After a few months working and playing in Kenya (to recover from the course), I started my first job in an incredibly busy mixed veterinary practice, seeing all species, from dogs and cats to sheep and cows, at all hours of the day and night. It was a fabulous job! No two days were the same. I loved it! After a few years, I was doing more and more of the small animal work and less of the farm work.
One day, a blind man came into the consulting room with his gorgeous Labrador guide dog. She had broken one of her upper canine teeth and was too distracted by it to work reliably, a dangerous situation for both of them. She was quite young and it occurred to me that there might be something we could do other than extract it (an awful job for both the dog and the vet!). I went across the road to the dentist opposite and he kindly came and had a look. ‘I can do a root canal on that’ he said, so the next day, we anaesthetized her and he did a root canal treatment. The dog was able to work effectively with her blind owner the next day! If we’d removed the tooth, she would have been in pain for some time afterwards because the root of a dog’s canine tooth is about twice as big as the crown, so you inevitably do some damage when removing it.
From that day on, I studied veterinary dentistry and ended up in Denver, Colorado, USA, studying with the Father of Veterinary Dentistry, Dr Peter Emily. He offered to teach a course on Veterinary Dentistry in the UK if I organized it, so when I returned to the UK, I did just that. We ran many more courses in the UK, teaching vets how to do better dentistry on their patients, then decided to write an illustrated book describing each technique in intricate detail. The Handbook of Small Animal Dentistry was a great success (now out of print). I set up the British Veterinary Dental Association and started my Veterinary Dental Referral Service, which I still run here in Wales. People came from all over the country with their pets’ dental problems. Fortunately, numerous vets have now specialized in Veterinary Dentistry, so there are several referral centres dotted about the country.