Jared Lyons (SF08) Opens Urgent-Care Animal Hospital in Santa Fe

February 22, 2024 | By Jennifer Levin

It was September 2008, and Jared Lyons (SF08) needed a job. Looking to pay the bills, the recent college graduate answered an advertisement seeking a veterinary assistant at Smith Veterinary Hospital. He’d never worked with animals before, but it sounded interesting—plus the Santa Fe-area business was willing to train him. 

Jared Lyons (SF08)

“They handed me a job description—stuff like drawing blood, placing IV catheters, monitoring surgery, and running lab tests,” Lyons says. “They asked me if I thought I could learn on the job. As a Johnnie who’s used to kind of teaching myself stuff, I knew I could.”

Lyons worked his way up the ladder at Smith, becoming the vet tech supervisor and then the practice manager before running emergency and specialty veterinary hospitals in California and Albuquerque. Now, he’s back in Santa Fe and poised to open Turquoise Trail Veterinary Urgent Care on the city’s South Side. Construction has kicked off, with the official opening slated for late spring or summer 2024. Lyons never went to veterinary school, which he says is typical of many of the industry’s most dedicated workers. He’ll serve as operations manager and assist the two veterinarians who are his business partners.

“One of the things I love about vet med is that it’s one of the only fields, outside of trades, where you can apprentice your way into a career,” Lyons says. “The other thing I love about it is that the people I work with could work in other fields and make three times as much, but they’ve made this collective decision to work with animals. I like the people I’m around every day. It’s an exceptional work experience.”

Lyons and his partners are renovating an old Mattress Firm store, creating three exam rooms, two patient wards, four treatment tables, a radiology suite, and an operating room. Turquoise Trail will provide after-hours and weekend care for cats and dogs with non-life-threatening illnesses or injuries, such as gastric distress and snake bites. (If a pet has an ongoing condition or needs follow-up care, they will be referred to their primary caretaker.) Animals with more serious conditions will be sent to an emergency vet in Albuquerque, an hour’s drive from Santa Fe.

“Some people are clamoring for an ER here, but when you do the math on the cost, there just isn’t enough caseload in Santa Fe to support it,” Lyons explains. “We’d have to pass the cost on to clients, and you shouldn’t have to pay that much for peace of mind if your pet is throwing up at seven o’clock at night. Emergency rooms treat animals that have collapsed or stopped breathing. We can act as a pressure release valve for the folks in Albuquerque to do what they do best, which is see pets that are critically ill.”

Turquoise Trail will limit admission to dogs and cats, since even common exotic pets like birds, fish, and rodents are best left to experts. (“At an urgent care, the research needed for exotic pets just takes too long. You could see five dogs in the time it takes to treat a lizard,” Lyons says.) He has, however, worked with some unusual animals in his career, recalling the time Smith vets treated a peacock with a fractured wing and when he assisted a veterinary ophthalmologist operating on a flamingo’s eyelid in Santa Barbara. “Once, at a hospital in Los Angeles,” Lyons recalls, “we operated on a serval—a wild cat that some people keep as a domestic cat.” While adopting a serval is “a terrible idea,” he concludes, “it was a cool animal to see at the vet.”

Lyons intends to staff Turquoise Trail with the same eye towards opportunity he was afforded. “People who are bright and motivated, but who might have limited job options if they haven’t gone to college or grad school—we can train them in veterinary nursing,” he says. He views this openness and flexibility as an extension of the skill set he learned at St. John’s, which he believes made his career possible.

“Some Johnnies are deeply invested in the substance of the readings, but for others, it’s about how we learned to approach new information,” he says. “Johnnies have the ability to read anything and understand it, the ability to work with a group of people to achieve a goal, the ability to do public speaking. Talking to clients, establishing a rapport, talking to them about their pet—it’s similar to being in seminar and explaining what you think is going on in piece of writing. These are tremendously valuable practical skills.”