The parents of Eric Lai Cheong-sang divorced when he was around six or seven years old because his father became a Buddhist monk. 'Not only did he become a monk, he adopted some pretty extreme religious beliefs such as spiritual possession in which I was used as a medium,' says Dr Lai, 30, or rather Dr Eric, as he is better known as a celebrity veterinarian with clinics in Happy Valley and Tseung Kwan O. Before veterinary science, he worked as an amateur computer programmer and a theoretical physicist specialising in quantum electrodynamics (QED). However, his first intellectual awakening began not with science, but with haunting. His father's possession rituals, usually performed at a Buddhist temple, involved inducing the boy into a trance during which he would recite and write Buddhist chants or couplets. 'To this day, I still don't know if I was really possessed or I had been taught those chants. I was six or seven years old then so I must have known enough Chinese to memorise them,' he said. 'But I still remember being in a trance-like state. So, if you ask me whether I believe in spirits and possession, I would say that I respect such beliefs, but as a man of science, I don't believe in them.' Dr Lai's mother was tolerant of religion, but she saw her husband was clearly going too far. So she emigrated to Melbourne in Australia, and lived in one of the poorest neighbourhoods. 'People were selling cocaine at our building's entrance - it was that kind of place,' he recalls. 'But my mother was tough and disciplined, so in a few years she saved enough money to open her own garment factory.' He caught the computer bug at high school and taught himself programming. 'I worked as a part-time salesman at a computer store and became fascinated with the machines,' he says. From computers, Dr Lai moved on, at university, to even more abstract science, QED, a version of quantum theory developed by several pioneering physicists, including the late legendary US physicist Richard Feynman. 'It was reading Feynman that got me interested in physics. He had very broad interests and QED is all-encompassing - it applies to the entire universe, everything,' he said. He wanted to pursue a physics career after he graduated, but there were few jobs available in Australia. 'QED applies to everything, but unfortunately, not job hunting. 'I have always been interested in fish and pets, so for practical and personal interests, it was vet school for me.' He worked for several years with the SPCA before opening his first clinic in Happy Valley about two years ago. 'And here I am, a vet in Hong Kong, after a long detour on another continent,' said the celebrity vet with a long line of famous movie stars as clients. Dr Lai is also a part-time radio host on RTHK and owns Nevada, one of only five or six Afghan dogs living in Hong Kong.