For Rose Fetter, taking her dogs to the veterinarian has been an annual ordeal for years.
Making sure that her pets have their yearly shots usually involves more than one trip to the animal doctor because Mrs. Fetter generally has several dogs.
Last week, for the first time, Mrs. Fetter made the vet come to her.
She hired Carin Rennings, a home-based veterinarian who just opened a practice in Woodbine, to come to her home in Monrovia and vaccinate all five of her dogs.
The house call was a success and Mrs. Fetter plans to become a regular client.
"I've been shuttling animals back and forth to the vet for years," she said. "And I will never go through that ordeal again."
Dr. Rennings, 28, believes there's a large market for veterinarians who make house calls. She expects the service will appeal to busy two-career families, elderly people who have trouble getting out and people with carsick pets.
The idea of home-based veterinarians isn't new, but Dr. Rennings said most vets generally do house calls only as a sideline.
Her practice, which serves clients in Carroll, Howard, Montgomery and Frederick counties, is strictly house calls and limited to routine care for cats and dogs.
"There's a definite need for this kind of service," Mrs. Fetter said. "For anyone who values their time, it's absolutely wonderful."
Pet owners may appreciate the convenience of a home-based veterinarian, but Dr. Rennings said the service also appeals to vet-shy animals.
"The pets tend to be more relaxed because they're in their own element," she said.
Mrs. Fetter said her five dogs, who she described as "not socialized," liked the personal service.
"She's the kind of person who puts the animals at comfort," she said of Dr. Rennings.
A 1994 graduate of the Virginia/Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine in Blacksburg, Va., Dr. Rennings worked for a year at a veterinary practice in Baltimore.
When she opened her own practice, the decision to offer home-based veterinary care was mainly a financial one.
"To start your own practice or buy into [an existing] one requires an initial investment of $300,000," said Dr. Rennings, who works with an assistant, Stephen Benedik.
She provides standard vaccinations for cats and dogs, routine check-ups, nail trims and handles minor medical problems. Each vaccine costs $17 and transportation costs range from $25 to $35.
For animals requiring emergency care or treatment for serious medical problems, Dr. Rennings will send them to a veterinary hospital.
Depending on how her practice fares, Dr. Rennings may buy a van and equipment it to provide additional veterinary services in pet owners' homes.