When Lori Jensen came to the North Shore Animal Hospital 29 years ago, she needed a job.
Instead, she found her calling.
“I’m so lucky. I love what I do, and I feel fortunate to have a job that I enjoy,” said Jensen, practice manager for the Caledonia hospital at 4630 Douglas Ave.
For years, Jensen has handled the hospital’s administrative duties. But, since June, she’s also been the co-owner; she bought the hospital from founder, Dr. Tom Torhorst, with local veterinarians (and husband and wife) Todd Whitney and Linda Axnick.
“I really love this place. It’s almost like a dream to have been able to buy it,” said Jensen, 47, who grew up in Caledonia.
It’s not what she imagined when she started nearly three decades ago.
“I was the morning kennel girl,” Jensen said.
In college at the time, Jensen often started work about 6 a.m., cleaning cages, walking dogs, feeding animals.
Her first chance to rise above her humble kennel girl beginnings came when Jensen,
who was in a wheelchair recovering from two broken legs at the time, filled in because another staff member quit. She took on more and more responsibility until Torhorst finally asked her to become practice manager.
“Lori is what you want in a manager – somebody who thinks and comes to the same conclusions you do,” Torhorst said.
That’s why, when it came time to sell the hospital and scale back his practice to part-time, Torhorst took Jensen seriously when she asked “ ‘Why don’t you sell it to me?’ ”
These days, Jensen said it can be difficult to juggle hospital duties with her responsibilities as a mother – Jensen and her husband, Eric, have two girls, ages 7 and 10 – while trying to keep up with six cats, four dogs, a foster dog and a handful of rabbits at her six-acre property in Raymond.
“I have a lot of balls in the air and sometimes I drop them,” Jensen said.
But, she said, her support system of family and about 25 staff members makes it possible for her try. And, even after a 12-hour day, she wouldn’t trade her work for any other job.
“Where else can you bring your dogs to work?” she asked and laughed.