Margaret Shively has always been an animal lover.

“I was bitten by the bug when I was very young,” said Shively. “I wanted to do something with animals.”

No surprise there, given that she chose veterinary medicine as her profession. Today, she operates Kennebunk Veterinary clinic and animal hospital.

But Shively also loves the ocean, and she’s hit upon a way to join those two passions.

Her husband John Williamson is a sea captain who owns and operates the F/V Sea Keeper, a 39-foot working boat with an enclosed cabin, built by H&H Marine in Steuben. 

About five years ago, Shively and Williamson were out cruising in the boat when they came up with the idea of providing veterinary services to some of the islands. They knew transporting animals to the mainland for veterinary care can be both costly and time-consuming. So they decided Shively would offer routine and diagnostic services for island pets, on the boat, several times each summer.

“The first summer was a little thin,” remembered Williamson, who serves as Shively’s chief assistant on the islands.

“We had to establish a routine and the word got out within the community what Dr. Shively offered. Those who did find their way to the boat were so appreciative that we decided to try again. The second summer business took off and she’s seen a steady increase in clients ever since,” said Williamson.

This summer will be Shively’s fifth year of providing service to Islesboro, the Cranberry Isles, Frenchboro, Swan’s Island and Isle au Haut. She provides routine immunizations, testing for Lyme disease, and other basic diagnostic

tests. The couple have a large refrigerator on board where they store the immuniz-ations and a rudimentary on-board laboratory.

“One pet owner brought in her small cat carrier and a ferret climbed out,” said Shively. “He was there to have his nails trimmed.”

Shively also leaves the boat to treat larger animals such as sheep and horses. She’s limited regarding what treatments she can provide on the island, but she can advise pet owners on whether their pets need to be transported to the mainland for treatment at a full service veterinary hospital.

Shively not only enjoys working with the animals on the islands, she’s also met a lot of nice people.  She said one client tipped her with some lobsters last summer, a gratuity she really appreciated.

“You can’t beat the scenery either,” she said, as the couple make the rounds of the islands.

According to Williamson, they typically do a four-day circuit but this year they will probably add an extra day to due to increased volume on Swan’s Island and the Cranberry Isles. The couple sends posters to the island town offices with the dates and times that Dr. Shively will be visiting.