- The Magazine
What if you didn’t have to go to a veterinary clinic?
“It can be hard to walk into a clinic, frankly,” says veterinarian JD Warford, acknowledging something every pet owner knows to be true. “You’re surrounded by strangers, walking in and walking out.” No matter how warm and inviting the staff and the facility is, it’s just not the kind of environment where anyone feels entirely comfortable and relaxed — least of all your pets.
So nearly five years ago, while working at a local vet clinic, Dr. Warford started making pet house calls. The whole experience was so dramatically better, she quickly made it her full-time pursuit, launching the mobile business DC MetroVet with her wife, Jessica Serensits. Instead of roughly 15-minute appointments at a clinic, Dr. Warford zips around in a Honda hybrid to make home visits, spending about an hour with clients — extended time that allows her to get to know them better and develop a stronger bond. Plus, “I get to see them at home in their own setting, which gives a lot more info as well. And they’re more comfortable obviously.” The pets are far less stressed, too. “It’s quite the difference between seeing them in a house and seeing them in a clinic,” says Serensits, who handles most of DC MetroVet’s business operations and client communications.
Over the years, Dr. Warford has built up a strong base of regular clients who have made DC MetroVet their pets’ primary source for veterinary care. Roughly half of Dr. Warford’s DC MetroVet home visits are for routine pet care — basic examinations and vaccinations. “We work really great as a replacement for your everyday average exam and testing,” she says, “and we work hand-in-hand with clinics [to arrange in-clinic] surgical procedures, x-rays, et cetera.”
In fact, several vet clinics have referred DC Metro Vet to their patients with transportation difficulties, whether because they no longer have a car or because they can’t get their stubborn pet to go into its carrier. “A lot of clinics are really happy to work with us,” Dr. Warford says, “because they can make sure that their patients are actually getting care.” Over the next year or so, DC MetroVet plans to expand by hiring a second veterinarian, as well as another technician, joining lead veterinary assistant Becky Edwards and the part-time technician Stephanie Salamone.
But the couple didn’t just start DC MetroVet as a way to minimize the stress and anxiety over regular veterinary care. There’s also the matter that no one likes to think about, for themselves let alone their pets — what Serensits calls “the least pleasant thing about owning a pet.” That thing, of course, is the fact that everyone, and every pet, dies.
In fact, the prospect of providing in-home end-of-life care, including in-home euthanasia, was as much a trigger for the launch of DC MetroVet as anything else. The couple had to put down one of their three elderly dogs in 2010, and opted to do it at their home in Laurel, Md. “When I was able to do that for my own dog in 2010,” Dr. Warford says, “it was another impetus to think maybe this would be a good thing to expand out and just do full time.” Serensits adds: “Having walked into a clinic before and walked out without a pet [euthanized on site], it just feels better to be able to do that at home. And to be able to do that for other people, it’s just really meaningful.”
These days about half of Dr. Warford’s home visits are to offer some aspect of senior palliative care, including help with maintenance of chronic conditions. But a lot of her work in this realm involves extensive guidance and even a little handholding over the often-agonizing process of knowing the right time to let a pet go. “We come in and do assessments for them,” she says, “and look at records and do examinations and help talk them through the process.” DC MetroVet works with the Maryland-based pet crematorium Heavenly Days and tries to minimize the steps involved in end-of-life care for their clients’ pets. “We arrange everything,” says Dr. Warford.
The whole goal, of course, is to make that least pleasant thing at least a little less unpleasant. And the many “thank-you notes” DC MetroVet gets from clients — as well as recommended reviews on their Yelp page — is a measure of the business’s success to Serensits, because it falls in line with one of Oprah Winfrey’s life lessons she remembers the talk show host sharing years ago: “Have a company that people can write love letters to.”
“The thank-you notes we get, it just means a lot,” Serensits says. “It makes us feel like we’re making a difference.”
For more information about DC MetroVet, call 240-460-9642 or visit dcmetrovet.com.
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