Longtime Sequim veterinarian announces retirement

 With 35 years of veterinary medicine under his dark blue scrub top, his clients often refer to Dr. Jack Thornton as the American version of English veterinary surgeon James Herriot.

Over the years, Thornton has performed surgery on thousands of animals and touched hundreds of lives and hearts in the process.

From performing a "rhino-plasty" on Ricky the rhinoceros at the Olympic Game Farm to chasing a dog - on his bike - like a madman because it tried to bite him, Thornton has a thousand true stories to share that are sure to make people laugh, cry, jump with joy and shout out in anger.

Years ago Thornton started writing detailed accounts of his days at work, recording the good, the bad and the downright ugly. He sent them to his parents for entertainment as they got older and became housebound. Even after they died, Thornton continued to write the stories out of habit.

Although his friends, family and clients often encouraged him to turn his adventurous tales into an autobiography, Thornton swears he'll do no such thing.

"The best part about my stories will be handing them down to my children and grandchildren," he said with a smile, speaking proudly of his newborn granddaughter.

At the end of the month, Thornton will take off his surgical gloves for the last time. He's retiring and leaving the practice he built - literally with his own two hands - to Dr. Sharon Jensen.

Jensen approached Thornton about buying Blue Mountain Animal Clinic three years ago and letting the more experienced veterinarian work for her. At first, he refused. Then, he thought better of it.

"It's not that often somebody comes to you like that, and I couldn't pass up her offer," Thornton said.

"I respect her and the way she practices medicine."

Wanting to ease clients into the transition, Thornton continued working for Jensen four days a week.

"It was good that Sharon asked me to work for her," he said. "I couldn't have stopped cold turkey - decompressing to 20 hours a week was hard enough."

Retirement, Thornton continued, will be an adjustment but is a change he welcomes.

"My wife said early in our marriage that it's good to learn how to do nothing, and I think there's a lot of truth in that," he said.

"I'm going to take the time and learn to just be ... not to be a vet or a parent or whatever, but just to be."

Keeping busy shouldn't be a problem for Thornton, who's always enjoyed playing racketball, handball, basketball, running, walking and swimming.

Thornton plans to stay in the Sequim area. He's a member of the Sunrise Rotary and is on the board and a past president of the Olympic Peninsula Humane Society.

From one vet to another

When Jensen first inquired about buying Blue Mountain Animal Clinic, she'd never met Thornton before.

"I was immediately struck by his humble demeanor and respectful manner," she said, sharing her first impressions of the now gray-haired man with dark blue eyes.

"Over the last few years, I came to know him as a person who shows utmost respect for all creatures that live around him and the Earth upon which we tread so heavily."

"The community may never understand what Jack contributed," Jensen continued, "but his clients and patients do. And so do I."

"I'll miss you, Jack," she said with heartfelt appreciation. "You touched my life."

Editor's note: Dr. Jack Thornton, who contributes a monthly column, "In Vetrospect" to the

Sequim Gazette, no longer will share his stories with readers following retirement. His sincere, and often humorous, accounts of practicing veterinary medicine on the North Olympic Peninsula will be missed.

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