North Salem, N.Y. - As a child growing up in North Salem and being around horses, dogs and feathered fowl, Jean Quaintance always knew she wanted to be a veterinarian.
Last year, she launched a mobile service called Versatile Vets, which treats animals at home, bringing a family-oriented approach to the care of pets.
Her mother, the renowned master gardener and author Page Dickey, made sure Quaintance had ample opportunity to be around animals at Duck Hill, the name of their farmhouse home on Baxter Road, where her love of pets took root.
“My dad rode horses, I rode horses, my sister rode horses, we had a three-horse barn,” Quaintance said of her childhood. “I started working for the fox hunt at 9, 10 years old. I played with the puppies. I worked at the kennel all the time but I also worked at several barns in the area.”
The “fox hunt” is held by The Golden’s Bridge Hounds, one of the oldest fox-hunting clubs in the country.
In addition to her odd jobs around the barns, Quaintance said, she would babysit for Olympian Michael Page in exchange for horse-riding lessons. Page represented the U.S. three times in the Olympics.
She did anything and everything she could to be around the animals.
“I knew I wanted to be a vet for forever,” Quaintance said.
However, she had what she called “too much fun” during college and ended up ditching the veterinary track for a less demanding degree in political science.
Still, being a veterinarian called out to her and she took a job as a veterinary tech before going back to school in 2002 to fulfill her dream.
She worked at a big practice for about a decade, but when she became pregnant at 44 years old, she thought it might be time to shake things up with her job.
“It was important for me to be able to spend time with her,” Quaintance said of her daughter, now 2.
And that’s how Versatile Vets was formed.
Her car became her office and she travels between Connecticut, where she now lives, and New York, where she has many clients, to conduct well visits and provide emergency care, vaccinations, blood work and end-of-life care for people’s pets.
She has the help of her husband, Don, who’s a vet tech; her partner, Dr. Theresa Kaeser, and office manager Lindsey Daddio.
For surgeries or X-rays, she works out of Bethel Animal Hospital in Bethel, Conn.
“It makes it easy,” Quaintance said. “It keeps the animals calm when it’s in their own environment. It’s good for very anxious dogs.”
Cats can be a nightmare, as anyone who’s ever tried to put a cat in a carrier knows, but when Quaintance visits, the cat is usually asleep on the couch and can fall right back asleep when the visit is over.
“This is becoming more and more of a thing because it’s so much nicer for the animals to be in their own home,” Quaintance said.
Her specialty is bulldogs, but she can treat all cats and dogs and what she calls “pocket pets” such as rabbits, hamsters, etc.
Her practice also works with other veterinarians. In one case, the primary vet needed a blood draw but the dog was really stressed about leaving the house, so Quaintance went over and got the blood for him.
“We want to work with other vets, too, so we can be used in that capacity,” Quaintance said. “It’s not such a strict competition.
“We’re versatile,” she joked.
Though she’s left North Salem for Connecticut, she still considers the small town her home. Her husband proposed in Baxter Preserve, where she still goes for long walks, and she treats many animals in North Salem and surrounding Westchester and Putnam counties. Her father, Charles Dickey, also still lives in town.
At her own house, she has five dogs: a Pyrenees mix, a golden retriever, two bulldogs and a Jack Russell terrier.
“They’re all rejects,” Quaintance said. “Something was wrong with them to the capacity that the owner couldn’t take care of them.”
For more information about the practice, visit versatilevets.com, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 203-482-9954.