Stacy O'Quinn works in a profession that triggers questions, comments, or both. And when strangers notice the caduceus medical symbol tattooed on her left ankle, well, that seems to be an open invitation to begin firing away. Stacy, the director of medicine and partner at Riverwalk Animal Hospital in Okatie, tells the story about a recent family vacation to Hawaii.
She and her son, Austin, were on a sailboat cruise, when the first mate asked her about the colorful design on her left ankle. "That was the moment I thought 'Oops, now he knows what I do for a living' and he went on to say, 'Oh, you're a veterinarian, I respect you guys so much.except.'"
That's when stories about a dog with a toothache begin, or questions about the rigors of veterinarian school are discussed. Stacy, who is 41, has been patiently and enthusiastically answering inquiries about being Dr. O'Quinn, pet doctor, for nearly 15 years.
"I love to work," said Stacy, at the clinic, with her Chihuahua contently settled on her lap. By no surprise, her love of four-legged creatures began as a child. Her favorite activity was horseback riding. Stacy worked two jobs while attending Glynn Academy in Brunswick, GA so she could pay to board her horse. She rode on the weekends, and has remained an avid rider. Today, she competes in regional barrel racing events at horse shows and rodeos. Her skills have taken her to the National Barrel Horse Association (NBHA) world finals on six occasions, where about 1,000 people compete.
Two accomplishments were the high-points year-end award winner at the Southeast Cowboys Association Rodeo in 2006, and winning the second division in the SC State NBHA show a few years ago. "Money wise, my biggest win was $300-plus in a show in Jacksonville," Stacy said, proving that her passion is far more important to her than her pocketbook. Normally, if I win, I'm lucky to win my entree fees. But, I have won a saddle, four different buckles, and some halters."
Stacy's husband, Shannon, whom she met while treating his dog, is experienced in calf roping and team roping. The couple and their son live on a 20-acre family-owned ranch in Ridgeland named Lazy Oaks Ranch. Stacy has three quarter horses at the ranch, where, at times, there have been as many as 11 horses. Quarter horses are characterized by their great endurance and high speed for short distances.
"It's so fun," Stacy said about barrel racing. "It's not just the speed, it's precision. You've got to hit your mark outside the barrel really fast, at just the right spot, at just the right position, or you'll either knock it over or run past it."
Stacy entertained the idea of becoming a horse trainer, but eventually decided veterinary medicine would be more logical because she excelled in science. She graduated from the University of Georgia College of Veterinary School in 1996, and soon began practicing back in Brunswick.
"It was kind of fun," Stacy said about attending veterinary school. "I always thought it was amazing at how fast it went because so many people say, 'I don't want to go to vet school because it takes too long.' It was hard, and there was a lot of studying, and there was not enough sleep. But you start out with the same 80 people you finish with, so it's like an extended family."
After a few years of working in Brunswick, Stacy was presented the opportunity to partner in opening an animal hospital at the newly developed Riverwalk Business Park off S.C. Highway 170 in Okatie. "Dealing with the people is half of the equation. You've got a pet and you've got a person who goes along with that pet," said lab technician/veterinary assistant Windi Williams-Weaver, who has worked with Stacy since 2001. "She's great with the animals, but she's really good with the people, too!"
Background: Born in Atlanta, grew up in Brunswick, Ga., lives in Ridgeland.
Family: Married to Shannon O'Quinn for 13 years. The couple's son, Austin, is seven-years-old.
Family pets: Pocket the Chihuahua, George the border collie, Dylan the mutt, Romey the barn cat, and Austin's guinea pig, Roverd.
Favorite patient: Standard poodle. They are always very polite, very calm, well-mannered, and well trained. I have never seen a standard poodle that was difficult to handle.
Advice to aspiring vet students: Study hard and take a lot of science and math (in undergraduate school). Everybody worries about getting veterinary experience and learning about animal science, but that's not what you need. You need science and math.