Country roads are a familiar place for Dr. Eastman Welsford. As a large animal veterinarian, he serves rural communities across Eastern Ontario, from the Quebec border to Smith Falls.
“I probably spend about four to five hours a day just driving,” said Welsford. “It’s one of the only downsides of this job.”
He arrives in Williamstown, Ontario, on a rainy Thursday morning for the first of three appointments that day. While he works with a range of livestock, including cows and goats, the day would be focused on horses. He starts by examining a patient whose sight has been damaged by a recent eye infection.
Welsford, a relatively young vet, has only spent a year working in the field and has already become a familiar face to the clients he serves. He has been frequently checking on the horses at Anna Williams’ barn, a local dermatologist who owns multiple show ponies. He has to break the news to her that her horse may not regain its sight, possibly leading to other future medical issues that he’ll continue to monitor. He then performs a routine dental float—a procedure that involves filing down a horse’s sharp teeth with a power tool—on a younger pony of hers.
His next stop is an impromptu appointment with a horse showing signs of a neurological illness in Bishop’s Mills, about an hour and a half away. To make his daily road trips easier, he looks for any useful way to pass the time.
“A lot of that time [driving] feels wasted—I’m not making any money for the practice, billing or seeing patients,” said Welsford. “So I try to call clients during that time or listen to continuing education courses to make the most of it.”
Once he finished his appointment in Bishop’s Mills, he heads back to the Prescott Animal Hospital, where he splits his time between its partner clinic in Navan and his house in Ottawa.
He performs an x-ray and ultrasound on a young horse dealing with back pain. The clinic has an expansive range of procedural tools, including an operating room where cows and horses are lifted by small crane to relocate them after receiving anesthesia. In a corner stall, another horse is hooked up to an IV drip to be monitored overnight.
As he works with his last client, his chipper persona is infectious. He coos over the stressed animal, referring to it affectionately as “honey” and apologizing to it for the uncomfortable procedures. He takes great care to put each patient—and their owners—at ease.
After wrapping up his final appointment for the day, he leans against a counter in a show of exhaustion.
“Don’t get too comfortable,” his co-worker teases him. “You’re on call tonight.”
While he gets to go home for the night, he’ll be on call for emergencies in the region until 8am.
Welsford laughs and knocks on a wooden table for good luck. “Here’s hoping nothing happens tonight.”