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If you ask Kingston veterinarian Dr. Jeffrey Latimer what the best part of his job is, he’ll be quick to tell you he has the best job in the world.

“I get to play with dogs and cats all day, and either fix them or make them better,” he explained. “What’s not to love? I also love that I am always meeting new people and hearing new stories. It is a very people-oriented job too.”

Latimer came to Kingston in 1994, and opened the Princess Animal Hospital in December of 1995 with just himself and one technician. Now, nearly 20 years later, Latimer runs both the Princess Animal Hospital and the Downtown Animal Hospital in Kingston, with a team of five vets and 15 staff members.

His focus, even in the beginning with such a small staff, has always been on providing the best customer care possible to his clients  — and this past February, Latimer was honoured by the Ontario Veterinary Medical Association (OVMA) with the Award of Merit. The award recognizes veterinarians for their distinguished public service to the veterinary profession. Latimer says he was surprised to receive it.

“I was extremely surprised,” he said. “These competitions come out every year in our newsletter from the association and it is just not the kind of thing one ever expects will ever happen to them. I think they are looking for people who will be role models for the next generation of veterinarians, and some of the people who have won this award before were people I looked up to as role models. That is very nice to be part of.”

Latimer was nominated for the award by one of his colleagues, and after the initial nomination, other colleagues and clients were invited to submit letters of support. Latimer explained that the whole situation was very humbling.

“I know there are 1,000 veterinarians in Ontario who go to work, do their best, and do exactly what I do. It is a little humbling to get an award where you are standing in front of all of them,” he said.

Over the years, Latimer has always worked to keep up-to-date and keep himself educated on the latest technology in the veterinary field. Most notably, he is know for bringing laparoscopic surgery to Kingston.

“We know scientifically that you can go in through a very small hole and do a surgery through a telescope, and the experience is two-thirds less pain,” he explained. “That is something human medicine figured out a number of years ago, and it came to veterinary medicine in 2007. When I bought the equipment, after the training, we were the only clinic doing the procedures in Ontario outside of the universities.”

To this day, Latimer still has patients that will travel from Montreal, Ottawa or even Toronto to receive laparoscopic treatments at his clinic, and this brings him great pride.

“It is fun, and it keeps the field developing — and helps veterinarians stay motivated and stay engaged,” he said. “It also helps you educate the younger vets too.”

Latimer hopes to keep advancing with technology, but he worries that the cost of caring for pets and the cost of technology is becoming a burden for pet owners.

“I think, for the next two to three years, it will be all about making veterinary medicine more available and affordable and budgetable for a new generation of clients,” he said. “It is hard for people, and I think it is harder for people now than it was 10 years ago. People want the absolute best for their pet, but it is sometimes expensive, and it is hard for people to have that money just sitting aside.”

Regardless of where the field takes him, Latimer is happy to be serving the Kingston community and meeting new families and pets daily, and he hopes to continue doing so for many years to come.

“These pets are family for clients, and it is quite a treat to help them take care of their family,” he said. “It really is the best job.”