After living more than 20 years here, Dr. Connie Stapleton is hoping to find time to enjoy the outdoors. As the town vet in Ridgway for decades, she’s spent summers working overtime, attending to various calls for locals and their pets as well as visitors and part-time residents. The nicest time of year here always coincided with her busiest time at Ridgway Animal Hospital, the sole veteri- nary practice in the county. Now, she’s looking forward to coming back from a trail ride and not having to check her answering machine. Stapleton, 68, has retired and sold the business, which she founded with her hus- band, Dave, back in 1997 after they moved to the area. He was also a veterinarian, and was well-known for being the first veteri- narian at Sea World. She had grown up in the Aspen area on a ranch, and graduated from vet school in 1977 when it was diffi- cult to find a job in the field. She spent years working in California, where she met Dave, and always wanted to return to Colorado. The couple moved to Ridgway when Dave retired, and Stapleton had already been practicing for 20 years herself. A big Business & Real Estate O u r a y C o u n t y P l a i n d e a l e r • D e c e m b e r 2 0 2 0 After caring for others’ animals for 23 years, Connie Stapleton is looking forward to spending more time with her own After founding Ridgway Animal Hospital 23 years ago, Dr. Connie Stapleton, left, sold the business last month and plans to trade hours of overtime for more time with her horses and dogs. The new owner of the practice, Dr. Rachel Nichols, right, got a taste of Ouray County three years ago filming a reality show for Animal Planet. Plaindealer photos by Erin McIntyre From one animal lover to another by Erin McIntyre erin@ouraynews.com Rachel Nichols may be the new owner of Ridgway Animal Hospital, but she’s already familiar with treating animals in rural areas The last time Dr. Rachel Nichols and her husband, Matt Dubrovich, visited Ridgway, she vaccinated two ornery zebras. Treating unusual animals was something the young veterinarianwasn’t scared of – she had already survived a stint in the Australian Outback with its poisonous snakes, wild pigs and isolation. She grew up on a ranch in rural Montana andwas accustomed to dealing with large animals that could kick or bite. Three years ago, the couple came here to help filma reality show for Animal Planet – the“Dr. Jeff: Rocky MountainVet”series.That was when Nichols vaccinated the zebras, owned by Madison Shambaugh, more popu- larly known as MustangMaddy.The show also brought a crew to helpwith spay-neuter work at Second Chance Humane Society, and Nichols and Dubrovich got a taste of the com- munity, the rural beauty of the San Juans and a sense that theymight want to live here someday. Fast forward to spring 2020, when they sawDr. Connie Stapleton advertised her clinic for sale. It was the right-sized clinic, in a beau- tiful setting, and they were ready to get out of the city. Somehow, even in the pandemic, the couplemade the purchase work and closed on the practice at the end of October. See STAPLETON p7 by Erin McIntyre erin@ouraynews.com See NICHOLS p5