A new local business is putting a modern spin on an age-old service.
Dubuque resident Mary Wagner in March opened North Star Veterinary Clinic, a business that provides mobile veterinary services for dogs, cats and other pets. The clinic serves customers within a 20-mile radius of Dubuque and can serve those within 40 miles if accommodations are made in advance.
So far, Wagner has been impressed by the feedback.
“I think the clients have noticed that their pets are a lot more comfortable,” Wagner said. “They don’t have that wind-up period where they are in the car getting more anxious and nervous. In the comfort of their home, they seem to enjoy the visit more.”
While the mobile vet clinic isn’t a completely novel concept, Wagner believes she is putting a fresh spin on the service.
Most mobile clinics cater to large farm animals. Wagner’s business, on the other hand, cares for smaller animals.
About 90% of visits have been with cats and dogs, but the business also aids animals like guinea pigs and reptiles.
Wagner visits healthy animals as well as those experiencing illness. She can conduct surgery in a rented clinic space if an in-home visit reveals such a procedure is necessary.
She also provides in-home hospice and euthanasia services.
After completing her education in veterinary medicine, Wagner spent three years working as a vet in Florida and four more working in Iowa.
She decided to launch her own business after observing changing demands and a void in the local market.
“There is this growing trend, particularly with younger people, of wanting things now and seeking that immediate gratification,” she said. “With a lot of veterinary clinics, you can be scheduled out for a few months. Most of the time, with my clinic, we can get you in immediately.”
Starting her business in the age of COVID-19 has both aided and complicated things.
Wagner believes the new emphasis on remote working has made it harder for some to leave the home and, in turn, enhancing the need for mobile vet services. The threat of the virus, however, means that Wagner and her technician must adhere to strict protocols.
“We are always wearing masks and gloves when we come into someone’s home and treat the animals,” she said.
While services are obviously focused on the animal, Wagner believes that interacting with her human clients is also a critical component of the job.
That is particularly true in cases of euthanasia.
“It is kind of a balancing act,” Wagner said. “You want to be there for the clients and you are also helping the pet make that transition.”
Earlier this month, Keri Gockel and her family bid farewell to their 4-year-old dog, Rizzo.
The family adopted Rizzo about three years ago and learned this summer that she was suffering from lymphoma.
“It really caught us off guard,” Gockel said. “She was such a young dog. We did some research and we found how common (the disease) was and how progressive it could be. We knew her time was short.”
Treatment proved unsuccessful because the cancer was so aggressive. They soon shifted the focus to making the dog as comfortable as possible before she passed.
Gockel said that using North Star Veterinary Clinic allowed her to avoid a trip to the traditional vet, which would have put extra stress on Rizzo. Moreover, it allowed the entire family — including her husband and two daughters — to be present.
“It meant the world to us to be able to be able to say goodbye in the privacy of our own home,” she recalled.