Have you always wanted to be a veterinarian and how did you get interested in this profession?
I knew I wanted to be a veterinarian since I was about 3 years old. Both of my parents are veterinarians. I grew up in West Chesterfield, New Hampshire and my parents owned a veterinary practice in Brattleboro, Vermont. So, I grew up in the business. I went to Cornell for undergraduate studies and the I went to Auburn University in Alabama for Veterinary school. I was the college kid who filled my room with rabbits, fish and other animals. I have never been able to spend time away from animals. My life has to involve animals! That is one component of why this job works well for me. One other thing about the job that I did not realize would fit me so well was the variability, I get bored so easily. As soon as I master something, I move on. I don’t like to do the same thing twice. I don’t think I could do a job that was repetitive. Every day, there is something new. I have been doing this for 22 years and am not bored yet! However, I had one rule even before I started out which was that I never wanted to own my own business.
For someone who never wanted to own their own business, you have a thriving practice. When and how did you decide to open Newbury Veterinarian Clinic?
I always enjoyed being a veterinarian but felt that it was better for me not to deal with the business end of things. I used to work at Stonecliff Veterinary Clinic which later became Bradford Veterinary Clinic. I worked there for 15 years. Eventually, the decision to start my own business was a combination of getting to a point of personal and professional maturity where I found I really wanted to do things my own way. People can have such different personal and philosophical approaches. The veterinary profession is interesting because I think we can do the same level of medicine as human medicine but without insurance for patients, there’s a lot of thinking about how you want to approach the whole concept of what should be done, taking into account peoples’ financial situations. For example, are you going to be the kind of clinic that insists on a certain level of care or are you going to be flexible, based on the needs and resources of the owners? Everyone has their own philosophy on how to handle that. In addition, I had a pretty spectacular opportunity to purchase our current clinic, which had previously been a veterinary clinic that had gone out of business. I just had to buy the property. A lot of the equipment was already here. In the end, it really had to do with the strong philosophical views I have for how to practice medicine suddenly being possible due to a great opportunity to buy this property. I was not interested in the business part but already knew a lot of capable people and invited them to join me. I felt confident that I had people that could do the things well that I couldn’t do. I have a farm and home school my three kids so I knew it was better for me to not deal with the business end of things but just focus on being the best veterinarian possible.
Can you tell us what services you offer and what is special about Newbury Veterinarian Clinic?
We offer all the standard services but there are three things that I think make us different. One is our boarding facility. Not only do we have an extraordinary person who runs it but every animal gets individual attention and dogs get their own leash walk through the field three times a day. I thought that was standard but it is way above and beyond what many boarding facilities offer. The second thing is that I have a particular interest in behavior modification. In the past, veterinary students spent four years in college and then another four years in veterinary school and it was all medical with little, if any, focus on behavior. The reality is that behavior problems are the number one reason for relinquishing dogs and cats and euthanasia. It is a huge issue and helping people to understand and communicate more clearly with their pets is a important service. We offer behavior modification and also focus on behavioral issues as part of our routine visits. It can be a big problem and behavior modification can make a huge impact on the bond and quality of life our pets have. Lastly, I am in the process of getting certification for a program called “Fear Free.” The idea of the program is that visiting the veterinarian can be a stressful experience for both animals and owners. We are changing our practices to address the issues of stress and come up with more ways to make visits less stressful. It has been very interesting! We are all really committed and we all work hard to provide the best services possible. We all know we are not going to get rich and we are not out to run the highest tech clinic in the area. We really have the philosophy that we need to listen and make a plan that meets the needs of the animals and the people that are standing in front of us. It can be a really intimidating experience for owners receiving complicated and/or stressful information added to a potential financial stress. We try to keep all of that in mind and make it a truly friendly place and understand that people are coming from a lot of different perspectives.
I know your practice focuses on dogs and cats? Why do you not service other types of animals like farm animals?
My previous work was at a clinic where we did large and small animals but this practice is really just dogs and cats. The reason for that is the trend in medicine now is knowing more about less topics rather than being very general. We decided to stop doing a mixed animal practice so we could be less general and more informed as there is a lot that does not translate well between species. We do get chicken questions and the occasional rabbit but dogs and cats are really our focus and our specialty. I complicate my life with a whole lot of other species at home on my farm!
Can you tell us a little about your Oscar’s Memorial Dog Park project?
I started the dog park based on my experience with an elderly client with a very rambunctious dog who was looking for a space where he could exercise his dog. Initially, it seemed like a foreign and unnecessary concept because of the rural area we live in. However, I realized that there are a lot of folks who can’t have their dogs off leash in an unfenced area or who live near a busy street. The project also speaks to one of my favorite things which is observing animals running free and doing their own thing. We often don’t give animals a chance to be free and socialize. The park is great and it is used every day. For some dogs, it is the only time they can be loose. It has been a lot of fun. The only issue is that I really don’t like fundraising. We actually would like to build one more fence to accommodate a small dog area. We have a labor force that is dying to put it up but insurance is very expensive for a dog park. We need another couple of thousand dollars to get that fence up! Anyone interested can contact the clinic to see how they can help!