He can sense her presence before she even knocks on the door. Happy-go-lucky Sawyer, a fluffy, 11-year-old Cavachon excitedly greets Dr. Orit Szwarcman at the front entrance of his Huntington Woods home.
Barking and tail wagging are par for the course for the longtime veterinarian who traded office hours for life on the road more than two decades ago and never looked back. She started her business called Home Vet 25 years ago.
“I was working in clinics and I decided after my third daughter was born to have a home business,” Dr. Szwarcman says. “It was unusual then for a vet to make house calls, but there are definitely more people doing it now.”
One of those people is Dr. Andrea Switch, who owns a similar business, Veterinary House Calls in West Bloomfield. Like Dr. Szwarcman, she, too, is “able to treat animals in the comfort and convenience of their own home … minimizing physical discomfort and alleviating added emotional stress,” according to her website.
Home vets can provide a wide range of services from simple wellness checkups to blood work, vaccines, hospice care and more. For surgery or more extensive procedures, they partner with area veterinary hospitals.
Back at the front door, Dr. Szwarcman gives Sawyer a pat on the head and steps into the house. She’s been treating the dog for more than a decade, since he was just a pup, and he seems glad to see her.
“Keeping a new puppy home for a doctor visit seemed so much easier,” recalls Sawyer’s owner, Cheryl Stern, about her decision to try a home vet. “Orit gave great advice about how to handle the puppy and how to train him.
“Orit is a very bright doctor and she truly loves animals,” Stern continues. “She has very natural and logical solutions to most problems. She is gentle and kind. She treats my dog, and I’m sure every patient, as if they were her own pet.”
Israel To Detroit
Dr. Szwarcman was born in Israel and raised in Brussels, Belgium. She worked as a veterinarian in Belgium and France before moving to the United States in 1985. Love ultimately brought her to Detroit. She met her husband, Mark Selitsky, on an airplane while traveling between Israel and Brussels. They got married and decided to raise a family in his hometown. But, Orit’s other lifelong love is cats and dogs. She’s been treating them for 37 years and has three cats and two dogs of her own.
“I love meeting the pets,” she says. “I have the best job in the world. Every day is new and surprising in some way. It keeps you on your toes.”
Dr. Szwarcman points out her service is especially convenient for animals that are injured or don’t like to travel, people who are homebound and families with young children. She works with an assistant, Shelly Lang, and takes appointments every Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. She treats dogs and cats of all sizes and breeds, but not exotic animals.
“I think some things can be diagnosed better in the home — where an animal is most comfortable,” she says. “What I really like about my job, it’s more personal. I get to know the pets and the people, and it’s an opportunity to help the animals and their human counterparts.”
Dr. Switch says she dreamed of becoming a vet as far back as she can remember. She was inspired by Dr. Danny Kovan, a veterinarian, neighbor and her father’s best friend.
“From the time I was 3, I used to climb over the fence and go to his house. He would bring puppies and kittens home from the hospital, and I would play with them,” she says. “I just saw this quiet, calm, loving, compassionate man. I was probably 6 years old when I finalized my career choice.”
Dr. Switch is a graduate of Michigan State University. She began as a vet in 1984 and started her mobile veterinary business when she was raising her children. Initially, she only treated pets belonging to friends, family members and neighbors, but she loved the job so much she made it her full-time career. Today, 15 years later, she has thousands of four-legged patients and a staff including five techs and assistants.
“I just love being in the house with the animal, especially if the animal has orthopedic or behavioral problems,” she says. “Often, I see things the owners can modify to make a difference.”
Once, she recalls using an old skateboard ramp and artificial turf to help a family build a walkway when their dog developed a neuromuscular disorder. The ramp enabled the dog to more easily get into and out of the house. Dr. Switch is also passionate about nurturing the next generation of aspiring veterinarians. She regularly mentors middle and high school students and allows them to shadow her on the job.
“I love my profession,” she says. “I feel like I’m being of service and making a huge difference in the people’s lives and the animals’ lives.”