John Gallagher ’95, D.V.M. ’00, and Meredith Re ’00, D.V.M. ’04, take their practice on the road
Instead of driving to the office each morning, John Gallagher ’95, D.V.M. ’00, and Meredith Re ’00, D.V.M. ’04, climb into their 25-foot van, equipped with an exam table, x-ray machine and surgical equipment, and head to their first appointment.
The husband-and-wife team launched their mobile veterinarian practice in Darien, Conn. in 2011 and haven’t regretted it since. The only problem they’ve encountered is chasing the occasional cat through an attic or basement because it didn’t want to get vaccinated.
“I always tell people, ‘As best as you can, isolate your pet in the bathroom,’ because I don’t like going exploring through people’s houses,” Gallagher says.
Not having attended the College of Veterinary Medicine at the same time, the couple met at the North American Veterinary Conference in Orlando while Re was still completing her studies in Ithaca. Besides their connection to Cornell, they found had something else in common — Long Island.
“The simplest version of the story is at the time, John was practicing on Long Island and he was complaining about being on Long Island,” Re says. “Being from Long Island, I felt the need to defend my home area. That started the conversation.”
Four years after getting married, the couple opened their mobile practice, Good Shepherd Veterinary Services. Gallagher had just ended a seven-year battle fighting metastatic melanoma and had been doing relief and emergency work at several practices in Westchester County, while Re was at a small practice in Norwalk, Conn. The intense treatment for his cancer changed their perspective on their careers.
“Having battled cancer and it being very difficult to maintain one job because of everything he was going through, I think all of that played into my decision when John convinced me in 2010 that it was time to leave my job and join up with him,” Re says.
After the cancer went into remission, they initially explored opening a brick-and-mortar practice but ultimately decided a mobile veterinary service was more practical.
“Starting from scratch, the real estate alone was over a $1 million, and you have to build a practice and staff it,” Gallagher says. “It’s a multi-million-dollar proposition in our area, and we love where we live.”
For Re, the prospect of owning a mobile practice was an option that would allow her to combine motherhood and her career. Their son, Jedd, was born two years later, in 2012, and Re has been bringing him to appointments since he was an infant.
“It gives us that work-life balance,” she says. “It’s as close as you can get to being able to say, ‘It’s 6 o’clock, and I would like to go home.’ ”
What attracted Gallagher was the freedom that comes with owning your own business. “The thing I really enjoy is being my own business owner — that pretty much allows you to do what you want. I can work or I can go for a swim or take a bike ride,” he says. “It definitely allows you to be more human as a vet.”
Their clients also prefer using a mobile veterinarian, especially if they have more than one pet or are working full time. “If we have clients who work fulltime in Manhattan, we go in and out of their house with their permission and take care of their pets while they’re at work,” Re says.
The couple use their van, a customized ambulance vehicle manufactured by Mercedes, when they need to conduct advanced procedures, such as surgery or x-rays. Most of the time they simply drive to clients’ homes, along with their full-time assistant, for routine exams, blood work and vaccinations.
One perk they look forward to during appointments is an invitation to step into the kitchen for a cup of coffee. “It’s kind of like becoming part of people’s families,” Re says. “Because we’re inside of their homes, we really get to know them.”
By Sherrie Negrea