Goodbye, Aloha Vet

LIHUE — Dr. Scott Sims, a veterinarian made famous by starring in his own reality television show but revered on Kauai long before that, died Saturday at Wilcox Memorial Hospital.

Friends said they will remember a man who was caring, witty and wise — and someone who lived up to his nickname, the barefoot Aloha Vet, while caring for goats, chickens, horses and parrots at any hour.

He was 59.

“He touched so many people on this island,” said Su Haynes, a close friend of Sims since the veterinarian moved to the island around 2002. “There’s hardly anyone on this island that he didn’t touch.”

Haynes, of Kapaa, had four Labradors under Sims’s care. She remembers him as a man who showed up at her house moments after her husband passed away to walk her dogs, a man who was quirky and smart, whose hands were so steady he could perform surgeries on the smallest of animals. She remembers a man who had a lot of friends, but didn’t like parties — especially surprise parties — a guy who even ducked out of a recent event in his honor earlier than scheduled to tend to an ailing horse and pony.

“I don’t what we are going to do without him,” she said.

Those traits helped earn Sims his own reality television show last year, “The Aloha Vet,” where he became more widely known as the nation’s unconventional, barefoot animal doctor whose adventures with cattle, goats, horses and hens garnered a million viewers on Nat Geo Wild.

Five days before the show was picked up for a second season, doctors told Sims he had bladder cancer.

“I get to know approximately when I’m going to die,” Sims told The Garden Island in a June interview shortly after the diagnosis. “And I get some warning. I get to tell the people that I care about that I care about them and they get to tell me what they want, good or bad.”

Dia Battilla, Sims’s assistant at the Pegasus Vet Clinic in Kilauea who was by his side during the show’s first season, said she was grateful for Sims’s guidance. She met him around 13 years ago, and had no idea what she was getting into when she joined his team. But she remembers a funny, generous man who helped her professionally as well as personally.

“I really didn’t know what I signed up for,” she said. “He has helped me grow in every sense of the word. I’ve learned so much from this man.”

And, she said, what the rest of the world saw on the television show was true to who Sims was — mostly.

“He actually slowed down for the television show — the camera crews couldn’t keep up with him,” she said, laughing at the memory. She added that Sims’s cellphone’s ring tone was set as a chirping bird that would go off “every hour of the day,” such was the demand for his time.

“You need to run over that thing or I will,” she told him more than once about his phone.

“I have him in my heart,” she said. “I’m at peace.”

Heather Phelps, a former executive director for the nonprofit Healing Horses, has known Sims since 2002. He tended to roughly 30 of her horses — her pets as well as for the organization that helps disabled children through equine therapy.

She called Sims brave and optimistic.

“He saved so many horses, and so many animals. Most vets wouldn’t even attempt it,” she said. “I just feel like we were so fortunate.”

Sims wanted to use his newfound notoriety that came with the television show for a good cause. His goal was to establish and raise money for a new nonprofit, pay-what-you-can animal hospital on Kauai. In his memory, Battilla said she wants to continue the quest for the Pegasus Foundation.

“He really wants to give back to Kauai and this is his way, and I’ll do everything in my power to see that happens,” she said.

Cris Schump, a friend from Wailua Homesteads who had 17 animals pass through Sims’s care, said the veterinarian always “had a twinkle in his eye” when he showed up at any hour to care for her animals.

“I’m so grateful to be a part of the Scott experience on Kauai. He’s truly a giver,” she said. “There’s no way anyone can ever fill those shoes. And I say that in a joke, because he never wore shoes.”

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