FARMINGTON — A Farmington veterinarian who seemed to do it all and bring smiles to the faces of those he helped, has died.

Dr. Jose "Joe" Plutarco Quintana died of abdominal cancer Saturday. He was 66. Quintana's death was a shock to many animal advocates and owners in the area who came of age under his gentle and generous care. Quintana and his wife, Susan Moreland, owned and operated Animal Haven Clinic in Farmington since the late 1970s.

One of those mourning his loss this week is Debbie Coburn, who runs Four Corners Equine Rescue with her husband Terry in Aztec.

"I've known Dr. Q for over 30 years. He was my parents' vet, then mine, then the rescue's, but more than everything, he was a dear friend," Coburn said. "For all the animal folks in this area, it's like we've lost the third leg of a three-legged stool."

Coburn has run her nonprofit horse rescue organization for almost a decade and said Dr. Quintana was a major part of her rescue's success and longevity.

"I would call him and tell him what I wanted to do and he just agreed immediately every time," Coburn said. "There was no hesitation to help in his DNA.

"It didn't matter what time of the day or night. If I called, he would come out to help a horse in trouble."

Dr. Quintana was known as much for his friendly bedside manner as he was for his willingness to donate his time and expertise, all in an effort to help one more animal out of jeopardy.

"One of the things I loved about 'Q' is that he was always going to workshops, clinics, seminars, events -- he was always trying to get better so he could do more to help animals and those who worked alongside him," Coburn said. "The man never stopped. He was an extraordinary vet and it will be impossible to find anyone who comes close to him because horses was where his heart was."

Veterinarian Jose Quintana, left, tries to calm a mustang for vaccination, earlier this year during a mustang adoption and health clinic at the San Juan
Veterinarian Jose Quintana, left, tries to calm a mustang for vaccination, earlier this year during a mustang adoption and health clinic at the San Juan County Sheriff's Posse Grounds in Farmington. (Daily Times file photo)

Coburn recalled a cruelty case in Cuba that relied on Quintana twice testifying for the prosecution. He never charged anyone for his efforts or his time spent, Coburn said.

Gina Morris, a Farmington resident and retired city employee, has volunteered for both horse and dog rescue organizations in the area. Morris recalled Quintana's willingness to save animals other medical professionals might have given up on.

"I was a volunteer for four years at the equine rescue and we had just taken in these horribly neglected, starved horses held by the livestock board," Morris said. "Of course, who do we take them to? Dr. Quintana. We took them straight to the clinic where Q worked his magic. I was amazed by his genuine care and concern. He did everything to help these animals to bring them through. So many went on to live happy lives because of him."

When Morris adopted a horse that needed complex orthopedic work, he said Quintana was there at a moment's notice to help.

"He had a great sense of humor which I am sure helped him get through many of the things he had to deal with on a daily basis," Morris said. "He did so much for rescues, often at his own expense. He was one of a kind. He taught himself through so many of these adventures, I guess you'd call them, but that was just the kind of person and professional that he was."

Farmington residents Judy Cumberworth and her husband met Quintana nearly 40 years ago. She said she feels the loss of both a beloved family friend as well as a caring, invaluable veterinarian who treated 12 of her family's horses. Quintana also volunteered his medical help at Cumberworth's non-profit group, San Juan Valley Trail Riders.

"He would take horses other people wanted to put down and fix them if he could," she said. "I've known a lot of vets, but none of them have gone to the lengths Dr. Joe went. He truly was an animal lover. The world is just not quite complete without him around. He was a very special person. He was like family."

James Fenton covers Aztec and Bloomfield for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4621 and jfenton@daily-times.com. Follow him @fentondt on Twitter.