Veterinarian Jane Fassinger, right, runs a solo house-call practice, All Creatures Mobile Vet Service, based out of Magdalena. When she needs assistance, Fassinger gets excellent help from her veterinarian husband, John Lee, left. Cathy Cook | El Defensor Chieftain

When Jane Fassinger sets out to treat a client, she may have a long drive ahead, so her truck is always packed with plenty of water and emergency supplies.

Fassinger is a veterinarian whose practice, All Creatures Mobile Vet Service, is still based around house calls. She drives to plenty of beautiful, if secluded spots, in Socorro and Catron counties to treat large and small animals.

“It is very fun for me because I get to drive around this wonderful, beautiful country,” Fassinger said. “The roads are generally hideous, so my truck gets bounced around a lot.

“It’s not like when you have a clinic where people are bringing you animals and you can see somebody maybe every 15 minutes or so. I’m a long time in between calls, so it’s not real lucrative, but that’s OK.”

A sow nurses her babies on the Zuni Pueblo. The pigs are some of the many animals that received health services during a NAVS visit. Photo courtesy of John Lee

Fassinger’s days are never too predictable, whether she’s vaccinating horses, treating sickly turkeys or delivering a litter of puppies.

“A big part of my job, as far as I’m concerned, actually in all species, is to educate the owners to be better owners, take better care of their animal,” she said.

Fassinger has a degree in veterinary medicine from the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine. Along with operating her own practice for many years back east, she was a zoo veterinarian 20 years. A six-month externship in her final year of veterinary school got Fassinger started in zoo work.

“The experience at the Philadelphia Zoo my senior year was far and away the best experience I had in vet school,” she said. “It was amazing and because the Philadelphia Zoo is private and not sponsored financially by the state or city or anything like that, they were always concerned about the bottom line, which is a real concern for people out here, and it kind of gave me the confidence to sort of fly by the seat of my pants.”

She also bred horses and still enjoys when she’s able to deliver foals and do reproductive work.

“Our horses were athletic. They could do English, Western, jump, dressage,” the local veterinarian said. “I like athleticism, but I also like pretty, and you can have both.”

When she needs one, Fassinger has a highly-skilled vet tech in her husband, retired veterinarian, John Lee. While Fassinger was running her own solo practice, Lee was part owner of an equine practice with a full staff of veterinarians. Much of their work was reproductive and addressing issues for performance horses.

Both wanted to be veterinarians from a young age. Fassinger grew up spending time on her grandparents’ farm, attending horse shows and milking cows at her neighbor’s dairy. After receiving her bachelor’s degree, she went to work for veterinarians.

“You kind of almost get chicken thinking, ‘I don’t know if I can do this.’ You’re kind of in awe of the people that do it,” she said. “I always wanted to do it.”

The more she worked in the field, the more Fassinger’s passion for veterinary medicine grew. At age 35, she went to veterinary school, despite hearing from more than one person that she was already too old to pursue her dream.

Lee grew up in a family full of doctors, who encouraged his interest in medicine. But he didn’t want to work in a hospital, and he loved visits to his uncle’s farm. At age 11 or 12, he declared his plan to be a veterinarian, and then began a cavalcade of fish tanks, snakes and ducks.

“My grandfather, my mom’s dad, he kept saying if you’re going to be a veterinarian, you need to do horses, that’s the noblest creature on Earth,” Lee said. “He was still mad that he traded in his horses on a 1915 Buick.”

In 1988, with Lee already in his all-equine practice and Fassinger pursuing vet school, the couple were introduced by a veterinarian friend. Four years later, they were married.

The pair began volunteering with the Native American Veterinary Service, a nonprofit begun in 2001 that asks teams of veterinarians, veterinary technicians and assistants to visit reservations twice a year to offer free veterinary services. The couple visited several reservations in Arizona and New Mexico on these “working vacations” and helped with horse vaccinations, castrations and deworming.

Fassinger always loved the Southwest. As a young girl, she’d taken several memorable family vacations to the region.

“I just fell in love with it,” she said.

With the visits to New Mexico, she convinced Lee the pair should relocate. They looked for the right spot for years, somewhere not too cold, not too hot, close to an airport and a hospital, near a university and, crucially, with not too many people.

Finally, they found their Goldilocks spot in Magdalena. They settled there in 2015, where they have a house, a 12-stall barn and 14 horses of their own.

The couple still volunteers with NAVS, and Fassinger’s house call practice ensures she’s never bored.

“You never quite know when you’re going to do something new,” she said.

All Creatures Mobile Vet Service can be reached at 575-518-8600.

Read more stories in the 2022 Cowboy Country in the Special Sections page on our site.