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Dr Jacobsen’s home-built pizza oven produces fantastic pizzas.

The joy of building stuff and the challenge of triathlons keeps Dr Julian Jacobsen of Pets + Vets in East Victoria Park, WA, happy and healthy.

“A caravel is a sailing dinghy that can fit around six or eight people. I built one from scratch and it turned out beautifully. I even built the hollow cedar mast using a Birdsmouth technique. You build it with strips of cedar laminated together in a circular fashion resulting in a hollow mast. The caravel sailed nicely but the project taught me a couple of things. Firstly, building boats is very expensive. Secondly, boats make you feel guilty if you’re not using them every weekend. We took it out around 20 times, then I sold it to a mate in Albany.

“As a kid, I grew up pulling stuff apart and putting it back together again. I wanted to know how things worked. I wasn’t particularly academically gifted but I was quite good with my hands. That’s how I’ve managed to find a niche for myself in practice. I’m a partner in three practices and do a lot of canine cruciate work. I regularly fly to the other clinics where I will do six to 10 TPLOs each visit. Managing staff, handling my caseload and the mental rigours of veterinary work is pretty exhausting. At age 36, I found myself at hospital with a suspected heart attack.

“I had an epiphany—I realised the way I was working wasn’t right. I took up hobbies and worked less. I started bicycling to get healthy again, which led to triathlon and ironman competitions.

“Having a building project really helps distract me from the pressures of work. I’ve built an LCD projector that was big as a suitcase—noisy and hot. But it worked. When we were extending our property, I knocked down the outdoor toilet and shifted it so the builders had somewhere to use. 

“I’ve built a traditional Pompeii-style wood-fired pizza oven in the backyard. It takes a couple of hours to get hot but produces fantastic pizzas. We often have the street around for pizza nights.

“I like to have one project, finish it and then find another project. I’ve built five bicycle frames, one of which is single speed and fixed gear. I rode it 1200 kilometres to Laverton as a fundraiser for a charity. My main goal is to complete 10 full distance ironman races before I turn 60. Only seven to go. 

“In order to stay mentally and physically healthy, it’s important for vets to have pastimes and interests beyond the profession. For me, that’s building stuff and the challenge of triathlons.”

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