Tributes have been paid to vet Stephen Flood, who has died suddenly aged 57.

Stephen, a long-standing partner at Mercer and Hughes Veterinary Surgeons, had a very loyal following, particularly at the Stansted and Great Dunmow branches.

His ‘Fan Club’ appreciated his straight-talking manner and obvious care for the animals he looked after. Pets in his care were always called ‘Pickle’ no matter what breed, shape or size!

Born in 1963, Stephen graduated from University College Dublin in 1985. He spent two years working in Ireland following his graduation, then spent a short time working for Kew Vets in Harlow. He joined Mercer and Hughes Veterinary Surgeons in 1991.

His prudent work ethic saw him become one of the partners, alongside Bob Mercer, Peter Hughes, and Ilse Pedler, now retired, and the two current directors Seamus Mone and Rebecca Kitchen.

Colleagues said he was a "true gent, immensely missed". They and former colleagues will remember him for always showing kindness and gratitude after a long day. He made a point of thanking every person when leaving theatre after an operation, or when leaving the surgery at the end of a clinic.

They told the Broadcast: "His bear hugs were phenomenal, and his singing would resonate and brighten even the most stressful of days. And following the spectacular Christmas parties, most of us will never be able to listen to ‘Fairytale of New York’ in the same way again."

Clients and former members of staff have also been remembering him fondly online, with nearly 200 comments praising his care and attention, remembering his support for those starting their careers, and sending condolences to his family and colleagues.

A true Irishman of generous and gregarious character, Stephen was a loyal rugby fan, dedicated parishioner, and keen collector of labradors. He adored his family and his wife Jane and his four children were his pride and joy. He is also survived by a brother and sister, and extended family in Ireland.

Stephen passed away suddenly at home after collapsing on January 24. A private family funeral is to be held in the UK.