Longtime vet to open clinic north of town

Island veterinarian Teri Byrd is in the process of buying the Gorsuch Road building that is currently the home of the Vashon Family Place and has plans to open a vet clinic there by July 1.

Byrd is expected to close this month on the two-story building, which last year was also home to Le Ouistiti French Immersion School. The owners of the school, who purchased it last summer, put it up for sale in March because of unforeseen family circumstances.

Last week, Byrd shared her plans for her new practice, noting that she lived on the island between 1999 and 2007 and had a housecall practice here at the time. Until she moved back to Vashon earlier this spring, she had her own practice in Seattle’s Madison Park, but made several trips to the island to visit friends. She returned in March, expecting to lease a space for a business, but found it was cost-prohibitive to do so and moved ahead to buy the Gorsuch Road building.

“I’m very excited,” she said. “I can’t believe it. I have wanted this for so long. I kept thinking it would not be possible. I feel like it is too good to be true.”

Vashon Youth & Family Services will remain in the building and return to its previous upstairs location, and Bryd will transform the lower level into the Four Paws Veterinary Clinic.

“I thought it was a good marriage,” she said. “I am into children almost as much as animals.”

Byrd will add extra fencing to make sure there are no inadvertent dog-child interactions, but said she is hoping to intermingle animals and young children “a tiny bit” when there are opportunities to do so.

Byrd will care for cats and dogs and operate a “fear-free” vet practice, a system of care that was founded by veterinarian Marty Baker. Byrd is certified in the system, she said, and her staff members will be eventually as well.

She described a clinic that keeps cats and dogs separate, with different entrances and directions to head straight to exam rooms, bypassing any communal waiting area. The dogs’ area will be soundproofed, and exams will be conducted mostly without the use of exam tables and with minimal use of thermometers. For cats, the clinic will employ feel-good pheromones and instruct owners on practices they can use at home to help make trips to the vet as stress-free as possible.

Byrd said that she believes the island can support two vet clinics, noting that it is has done so previously and that many people take their animals off-island for care.

“I feel really confident that the island has room for another clinic. If I didn’t feel there was room, I wouldn’t have done it,” she said.

She added that she hopes to work in a collaborative way with Fair Isle, such as possibly being open on Sundays, when that clinic is closed.

For the future, she said she is considering a drop-off service for animals who need vet care while their owners go to work or doggy day care. She added she would like to hear from islanders about what kind of services they would be interested in that do not exist on the island now.

Le Ouistiti will close at the end of the school year without plans to reopen in another location, according to real estate agent Susan Lofland, representing owners Brennan and Coco Banks.

Lofland added the Banks feel positive about the sale of the building to a buyer with longstanding ties and a commitment to the island community. They are happy that the building will have a new steward that cares about the property and the island.

“We love the island and our friends here and all that makes the island so wonderful. We will be sad to leave our island home, our school and the building. It has been a wonderful experience, “ the Banks said through Lofland.

Because the sale has not yet closed, Byrd declined to list the purchase price. The Banks listed it at $649,000.