HONOKOWAI - Teri Byrd, founder of VetPetConnect.com, an international online veterinary consulting service, has relocated to the West Side in Honokowai.
Dr. Byrd is a self-made woman. She's been on her own since she was 16. West Maui is lucky she moved here in June 2012.
A native of the Pacific Northwest, Byrd has had a lifelong passion for animals, confirmed by the credentials posted on her wall.
In 1985, she graduated Cum Laude from Eastern Washington University with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Biology (Zoology minor).
Byrd is a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM), graduating from Washington State University in 1991.
Her continuing education portfolio is as impressive as her qualifications, experience and the testimonials people write about her.
For the past 21 years, she has owned and operated two veterinary clinics and a house call practice. Her professional services extended to shelter work and rescue groups.
She has experience with multiple species, including horses, dogs, cats and exotic animals.
Byrd was the director of The Endangered Species Center, a horse training apprentice and clinical supervisor at a wild animal park.
Along the path, when Byrd was in her late teens, she encountered and rehabbed a physically impaired cheetah named Kenya, who was kept in a four- by four-foot room for most of his young life.
Her story about that chapter was heartfelt and tear-worthy.
After considerable physical therapy, Byrd told the Lahaina News, "they started making me take him on fund-raising field trips. I would go and give speeches about cheetahs and their endangered status."
She described one her most memorable journeys with Kenya.
"We camped by this river. He was tied to my wrist, and I was in this sleeping bag, under the stars. He sat down; it was the first time ever he purred, and he just started purring, and he purred all night long. He just sat there and purred. He was outdoors; the stars were out, the moon was out. It was a beautiful place. He became a very happy cheetah after that," she said.
Byrd has worked as a veterinarian and volunteer for Vashon Island Pet Protectors and Seattle Purebred Rescue.
Adrienne Buttleman, director of the Seattle Persian and Himalayan Cat association, spoke highly of Dr. Byrd.
"I have known Teri for five years. I am the president and founder of Seattle Persian and Himalayan Rescue. We are the most 'successful' - meaning we place the most cats into forever homes - purebred cat rescue in the Northwest, and we owe a great part of our success with cats to Dr. Byrd," she said.
Her monetary donations are noteworthy as well. For ten years, she donated $30,000 a year in services, goods and discounts to rescue organizations and low-income individuals.
As a volunteer, she served with the Vashon Island Food Bank, Soroptimist International and Association of University Women.
In 1993, Byrd was named the Pierce County (Washington) "Volunteer of the Year" for her work as a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) for children.
Dr. Byrd has pursued multiple continuing education opportunities, including internal medicine, animal behavior, radiology, ophthalmology, dermatology, pharmacology, senior wellness, pain management and preventive medicine
Her compassion has followed her to the island.
Unfettered from the weighted responsibilities of a veterinary practice, its employees, high-tech machinery and volumes of patients, "I have my freedom now; I have a life," she said.
VetPetConnect.com offers veterinary advice and consultations, veterinary pet and housesitting and expert witness testimony.
That's a small group of words to describe the broad set of services she provides.
"I do 20-minute consultations for free right now. That is actually a long consultation," Byrd advised. "It is quite lengthy. I am doing those online, on the phone and in person."
"The consultation thing," Byrd continued. "I could talk all day long about animals about their health problems, their behavioral issues about people's relationship with their animals. There are some really hard decisions that... veterinarians just can't take the time to sit down and talk about."
Like, "if you don't get it, don't understand what's being recommended (by the vet), then call me and let me explain it - 'cause I can explain it in plain English in terms that a six-year-old can understand," she affirmed.
Appointments can be scheduled online or by calling (808) 866-0420.
"I specialize in doing home euthenasias," she added.
"I don't believe animals are attached to life as much as we are," the doctor explained. "We think that they may be. They are attached to us, but they are not attached to life. That's my belief.
"They don't have the same fear of death that we have. It's an easier transition for them. The way we can make it the easiest is to make it easier for ourselves; and to not judge ourselves about it, and to not judge the situation, and to try and not figure it out and find an answer. There is no answer. It's just letting them go. It can be the most beautiful process in the world."
Byrd continues with her altruistic activities on Maui; it hasn't taken her long to add her name into the volunteer pool.
She is working with Bo Petty, coordinator of the West Maui programs for the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary.
"Teri is a dependable volunteer presenter who is engaging and knowledgeable about mammals in general and about the humpback whales that return to Hawaii seasonally," Petty said.
He described her contributions at the Whalers Village Museum.
"She gives what we call the '45 Ton Whale Talk' every week as a community education experience that the public may attend free," he explained.
Not resting on her laurels, "Teri has also been enhancing her veterinary skills by learning to become the primary NOAA Fisheries first-responder veterinarian on Maui in the event of marine animal injury calls, which could include protected mammals and sea turtles; she would be a part of the larger NOAA response team," Petty said.
Byrd is flourishing in her new situation.
"I am grateful to be here every day and have such a better quality of life," she concluded.