Noel Fitzpatrick and his dog Keira Credit: Trevor Leighton/C4 Supervet

Supervet Noel Fitzpatrick: “We all carry darkness”

Noel “The Supervet” Fitzpatrick reflects on losing his beloved border terrier Keira, the trauma of being abused as a child, and his dreams of becoming a rock star.

You grew up on a farm in rural Ireland. Is that what made you want to be a vet? 

That’s where I first tried to repair a lamb’s broken leg with a couple of sticks and some baling twine. I wished I could do more for the animals. But I also had dreams of being a rock star. Up to the age of 11, all I’d heard were hymns, then I found Led Zeppelin’s Stairway to Heaven on a pirate radio station. I wanted a guitar for Christmas, but my dad bought me a saw for removing sheep horns. 

Do you miss Ireland?

When Mammy was alive, I went back a lot. I still have family over there, but we’re all busy with our own lives. The Fitzpatrick gang did come and see a show I did in Dublin. That was a lot of fun.  

You’ll soon be doing more live shows as you’ve announced a new tour, Beyond Supervet. What made you decide to go out on the road?

The initial idea arrived as I was watching Queen in front of 95,000 fans at Slane Castle in 1986. I saw the way Freddie Mercury was able to communicate his message of love to so many people and thought: “Wouldn’t it be great if I could do that with how I feel about wanting to help animals?” Music brings joy into our lives and our pets do the same thing. The show is a celebration of that.  

So, it won’t be you repairing a cat’s broken leg in front of 2,000 people?

Ha ha! If it needed doing, I’d do it. It’s me talking about my life, reading from my new book, Keira and Me, about my border terrier. She was hit by a van outside the practice in 2020. We managed to save her, but she died a year later. The pain I felt was… people know what I’m talking about. Just last night I had a dog euthanasia in the practice garden as the sun was going down. The owners were in pieces, crumbling before my eyes. It doesn’t matter who you are – rich, poor or famous – hearts get broken just the same. 

You’ve had many famous clients over the years, including Meghan Markle, Chris Evans and Russell Brand. Do you know they’re coming or do you just look at the list and see “Meghan and her dog, Guy”?

People read this in the papers and assume that I only look after celebrity pets. We are a working veterinary surgery and 99% of what we do never makes the headlines. People bring their pets to us and we try to help them. If one of those pets has a famous owner, they will be treated exactly the same as every other person who walks through the door.  

There’s another series of The Supervet due later this year on Channel 4. It’s been going since 2014, did you ever think it would be running for so long?

Of course not, but the love we feel for our pets is universal. 

The surgery used to have 250 staff. Is it still growing?

Over the past four years we have shrunk massively because I have a real problem with the corporatisation of veterinary medicine.  

Does that mean you’re not putting in so many hours? After you fell down the stairs and broke your neck in 2020 – going to the loo in the dark, a warning to us all! – you said you were going to take it easy.

In theory, yes, I try not to push myself so hard; in practice, it doesn’t work like that. This is a 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week job. I have a house down the road in Guildford, but the surgery [in Eashing, Surrey] is my home. There’s a bed six feet from my desk in the office.  

And your pets live with you at the surgery?

Absolutely. My two cats, Ricochet and Excalibur, are with me, plus the 40 or 50 animals that we’re hoping to treat each day. They’re all part of the extended family. 

If you get any spare time, how do you relax?

I go to London and see a concert. Once heavy metal music gets into your veins, there’s no escape. Brian May made a guest appearance at one of my shows, which was a real thrill. And if Joe Elliott from Def Leppard is reading this, you are welcome to join me on stage anytime.  

In your memoir, Beyond Supervet, you bravely revealed that you were sexually abused by a male farmhand between the ages of five and ten years old. Was it a difficult decision to include that in the book?

Life in those isolated rural communities in the 1970s wasn’t always easy. Having said that, I’m not trying to blame what happened on anything or anyone apart from the perpetrator. I’ll actually be talking about it on the tour… I’m not trying to hide anything. People pretend everything is perfect with their Instagram pictures, but we all carry darkness. You can either fall into that darkness or sublimate the dark and drag it out into the light. I will not let it rule my life. 

What ambitions, if any, do you still have?

To make us care as much about wild animals in their homes on planet Earth as we do about the animal friends in our homes. To give animals a fair, two-way street in medicine: the same implants and drugs they give to humans.  

If you were Minister for the Saga generation, what would you lobby for?

That all animals with a brain are respected as sentient and not as possessions. It would make us kinder towards our fellow humans, too. 

What advice would you give your younger self?

Regarding the bullies and the critics, I’d show them the truth as I know it, then shower them with love. My guess is they wouldn’t know what to do with it. 

Who makes you laugh?

Myself, most days. I am reasonably good at surgery, but then not so good at life. 

Is life better at 55 than it was at 18?

In some ways, but it’s hard to give a definite answer. Even though I’m more than halfway to the end, I still have a lot to contribute before the final whistle.  

What’s your best day ever?

The first day Keira was able to walk again after that accident came within a whisker of ending her life.  

How would you like to be remembered?

He did his best for every animal that crossed his path and some that didn’t. As someone who realises “we” are not “it”, but simply a part of the universal strand of oneness that ties us all together with love. If only we could let it in. 

Noel’s new show Beyond Supervet is on tour from September 29 to December 2. For tickets, see noelfitzpatricklive.com 

The Supervet: Puppy Special is on Thursdays, 9pm, Channel 4 and All4

Written by Danny Scott

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