Sitting down with Dr. Vanessa Velez of Riverside Veterinary Hospital, her English bulldog Lola and Piper the Irish cat.

What are your earliest memories with animals?

Growing up in Puerto Rico there were always dogs living with us; Dobermans, an Alaskan Malamute, a Lhasa Apso, a Maltese, and a couple of satos (Puertorican mutts). For a while I got into showing dogs and even won Best Junior Handler with my Dobie. My grandfather had a farm with bunnies, chickens and pigs.

Do you really have an Irish cat?

Yes. She was found on the streets of Dublin and I was living in Ireland attending veterinary school. I adopted her in January of 1999 and have had her ever since.

How do the English Bulldog and the Irish cat really get along?

Truly, Lola would love to be friends but Piper will have none of it. I have a soft spot for bulldogs. My first bulldog, Knuckles passed on 2 years ago and left a huge void.

Being bilingual, having studied in Ireland and grown up in Puerto Rico, how did you narrow where in the world you wanted to practice?

I thought it would be awesome to live in NYC, close to my dad and brother, and I love the city lifestyle with everything it has to offer; I quickly realized the cost of living would be too much for me. Around that time, I came to Rochester to visit a friend and thought this would be a great place to live. I got a job at Penfield Veterinary Hospital and thought I would live here for a year or two. Fourteen years later, Rochester is definitely my home.

You love Downtown living. What appeals to you most about that?

I love the convenience of the local restaurant and bar scene, shops, festivals, and of course the Food Truck Rodeo. So in addition to animals, what are your other passions? Travelling! I love exploring the world and I’ve been lucky to have had the opportunity to visit many countries all over the world. I also enjoy spending time with my friends, going to the movies, spending time outdoors, and if I could have my way, I would be at a beach somewhere every weekend.

What do you enjoy most about being a veterinarian?

Working with animals and meeting their wonderful owners. It’s very satisfying to see the joy pets bring to their owners and being able to be a part of that. I am grateful that I get to be there sometimes from the beginning of their lives and help them pass peacefully when the time comes.

Dr. Kirsten Mueller joins in on the conversation…

What are your earliest memories with animals?

My family’s love for animals stems from my Grandma Jeannine, and we always had dogs (especially pugs), cats, birds, rabbits, and even the occasional flying squirrel growing up. I remember walking the neighborhood dogs and putting worms in my pockets as a kid.

Wow, sounds like a fun childhood! Do you still have many pets?

Of course! My family and I currently have 6 dogs, 6 cats, 15 chickens, 8 parakeets, 3 finches, 15 chickens, a chinchilla, a mini-horse, bees, and goldfish. Alpacas are next on my list.

You really do live in a zoo! Does everyone get along?

How was attending veterinary school in the Caribbean?

How did you end up back in Rochester? Attending Ross University in St. Kitts was an amazing experience that I wouldn’t trade for anything. I met many lifelong friends on a beautiful island and got to spend my very little down-time riding horses on the beach. After graduating in 2007, I spent a clinical year at Oregon State and then started interning at Veterinary Specialists & Emergency Services in Rochester. I wanted to be close to my family and friends.

Sounds great. You’ve since moved to Bergen. What drew you to the country life?

My husband, daughter and I were looking to move out of our house in Irondequoit and stumbled upon our dream home on the Bergen/Byron border. We have a good-sized yard and a barn so it’s perfect for all our animals and Lucy to play around in. I do not miss the commute to work on 590, either!

What are some of your passions other than animals?

I love traveling and have had the fortune to travel to some great places around the world. I like to garden, snowboard, hike, go for long dog walks, and cook with my family.

What do you enjoy most about being a veterinarian?

Because of my love of animals, I know how important pets are to their owners. There is nothing like seeing the positive progress of an animal that I care for and seeing how much a pet can enrich a person’s life.

So how did you two become co-owners of Riverside?

Veterinary Hospital? We met in 2008 while working at Veterinary Specialists and Emergency Services of Rochester. We became fast friends and throughout the years we would often daydream of ways we would improve veterinary care if we could open our own practice one day. We are so thankful we had the opportunity to take over an established practice and have our dreams realized. We know we have a lot to offer to the local veterinary community.

What makes your clinic the best destination for pet families?

We pour our hearts and souls into our work and truly care about our patients’ health. We have a very compassionate support staff who are all animal lovers and understand the importance of their positions. Since opening in March, we’ve added state-of-the-art equipment including digital x-ray as well as digital dental xray machines, dental equipment and in-house laboratory equipment. With only two doctors on staff, we maintain a “small-town,” comfortable atmosphere that puts our clients at ease. We also have the flexibility to be more accommodating to our clients’ needs.

Tell me about One Love Pet Adoptions.

One Love is our adoption center that brings animals from overcapacity shelters in the southeastern states and Puerto Rico to connect them with loving homes here in Rochester, NY. One Love is located in the same building as Riverside Vet, and we always have rescues looking for their forever homes!



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