Dr. Michelle Tuma from Northwest Territories Veterinary Services has arguably one of the coolest jobs in Yellowknife.
Tuma is a vet — on wheels — who operates mainly in Yellowknife and across remote NWT communities offering routine animal services like wellness checks, vaccinations, treatment for eye and ear infections, orthopedic issues, and gastrointestinal upset.
“I only offer non-emergent housecall services. I can basically see anything as long as the animal doesn’t require to be hospitalized,” said Tuma.
Since she opened her (car) doors in May 2020, Tuma has continually evolved her services to fit the growing needs of her furry patients and the community.
The recent suspension of the afterhours services at Great Slave Animal Hospital has increased the level of concern and anxiety for pet owners, said Tuma — hence the creation of the teletriage service. “I wanted to be able to provide something to help ease their worry.”
Tuma will offer an afterhours teletriage service which is slated to launch on May 15, similar to an 8-1-1 for animals.
“They (pet owners) will be connected with an animal health professional who will provide advice on next steps ie: monitor for this symptom, call your vet in the morning and get an appointment or, worst case scenario if it is a life threatening emergency, to start driving to the nearest emergency vet clinic.” said Tuma will charge a small fee to callers.
Tuma’s average day starts 9 a.m. and ends around 6 p.m. She see around 10 animals — dogs, cats, and the occasional pot bellied pig.
She notes that a good portion of her time is spent driving between homes, scheduling appointments, and invoicing.
“My clients have been very pleased with my services mainly because pets can be much more comfortable in their home instead of a high-stress environment like a vet clinic,” said Tuma.
Mary Lou Morgan’s 9-year-old Husky-Shepherd cross has been a patient of Tuma’s for over six years.
“It’s so nice to have her come into my home and give the dog that comfort. I’ve had my dog on the table at the vet and shake like a leaf and never want to go back,” said Morgan.
Adiditiontally, Tuma offers home euthanasia services.
She helped one client, Karen Kuronen, say goodbye to her 17-year-old mixed breed dog, Jake.
“It came time for us to put him down. Doctor Tuma came to our house and put him to sleep right on the couch that he loved for so many years,” said Kuronen. “It was gentle on Jake and us as well.”
The Kuronen’s have another dog that Tuma see regularly, Sage, a 40-pound tan mixed breed that came to them as a four month old feral pup from the NWTSPCA.
“She has come a long way, but she is still extremely nervous and would be almost impossible to bring into a vet clinic. Doctor Tuma comes to our home and treats Sage in the living room,” said Kuronen.
“Sage is still nervous, but not nearly as much as she would be if we had to bring her to a vet’s office.”
People choose housecalls for a variety of reasons.
“I have a lot of clients who have multiple pets and who have children, so it is easier for me to come to them for their vet appointment then for them to have to find childcare or pack everyone into their vehicle and drive to a clinic.” said Tuma.
However, she is quick to explain that her service is not a replacement for a vet clinic or hospital.
“I have always encouraged my clients to continue an ongoing relationship with their brick and mortar clinic of choice because of my inability to provide emergency services. Sometimes I will see a pet that would benefit from hospitalization and will refer them to another clinic immediately,” she said.
And if there’s anything Tuma is equipped to do for a pet in the comfort of their own home, she will.
“Home visits are a lifesaver for our dog,” said Kuronen.