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Making it in Big Sky: Lone Peak Veterinary Hospital

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By Bella ButlerEBS EDITORIAL ASSISTANT

Nearly two years ago, Dr. Sydney Desmarais opened Lone Peak Veterinary Hospital at the gateway to Big Sky. With experience in emergency veterinary services, she brings unique and necessary services to a community filled with pets. Before moving to Montana, Dr. Desmarais, a Rhode Island native, worked at a veterinary hospital in Portland, Oregon, for eight years alongside more than 20 other doctors. Today, she enjoys running her single-doctor practice, the only veterinary hospital in Big Sky.

Explore Big Sky: How does servicing the Big Sky community differ from other communities in which you’ve provided care?

Sydney Desmarais: I think it is actually a lot more fun, but how it’s probably different is that I know most of my clients and their dogs. I think there is a lot of value in the fact that you get to know who you’re working with, which allows you to communicate with them better.

EBS: What is one of the most memorable moments you’ve had as a resident or business owner in Big Sky?

S.D.: It was helping a family in treating their dog with cancer, from the diagnosis to the treatment, seeing the dog super happy post-surgery and then being there when they had to say goodbye with their whole family. So being able to be a part of a big health ordeal from the very beginning to the very end and being able to help with every piece and being able to see all the happy moments and then be able to help with the sad ones. In Big Sky that’s something I really value is that you get to be there for everything.

EBS: Where do you see your business in 10 year?

S.D.: My hope would just be as the town expands that we would have two doctors, but my goal would be to actually keep it still very small. To have two doctors and to have more equipment. My hope would be over 10 years that it grows to having everything that Big Sky residents need so that they don’t ever have to drive the canyon.

EBS: What is it about Big Sky that compels you to stick it out through the hard times?

S.D.: I came from a city, so definitely a sense of community and knowing everybody and feeling more valued in helping people in a smaller community get the resources that they need. Also, my quality of life. I run, I bike and I ski, so it’s knowing that it’s right there.

EBS: What are the biggest obstacles in operating a small business in Big Sky?

S.D.: It’s the distribution of medical supplies. Oxygen is only delivered one day a week, even when I try and overnight something it might take two or three days. I think it’s the fact that we’re small, and then it just has to do with getting medical supplies delivered remotely.

EBS: What is the best piece of business advice you’ve received?

S.D.: Practice from your heart and practice high quality medicine. Be honest with people and you’ll make it.

EBS: How have your life experiences prepared you for owning a business in Big Sky?

S.D.: They prepared me by the fact that realizing no matter how challenging and scary things may get, and no matter how many things you work through that you don’t know, usually it works out in the end. I did a lot of research and did a lot of travelling in developing countries [doing infectious disease research], and stuff would always go really wrong before it went right. That aspect of roll with it, get through it and figure out what you need to do and keep moving forward.

EBS: What have you found to be the most successful way to reach community members?

S.D.: I honestly feel like it’s word of mouth and putting yourself out there for community events. Just saying hi; I go to talk to people when I see them at music [or other events].

EBS: What are the advantages of people to bringing their pets to you instead of providers in Bozeman?

S.D.: I think being the only doctor in the practice is an advantage because it’s continuity of care. Also not having to drive the canyon because cats get really stressed out in the car. I think one of my personal strengths is trying to work really hard to communicate to people and give them all sorts of treatment options.

EBS: What is the craziest pet injury you’ve seen in your career?

S.D.: It was probably a black lab that got stuck in a coffee table. The firemen in Oregon had to bring me the dog in the coffee table because they couldn’t get it out. That was the (funniest) one because everything worked out fine. 

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