LOS ANGELES >> Not every veterinarian would call it paradise.
Scott Sims gets to far-flung locales in the Hawaiian Islands by flying a plane he built himself or by biking, riding an ATV or swimming to reach sick or injured animals. He will wrangle overweight pigs, scuba-dive to free a sea turtle tangled in a net and patch up patients in unexpected places, operating in a barn or the back of a truck.
He stars in Nat Geo Wild’s show “Aloha Vet” that debuted March 21. He treats pets, of course, but also takes flight or bumps along Kauai’s lone cross-island road to help wild animals — something that sets him apart from other veterinarians in rural or hard-to-reach U.S. areas who often travel to treat livestock or pets.
The 59-year-old vet, who sports a Hawaiian shirt and a worn-in hat lined with palm trees, soars above lush forests and lands on secluded beaches when he’s not taking his car — tricked out with water, refrigeration and X-ray capabilities — to treat animals.
In the first episode, Sims flies to Molokai to help a dog with a broken leg, which he thinks he can save despite another vet’s recommendation to amputate. He also treats a runaway horse that got a large gash on its leg after falling into a river and making it through rapids and over rocks. Finally, Sims meets a pig for a manicure because its unkempt hooves threaten to outgrow it.
In the second episode, Sims pulls a horse’s cracked tooth, examines an endangered coot and checks on a portly pig that’s blind from extra skin covering its eyes. Sims later removes the excess flesh so the pig can see again. This week, he treats a goat with constipation.
Sims started his adventure by moving his practice from California to Hawaii in 2001.
“I came here on vacation and fell in love with the beauty and warmth and clean air and everything else that is so spectacular in Hawaii,” Sims said.
The other animal clinics on the 571-square-mile island of Kauai are only for pets and don’t make house calls, while Sims covers any animal, any size, anywhere, said Penny Cistaro, executive director of the Kauai Humane Society.
“He has a genuine heart for the animals. He puts them first,” Cistaro said. “He doesn’t think anything of flying. It’s all in a day’s work.”
The vet spends half his time at his home clinic and the other half in the air or on the road — in often time-consuming trips. The lone road across Kauai is one lane each way and takes 2 1/2 hours to cross, Cistaro said.
Plus, his plane is hardly a jet. Sims says he made the two-seat propeller plane, a dynamic WT9, from a kit.
His efforts get a “mahalo” from clients such as Katja Langholv, who visited Sims’ home clinic so he could help her cat with an eye problem. Langholv, who has eight cats, three dogs, three cockatiels and eight horses, has had Sims treat most of her animals.
“He always gives his all and you can call on him anytime for anything,” she said.
Despite the tough conditions, happy endings far outnumber the sad ones, Sims said.
The horse he rescued from the riverbank in the March 28 show was one of his best memories, he said. The animal was left to a woman by her deceased soul mate, so she was very attached, Sims said.
“It’s just amazing the horse lived through this ordeal,” Sims said. “We were able to get down there and put a sling under the horse and lift him up with a big crane. He’s doing just great now.”