A Beiseker born-and-bred veterinarian will be showcased on a national television series produced by a Vancouver production company set to air on APTN and Cottage Life networks this spring.
The series, Dr. Savannah: Wild Rose Vet follows veterinarian Savannah Howse-Smith as she tends to animals across central Alberta. It is the first TV series produced by Vancouver-based duo Shirley McLean and Tania Koenig-Gauchier of Wapanatahk Media.
According to Howse-Smith, who grew up in Beiseker but now practices out of the Rocky Rapids Veterinary Service in Drayton Valley, she often travels many miles to surrounding areas to tend to creatures big and small as part of her professional and volunteer services.
Though she claims she isn’t a natural in front of the camera and found the filming process to be disruptive to her day-to-day work, she hopes the series will shine a positive light on rural life and rural veterinarian practice.
“I find there’s a lot of media that shows people that live in rural areas in a negative light,” she said. “It’ll be nice to show the opposite of that, where we can show people that are taking care of their animals and having professionals working in a rural environment.”
She added she also hopes the show encourages individuals who are growing up in rural areas that the sky is the limit regarding professional opportunities.
“I’ll be nice to show that even if you come from a small town and went [through] the public school system, you can still do lots of things,” she said. “You have lots of opportunities in your life. You don’t have to feel limited by the fact that you’re from a small town.”
Howse-Smith said oftentimes, aspiring veterinarians and other professionals will have to leave their small-town setting to obtain education and training, but many choose to return to the rural areas they are familiar with.
It’s a sentiment she hopes the show will encourage.
“I’m trying to show true rural life in a positive light,” she said.
Howse-Smith said she first heard about the television opportunity when her alma mater, the Western College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Saskatchewan (where she graduated in 2013), put out a casting call for Indigenous veterinarians.
“They asked the college if they knew of any veterinarians that were Indigenous that might be interested in a documentary and I think I was the only one that volunteered,” she said with a laugh.
During the production of the first season, a small film crew followed Howse-Smith as she conducted her daily veterinarian duties for approximately five months. She said filming for season one of Dr. Savannah: Wild Rose Vet is completed, and season two is scheduled to begin soon.
The television docuseries also follows Howse-Smith on her personal journey toward understanding and connecting to her Métis heritage. She said showcasing other Indigenous people’s work and stories was a highlight of filming the series.
She noted one episode where the crew travelled to Cambridge Bay and met with a young man named Tyler was a particular highlight.
“It was really good to see how open he was,” she said. “His story really encapsulates why I think it’s worthwhile to do these sorts of things.
“These are all people I already knew but giving them a chance to talk about what they do and their story I think is the best part.”
The series is airing this month on Cottage Life network as part of a series of free previews, but Howse-Smith said the official premiere on APTN is not set to air until the first week of May.