New vet

Dr. Christine Capaldo, third from left, holds Taco, the resident diabetic cat who was one of the hospital’s first rescues. The team includes, from left to right: Kelly Hegel, Dr. Steven Smolen, Dr. Christine Capaldo, Corey Lynn Baker, Alyssa Lakota, and Keri Bond.

Christine Capaldo, DVM, has some stories to tell from her many years as a vet. Whether helping to tranquilize, treat and transport rescued baboons, responding with a team to rescue a bear in a pit from a roadside attraction, or working in emergency clinics to administer life-saving procedures to dogs, cats, and other pets, Capaldo’s resume reflects her determined advocacy and deep love for animals. This month she joined the team at the Animal Hospital of Telluride in Ilium.

“I was always drawn to working with animals,” Capaldo said. “I have a lot of family members in the medical field, so the medical side came kind of naturally. But ever since I was a little girl, I always wanted to be a veterinarian. I was the one in the family who was always taking care of the animals.”

The path wasn’t without its twists and turns. In college, Capaldo considered joining the ranks of the medical practitioners in her family, and began studying to become a medical doctor. To the chagrin of some family members, however, she left medical school after her first year to pursue her original dream of becoming a vet. 

“I liked all of the medical training I was learning,” she recalled, “but I just realized that I really did want to be working with animals.”

In 2000 she achieved that dream, graduating from Mississippi State as a veterinarian and moving on to a small animal medicine and surgery internship at Purdue University. While she continued to work around the country in animal clinics and hospitals, she kept her eye on job openings in Colorado, where she had completed her undergraduate studies in Fort Collins. In 2003, she moved to Telluride for a job at the Telluride Veterinary Clinic, and has been based in the area ever since. For the past four years, Capaldo worked for the PETA Foundation as one of the organization’s national veterinarians, with her work focusing on treating and rescuing captive wildlife in situations of abuse and neglect in roadside zoos around the country.

“I enjoy working with various species,” Capaldo said. “We moved a lot of animals from the roadside zoos to the Wild Animal Sanctuary in Keenesburg, Colorado, primarily bears and large cats.” 

Given her combination of professional history in both clinical, emergency, and surgery work with mostly dogs and cats, along with her extensive rescue background, Capaldo is the perfect fit for the Animal Hospital of Telluride.

Along with her passion for rescue work and animal advocacy, Capaldo also cites emergency care as one of the more rewarding aspects of her work.

“I love providing emergency care because oftentimes animals come in, and you’re able to save their lives in situations where they would have died had they not come in,” she said.

Smolen, founder of the animal hospital, is happy to have another veterinarian on board and shares Capaldo’s passion for the cause and the profession.

“I’m super excited to have another doctor here,” Smolen said. “The caseload has gotten pretty heavy and that’s tough to handle as the sole doctor,” citing the steady inflow of rescue cases alongside the challenges of running a business.

“Between the two of us, we have 40 years of experience,” Capaldo added, seconding the advantages of having multiple doctors on staff.

At the end of the day, it’s more of a calling than a job for the two veterinarians.

“For me, the most rewarding part is being able to help a sick animal get healthy, or even if it's a chronic illness, managing it to make the animal comfortable,” Capaldo reflected. “The human-animal bond is very important, and there are so many rewards in being able to help people who are so bonded and attached to their pets.”