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The vets of Maple Ridge

The Maple Ridge Animal Hospital under construction in spring 1958. - Maple Ridge Museum
The Maple Ridge Animal Hospital under construction in spring 1958.
— image credit: Maple Ridge Museum

Maple Ridge was a thriving agricultural community, so the presence of horses, cows, chickens and other animals was substantial.

However, little has been written about the veterinarians who kept them healthy.

Dr. John Hopkins graduated from the Ontario Veterinary College in 1949 and moved to Maple Ridge in 1950 after being hired by the Pitt Meadows Farmer’s Institute.

For a number of years, Hopkins was the only veterinarian between Mission and Burnaby, making him extremely busy. So busy, that he had to send most of his small animal cases out to Vancouver.

Hopkin’s wife Hazel declared that, by 1956, they decided that “sending all these animals out to Vancouver was getting ridiculous.”

Dr. Hopkins knew of veterinarian Dr. Pat Clarke, and approached him with a proposal to create a joint practice.

Clarke grew up on a farm in Abbotsford, which meant that he was surrounded by furry family members from a young age.

Impressed by a veterinarian there, Clarke had joined him on barn calls by his teenage years and was quickly on his way to becoming a veterinarian.

Clarke graduated from the Ontario Veterinary College in 1954, and within a year took over a practice in Mission.

Clarke worked with animals on both the Mission and Abbotsford side of the Mission Bridge. When the bridge went out, he lost half of his clients.

Clarke then moved to Vancouver to work with a veterinarian there.

Creating a joint practice “seemed like a good solution for both of us,” reflected Clarke. “Lone practice is tough as the doc is on call 24/7. We ran our practice from our homes in those days, so it truly was the centre of family life and took precedence over everything else ... So we plunged into the building of the first purpose-built veterinary hospital in British Columbia.”

The Maple Ridge Veterinary Hospital opened in August 1958.

Located on Lougheed Highway between First and Second Avenues (now 203rd and 207th streets), the hospital included a waiting room with reception desk, dispensary, surgery, two examination rooms, a bathroom that doubled as an X-ray developing area, a kennel room, the bathing and grooming area and a small apartment for a caretaker.

Though difficult and frustrating at times, veterinary work was rewarding.

“A collie had developed a nasty abscess over his eye,” Clarke explained. “It required lancing and draining and several weeks of aftercare. At each visit he would sit quietly while I tended the wound, which would have been painful. When I was finished, he would solemnly lift his paw to shake my hand.”

The practice became largely oriented around small animals because of the disappearance of farmland throughout the 1960s.

Having a greater interest in large animals, Clarke left the practice in 1969 to serve as the district veterinarian in the east and west Kootenays.

Dr. Dale Reynolds, who had been working at the practice, took over Clarke’s patients.

In 1971, Hopkins and Clarke sold the Maple Ridge Veterinary Hospital to Dr. Graham Lewis and Dr. Roger Kocheff.

Hopkins retired from veterinary practice for all of a month, then returned to treating large animals.

“We were back where we initially started,” Hazel Hopkins acknowledged with a chuckle.

Dr. Hopkins never really retired from veterinary care. In 1986, he was still giving advice, referring people to veterinarians and dispensing medication.

Though he passed away in 1987, people still remember the hard work and dedication of Dr. Hopkins.

 

Sandra Borger is an archives researcher at Maple Ridge Museum.

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