fife, Pete qualified as a veterinarian in Edinburgh in 1985. He has worked in his own four-veterinarian companion animal practice, in Bray, County Wicklow, since 1991. He has his own menagerie of dogs, cats, ducks, hens and others (including a pet hen in his kitchen). Pete lives in Bray, is married to Joyce and has two daughters, Anna and Ella, now in their 20s.
What’s your earliest memory?
My younger sister being born (at home) when I was three years of age. I thought she was a boy because of her umbilical cord. Since then, I have improved my gender detection skills, and I’m good with pups, kittens and baby rabbits, although I still struggle with chickens.
What was the first book you loved?
Ping, a classic illustrated book about a young duck who got lost on the Yangtze River in China. As a teenager, predictably, I was a fan of James Herriot’s All Creatures Great and Small series about his life as a vet in the Yorkshire Dales.
What is your biggest fear?
Not making a difference. Life is so short, and there is so much that needs to be done to make the world a better place.
What are you most proud of?
Career-wise, the new Petfix Club website is my greatest pride. It’s the culmination of my 35 years working as a vet, being a pet owner myself, and being a veterinary science communicator in the media. It’s the 21st century equivalent of my magnum opus, with the added benefit that I can keep fine tuning it and making it better as time goes on.
What’s your least attractive quality – and what is your most?
I am prone to being an individualist loner, which is fine when out running half-marathons on my own, but not so helpful as a husband and father. My most attractive quality depends on who you are talking to. To editors, it’s probably the fact that I never miss a deadline.
What’s the first thing you’d do if you were Taoiseach?
I’d establish a means-tested national health service for animals, so that no pet ever needs to go without the essential veterinary care that it needs.
What’s your biggest insecurity?
I’m from Scotland and in the UK I always felt judged, even condemned, as a member of a slightly privileged but disliked middle class. I’ve lived in Ireland for 30 years now and have never had the same sense of otherness. Irish culture has been wonderfully accepting and non-judging of me.
Who’d you most like to go for a pint with?
Yuval Noah Harari, the Israeli author of Sapiens. I love his logical yet innovative and analytical way of thinking and communicating. He believes that industrial intensive livestock farming is the greatest crime in history, and he’s right.
What fictional character do you most identify with?
To be Dr Dolittle would be to live my dream.
What is your most treasured possession?
My new Pixel 5 phone, which lets me do photos, videos, articles and podcasts for the website on the spot.
What’s your guilty pleasure?
The solitude of a 10k-run just after dawn.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
“Spend your working time doing what you love.” I’ve loved every day of being a vet.
What item in your wardrobe do you wear the most?
My earring, which my daughters gave me two years ago, supporting me through my mid-life crisis as I gave up full-time clinical practice.
Who are your heroes?
My father (he was an organisational psychologist), and my mother (she was a community midwife). They’ve both passed away in the last decade, and my living hero is my 99-year-old father-in-law who is a retired doctor, still living independently.
When did you last cry?
At my father’s funeral when I tried to read his eulogy.
How are you coping with the current lockdown situation?
I’ve been doing well, busy with Petfix Club which as an online project is mercifully free of day-to-day restrictions, enjoying spending more time with family and still able to fit in sea swims and long runs.
What are you going to do right after this interview?
Take my dogs Kiko and Finzi for a walk.
What’s your greatest passion in life?
Animal welfare. They are sentient but they can’t speak, so it’s our duty to care for them.
If you had to choose only three adjectives to describe yourself, which would you choose?
Logical, creative, hard-working.
What’s your favourite film?
Bambi, the only cartoon that I’ve ever cried at (I was five years old).
What’s the last TV show you binge-watched?
What one piece of advice would you give your 18-year-old self?
Be unashamedly yourself.
If you could have a super power, what would it be?
The ability to have conversations with animals.
What does your dream weekend look like?
Sea swim then run to start the day, breakfast with family, lunch with friends, afternoon walk in Wicklow hills, then the evening in the pre-Covid Harbour Bar in Bray.
What job would you be terrible at?
Hairdresser. If you’ve seen dogs that I’ve tried to groom as part of my job as a vet, you’d know why.
Do you believe in a God?
Yes but I’m hazy on the details.
Pete has launched a brand new website called Petfix Club which is Ireland’s first professionally curated site to promote the health, happiness, and well-being of pets. Sign up at petfixclub.com