New pad for paws, hooves and claws in Whitehorse

For the last few months, Candace Stuart's clinic has been her car. A big plastic tackle box in the trunk held her needles, slides and scalpels. And patients were treated in the driveway.

For the last few months, Candace Stuart’s clinic has been her car.

A big plastic tackle box in the trunk held her needles, slides and scalpels.

And patients were treated in the driveway.

But on Wednesday afternoon, the local vet was is in an impeccable new lab, dipping glass slides in deep purple solution.

Behind her, futuristic machines sat waiting to analyze blood, X-ray bones and sterilize instruments.

In a separate, sanitary operating room a portable anesthetic machine waited for its first patients.

The equipment alone cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, and that doesn’t include the renovations necessary to transform the building from a family residence into a vet clinic.

It’s scary, said Stuart holding her 10-month old son Torin on her hip.

“I’m nervous no one’s going to come,” she said.

“And if that happens I can’t support the staff I have, make the payments, or support my kids.”

But Stuart is also worried the clinic might get too busy.

“Then I would lose the balance of work and family,” she said.

“I am nervous about both extremes.”

Stuart left Alpine Veterinary Medical Centre this summer, after more than five years at the Marwell clinic.

It was an amicable departure.

“They knew I wanted to start my own clinic,” she said.

“It’s always been my dream.”

Stuart wanted a small clinic with no more than two vets.

“I want to have time with my clients, to get to know them,” she said.

When she first graduated from PEI’s Atlantic Veterinary College, Stuart headed to Fairbanks, Alaska, joining a fast-paced clinic with lots of vets.

From there she went to another large clinic in Prince George, BC.

“I wanted that big, busy exposure, to be able to bounce ideas off people,” she said.

Raised in Labrador, Stuart has always felt the pull of the North, and after spending time with a friend in Haines Junction, she knew she was hooked.

She joined Jim Kenyon’s practice in 2004 and, when it closed, went to Alpine.

Now, after 10 years in the bussiness, Stuart’s looking forward to “more one-on-one with her clients.

“I like to see pets start as a puppy, kitten or small rodent and watch the bond develop (with their owners) into old age,” she said.

“I like to get to know the animals.”

Stuart treats dogs, cats, birds, rodents, reptiles and horses.

And she’s hoping to explore alternative methods of healing, like acupuncture, and combine it with her training in Western medicine.

“Owning my own clinic gives me the freedom to follow these interests,” she said.

But training in alternative therapies is expensive, and Stuart expects it will take at least 10 years.

Right now, she’s more worried about her stainless steel examining table and the dog runs.

She ordered the equipment 13 weeks ago from a US supplier and it still hasn’t arrived.

When Stuart called to check up on the order, reps said it would “drop ship” the missing equipment.

“But I don’t think they really understood where the Yukon was,” she said.

A few minutes later, the company called back, it wouldn’t be able to fly in the late equipment after all, but reps assured Stuart it should arrive before her grand opening next week.

The equipment wasn’t the only thing that was tough to get in the Yukon.

Because Outside labs are so far away, local clinics need to invest in pricey diagnostic equipment most practises don’t need.

And to install her digital X-ray machine and software system, which keeps paperless records, Stuart had to fly an expert up from the States.

But it was the local contractors renovating the place, who really made it happen, said Stuart’s husband Chris.

The couple had been looking for a potential clinic site for years, and living at the Carcross cutoff they’d been keeping an eye on the area near the top of Robert Service Way.

It’s only an eight-minute drive from their home, which will help with the late-night emergencies vet calls Stuart expects to field. And it’s zoned highway commercial, which is a city requirement for vet clinics.

So, when a house came up for sale next to Yukon Gardens, Stuart jumped at the chance.

The yard was already artfully landscaped with weeping birch, rowan and tamarack. But the house needed some work.

As renos tend to do, the changes quickly became more involved than expected and what was originally deemed a six-week job should have taken three months.

But the contractors got it done in the original timeframe, working overtime to build a welcoming foyer with a “wipe your paws” sign, an exam room with three big windows – the natural light will make pets feel comfortable – and transforming the garage into a high-tech lab and surgery space complete with an advanced air-exchange system.

There’s also an isolation room with an outside entrance and a big indoor window to monitor animals with contagious diseases.

And one of the vet technicians is living in the suite upstairs, which will allow for regular checks on pets that have been hospitalized overnight and offer an immediate presence in case of emergencies.

“I wanted it to feel relaxed and home-like,” said Stuart, who envisions animals and owners strolling in the landscaped grounds.

“And at the same time I will offer high-quality diagnostics and care.”

Opening a clinic is “ridiculously expensive,” and Stuart, who had to take out a bank loan, and is leasing many of the more expensive pieces of equipment.

The rates are good the first few years, then go up, she said, in keeping with the fact that 98 per cent of vet clinics that survive their first two years succeed.

From her time at Alpine, Stuart knows there is a high demand for vets in Whitehorse.

“And I haven’t changed the number of vets,” she said.

“I’ve just created a third location.”

Wednesday afternoon, Stuart and her family were driving to Watson Lake for a community clinic, something she will be continuing even after her clinic opens.

She will also be available for house calls, and has already been averaging two to three a day.

“I have been doing a lot more horses than I expected,” she said.

“And there are people who are housebound and can’t make it to a vet.”

Just before she left for Watson Lake, a fluffy black bouvier came over to visit from next door.

Kona had a bandage wrapped around his hind leg, where Stuart had recently removed a growth.

The dog seemed to appreciate it, because he couldn’t stop licking her.

“I really want to be able to take time with my patients,” she said.

All Paws Veterinary Clinic is having its grand opening on Thursday, October 7, between 5 and 8 p.m. Pets are welcome.

To get there, turn into Yukon Gardens, at the top of Robert Service Way, then turn left at the white gate that leads into the garden centre. The clinic is on the right.

Contact Genesee Keevil at