Variety the spice of life
Anthony Bennett and James Carroll. Picture: Supplied

Best mates and veterinarians Anthony Bennett and James Carroll have always fantasised about becoming rural Australia's answer to Bondi Vet heart-throb Chris Brown but they never imagined it would one day become a reality.

Having become friends more than a decade ago after meeting at university, it was only two years ago that the animal-loving duo decided to venture into business together as owners of the mixed-practice Berry Vet Clinic in country NSW.

"The opportunity came up with Anthony when his business partner Geoff retired," Queensland-born Carroll explains over the phone from the clinic.

"People often say you shouldn't go into business with a friend and obviously that had pitfalls but I think I see Anthony more than I see my wife, unfortunately.

"So it's good that we get on and also we're at similar life stages so we're both in that phase where you work ridiculously hard to try and build a business and it's great fun.

"We have a good laugh, mostly at each other's expense. I think that's really important. Obviously, if things go badly, there's a risk there that you'll lose a friend but I think you're far better off going into business with someone you know very well.

"I've grown up between the country and the city and my first job was actually out of the city but this part of the world is very spectacular so we couldn't really write a better recipe of where we wanted to live."

From dealing with horses, cows and alpacas out on location to tending to sick dogs, injured cats and even reptiles, there is never a dull working day for Carroll and Bennett.

"It's a different challenge and it's something Anthony and I are very passionate about," Carroll says. "It's a bit of a dying art in terms of veterinarian practice, people tend to be going down the path of either doing small animals or large animals, not so many people are doing mixed-practice work. It's a great challenge that's very rewarding.

"For us, we love the variety. One minute we're general practitioners, then we're anaesthetists, then we're radiologists then we're surgeons, small-animal vets, large- animal vets - we wear a lot of hats.

"So that's the real enjoyment I get out of it. I turn up to work every day and have no idea what's going to happen. I wouldn't swap that for anything."

As for turning their day-to-day veterinary adventures into a TV show, Carroll says the opportunity came to them.

"It's a fairly long story actually," Carroll laughs. "A friend of a friend of a friend decided to start his own production company and he sort of ventured out on his own and got together enough money to make a pilot and he came down to meet us and had a beer and thought it'll work.

"So he then got a crew together, came down and followed us around for a couple of days and made a pilot, and then he showed it around and Foxtel decided to make it.

"We were quite apprehensive, the reason being that we own and run a business and filming you doing your job when it's a very emotional, time-dependent business is difficult.

"So we put a lot of things in place to make us comfortable that the impact on our business and our clients would be minimal. But the crews really went out of their way to accommodate us doing our job and not getting in the way too much. It worked out pretty well."

Filming for the five-part series took place over nine weeks and saw the duo trailed by a camera crew for 14 hours a day, seven days a week.

"The filming itself wasn't stressful but managing the business while filming was tough," Carroll says.

"We actually took on an extra vet and an extra nurse during filming just to help us facilitate the extra time to do it."

Better yet, both Bennett and Carroll - who is enrolled in a masters degree in small- animal practice through Murdoch University's prestigious veterinary school, which he studies externally - have the support of the local community.

"It's a really good thing for the town, it's putting it on national and international TV," he says. "Berry is very rarely a tourist destination so it's tremendous for the town and everybody has been really positive."

The West Australian

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