Dr Joe Rossi, first Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show Vet of the Year, has more than 60 pets
“Veterinary medicine is not my profession, it is my life. Everything we do revolves around animals. With us, with my employees, it’s the same,” he says. “Animals are their life.”
It’s no exaggeration to say that animals are his life. He and his wife, Jill, care for over 60 pets on their farm, including seven dogs, five cats, donkeys, horses, sheep, Scottish Highland cattle and, of course, rescued chickens. .
The first and last thing they do every day is feed, water and spend time with their pets.
“We don’t even know how to turn on the TV,” he laughs. “Our life is animals. We look forward to our animals. I guess that’s why God put us on this Earth.
The hardest part of having so many animals was realizing he couldn’t heal everything. For example, their 35-year-old donkey, Elaine, was born with a clubfoot. (She is named after a client who happens to be a podiatrist.)
“I just keep her comfortable,” he said. “I can’t fix everything.”
It’s fitting that he wins a Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show award since some of his patients have won in the past. His very own Norwich terrier, Doloris, won Best of Breed at the show in 2020.
At home, Doloris is around her grandmother, Louise, and her daughter, Loretta, as well as other dogs like an Irish Greyhound named Big Al, a Jack Russell Terrier nicknamed Heidi Klum, and a Spinone Italiano named Tony the Spinone.
No matter the breed or species, each beloved pet has its own personality, according to Rossi.
“They are all important,” he said.
Rossi hopes the award and donation to MightyVet will help shine a light on veterinarians’ dedication to helping animals — and the challenges they face.
You look into (the animal’s) eyes and they enter your heart. And when it’s not right, it’s horrible for the owner, but it’s horrible for us too. We take it personally. We cry ourselves.
A 2019 study found that veterinarians are more than twice as likely to die by suicide as the general population. Issues like burnout, high student debt, stress and burnout were already prevalent before the pandemic led to increased staffing shortages, longer wait times with curbside protocols and stressed – and sometimes abusive – customers.
So MightyVet and allied organization Not One More Vet aim to support veterinary professionals through the challenges they face.
“We’re human too,” Rossi said. “We are all doing our best. But it’s not like fixing a car. You look into (the animal’s) eyes and they enter your heart. And when it’s not right, it’s horrible for the owner, but it’s horrible for us too. We take it personally. We cry ourselves.
While Rossi understands people need to stand up for their pets since animals can’t talk, he also wants them to be kind to veterinary professionals. He said that if vets were motivated by money, they would work in human medicine or other professions.
Instead, they chose a labor of love.
“Every vet I know is there to help animals,” he said. “It’s our oath. We are here for you and your animals.