SANTA CRUZ – Many people follow in their parents’ footsteps when it comes to choosing a career, but for some, this seemingly clear path diverts in a different direction. Such was the case for Dr. Donna Baird, associate veterinarian and marketing director at Companion Animal Hospital in Santa Cruz. The only child of two physicians, Donna’s interest in the medical field was punctuated early in life by the realization that caring for human patients wasn’t her calling. “I tried doing some volunteer work in hospitals and found that I just didn’t enjoy working with sick people,” she explains. “However, I had worked at a Humane Society shelter, loved dogs and cats, and felt a natural understanding when dealing with ill animals, which was very different from how I felt around ill people. From that point on, I never gave it a second thought—I just stayed on that path all the way through high school and college and never wavered.”
Although Dr. Baird currently resides in Santa Cruz, she hasn’t always lived in the Greater Bay Area. In fact, her time spent in California comprises a mere fraction of her life—she was born in Prague and immigrated to the United States with her parents when she was eight years old. The family relocated several times before eventually settling near New York City, where Donna had another important realization. “Coming from a metropolitan area in the Czech Republic, my parents really loved the lifestyle that New York offered, but I actually never felt comfortable living in a big city,” she says. “I’ve always preferred the country and the opportunities that outdoor life provides.”
It was actually while engaged in one such outdoor opportunity that Donna was introduced to her future husband, Dr. David Horne, who would be the catalyst for her eventual move to the scenic Northern California coastline. “We met on a scuba diving trip that was facilitated by a veterinary association of which we were both members,” she says. When the two met again a couple years later, David expressed his romantic interest and in time convinced her to move to Santa Cruz. It was an entirely new setting for Donna, who felt simultaneously disoriented and invigorated by the change of scenery. “I had some idea of what life was like here from visiting a few times, but it really felt like a foreign country to me. However, I immediately loved being close to the ocean and mountains.”
As is the case for many Northern California transplants, Donna has a special appreciation for the wide array of recreational prospects offered by the local landscape. “David and I are both avid skiers, and we also enjoy scuba diving, swimming, hiking and bike riding,” she says. When she’s not at Companion Animal Hospital or spending time outdoors, Donna keeps up with her three children, Collin, Michael and Alicia, who are pursuing their own careers in the Bay area.
When asked to summarize her personal philosophy, Donna brings up a quote from The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. “‘Everything will be all right in the end…if it’s not all right, then it’s not yet the end.’ I really like that because I have a very positive outlook on life, and I truly believe that if you persevere and look at the good in situations, the best things will come to you. Things will turn out OK, even if it doesn’t feel like it in the moment.”