It’s a chilly morning in Goldens Bridge, and Muffin doesn’t want to cooperate.
“Come have a treat,” Sarah Cutler, V.M.D., says gently as she and the Mastiff’s owners work together to get Muffin on to Cutler’s portable scale as the family’s “toddler” putters gleefully in the snow.
Getting any puppy to comply with a directive can be a challenge, but Muffin is 120 pounds of pure silliness. Soon enough, though, she obliges, allowing Cutler to check her weight, listen to her heart and lungs and clip as many nails as she can before the 10-month-old decides she’s been in one spot long enough. She lopes through the snow, checkup complete.
Cutler’s passion for animals and fascination with their behaviors began professionally when she graduated from the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Veterinary Medicine in 1997. After completing her internship at the Animal Medical Center in Manhattan, Cutler worked at Park East Animal Hospital for six years before moving out of the city and joining Somers Animal Hospital for six years. (With licenses in New York and Connecticut, she is a member of the American Veterinary Medical Association, Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association and New York State Veterinary Medical Society.)
After years of working for busy animal hospitals, Cutler decided in 2010 to launch At Home Vet Care, a house-call veterinary practice based in Katonah, to fit her personal and professional goals.
“At the time, I needed a break from the hustle and bustle of a hospital schedule. I also had three small kids at home and wanted to be more flexible with my time,” she says. “I knew some vets in the city who had peeled off to start house-call practices and they were really happy and successful, so I thought it could work in Westchester.”
At the time, Cutler says there were only a few other house-call vets in the area. Since then, the number has more than doubled, but there’s still plenty of work for everyone, especially during the pandemic.
“We’re all inundated with work right now. So many people got dogs, and it’s not slowing down,” Cutler says. “People are also home watching their pets more, so they’re more likely to pick up on things they want checked. When they were gone all day, they may not have noticed as much.”
In addition to the convenience of having their pet exams at home, Cutler says her clients benefit from the ability to engage and ask more questions.
“Instead of being in a generic office setting where you might have at most 20 or 30 minutes to talk to a client and meet their dog, I have the freedom to set my own pace and get to know both the patient and the owners,” she says. “When you’re around someone’s home, you get to an understanding of what’s going on and can help with other issues. Like, how are we going to manage giving this medication? How do we train a new puppy at home with small children?”
Cutler says that beyond physical health, she works with families on how to use reinforcement to steer a new puppy, or even an older dog, in the right direction.
“One of my areas of passion is to educate people on building trust with their pet as opposed to using strict rules and punitive techniques,” she says. “Communication, happiness and calm are so important when it comes to behavior modification.”
Before leaving Muffin’s house, Cutler instructs her family on how to scale up her heartworm preventative as she gains weight. They ask her whether the breath-freshening treats they bought are safe for Muffin to eat in large amounts.
When the appointment is over, Cutler packs up her car and heads down the road. She’s off to South Salem to see Boomer, a Bernese Mountain Dog who needs a shot to help with his arthritis. Later, she’ll meet Dori, a Pit Bull rescue whose foster mom says behavioral guidance may be the pup’s last hope.
So many house-calls, so many pets. After a decade in business, Cutler wouldn’t have it any other way.
For more, visit athomevetcare.org.