Dr Harry Cooper, star and co-host of the Seven Network’s Harry’s Practice alongside Dr Katrina Warren, calls country Tasmania home and shares it with his wife and daughter, and a large extended family of animals. Dr Harry’s time in the spotlight began on breakfast television as the vet expert on a local Sydney chat show. He went on to join Don Burke in both radio and television and later hosted Seven’s Talk to the Animals.
Dr Harry Cooper is known as Australia's favourite vet and is famous all around Australia, loved by millions of TV viewers and once voted the fifth most trustworthy Australian. He is a typical country vet - living in regional Australia, with his wife Janine, daughter Heidi, 14, and an extended family of four-footed and winged creatures.
At last count, Dr Harry's animal population included 27 horses (including an Arabian stallion called Sniffer, a black riding pony stallion called George, a Welsh Riding Pony called Hussar and a black and white Pinto called Shadow), 11 dogs (including an Italian greyhound called Isabelle), 27 breeding cats, two house cats, 30 fantail pigeons, eight rabbits, four guinea pigs, 13 coloured sheep and lambs, one peacock, a cockatiel, nine ducks and ducklings and Polly the Possum!
Born and raised in Sydney, Dr Harry graduated with second class honours from Sydney University's Faculty of Veterinary Science in December 1965, aged 21. He practised for several years at the Gladesville Animal Hospital in NSW before venturing to the United Kingdom with his first wife to work as a locum in Wiltshire, for six months.
On his return to Australia after two years abroad, Dr Harry joined a partnership in Gladesville, specialising in horses, greyhounds and cage birds. As well as being a judge and show organiser, he also bred more than 1,000 birds annually and raced greyhounds with some success. Dr Harry's favorite dog was Ginger Lashes, whom he bought then raced in England – winning at White Park - and eventually imported back to Australia.
In 1980, he set up his own practice in Annangrove, NSW - still specialising in greyhounds and cage birds. Five years later, in June, 1985, Dr Harry married Janine and their daughter Heidi was born in May 1986.
Dr Harry began his media career on breakfast television as the vet expert on a local Sydney chat show. He also had a spot on Don Burke's radio program, and in 1987 joined Don on Burke's Backyard.
When Heidi was not quite three, Harry and Janine packed up their Sydney home and menagerie and moved to Mole Creek in Tasmania. They arrived on the Apple Isle on Anzac Day, 1989, with 9 horses, 27 cats, 4 dogs, 6 ducks, 3 geese, 80 budgies, and a Major Mitchell Cockatoo. Here he set up his own veterinary clinic in Exton, near Deloraine. The Cooper Family settled on 600 acres, farming 1500 sheep. But with plummeting rural produce prices, they were forced to sell the property in September 1991.
With little left after two years of hard work, they rented for 12 months before moving to Relbia, near Launceston, in October 1992 - where they live today in a beautiful American Tudor house on a hill with 65 acres. A keen gardener, Harry has planted 600 rose bushes, an incredible 1,000 daffodils and 500 conifers as windbreaks. The English style garden covers nearly five acres and includes an orchard.
Dr Harry joined Channel Seven in 1993 to host Talk To The Animals, which ran for four years. During these years, he had to 'prune' his vet practice to concentrate on his television career, although he never gave it up completely.
In 1997, Dr Harry returned to his veterinary rooms to film the first series of Harry's Practice, the Seven Network's family animal program in which he stars with reporter Dr Katrina Warren - and not forgetting his faithful border collie Scarlet. (Sadly in May 2000, Harry's longtime companion Warilla Wind Dark Rose, known affectionately as Rosie, passed away aged eleven years and seven months.)
Harry's love for animals began at a young age with his mother Linda breeding Pomeranians and his father Harold breeding ducks, chooks, dogs and birds at their Linley Point home. His first pet was a duck called Squeaker - who lived in the house! And Harry's earliest childhood memories are of falling asleep in the straw while his father was showing dogs.
As a youngster, Harry went to primary school in the Sydney suburb of Hunters Hill where he excelled in maths and history - and went on to be dux of the school. Secondary school was a different story. Neither Harry nor his only sibling, brother Neil (also a vet!), enjoyed Barker College in Hornsby. According to Harry, they were boys from the lower north shore at a school for the upper north shore snobs! Quite simply, he felt "like a round peg in a square hole". But he gained his Leaving Certificate with two As and four Bs and went on to Sydney University.
As a teenager, Harry toyed with the idea of being a geologist but his teacher only taught up to an intermediate level - otherwise his life may have taken a different path. But when, aged 12, his father gave him a couple of budgerigars, the interest in birds developed into a passion and there was no turning back.
When the 1975 bushfires swept through Sydney, Dr Harry couldn't get home in time to save his precious birds and greyhounds which he bred on the Annangrove property. He arrived to find the house still standing surrounded by smouldering remains. Some neighbours had opened a couple of cages before the heat became too intense, but devastatingly most of the animals had died. Miraculously, his favorite dog Ginger Lashes survived!
Dr Harry still uses the black leather vet case which he bought with his second pay in February 1966. (He spent his first pay on a surfboard!)He has had various hobbies over the years from greyhound racing and budgerigar breeding - which earned him the nickname 'Big Budgie' - to judging bird shows, fishing, gardening, and even playing the piano (standing up Jerry Lee Lewis style). He has also found time to write Dr Harry Cooper's Pet Care Guide, which has sold 20,000 copies. In 1999, he released two animal videos Buying and Caring For Your Puppy, and Buying and Caring for Your Kitten which sold out over Christmas. His latest book Anecdotes and Antidotes (Pan Macmillan) is also a hit, already selling 50,000 copies.