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Meet Heather: the pet at the vet clinic

It was 11 years ago I first met Heather. She was in the prime of her life and able to carry out 12 hour nursing shifts without a complaint. She knew all the clients and greeted everyone with the same enthusiasm as the last.

Now here’s the catch Heather was a 4 year old, wire haired, greyhound cross dog!

She had a keen interest in veterinary medicine and customer service because she was young, able and spry. Not to mention personally invested in canine health!

Having a working dog as a pet at the vet clinic was a fairly new concept to me. I had just started employment with Fox Valley Animal Hospital and had never seen an animal hospital dog quite like her.

Heather was and still is one of the most loved nurses we have on our team and the face that greets everyone visiting the hospital.

Let me share with you the Heather I have grown to love like my own. Her cheeky ways and unconditional love that only a dog can give are a wonder to experience each day.

Why having a pet at the vet clinic works for staff morale

heather pet at the vet clinic- veterinary medicine with four paws and a tail

Heather on her birthday

Turning up to work on my first day 11 years ago I was greeted by a very wet nose and waggly tail. This wire haired, Lurch-type hound was so happy to greet me as I walked through the door I automatically forgot about first day nerves.

I realised quite quickly I was in no way special. I watched Heather meet and greet every pet parent visiting the clinic. But that didn’t stop my relationship and bond with Heather growing rapidly.

She was and (still is) a source of happiness at work. She’s veterinary medicine with four paws, slightly shaggy coat and a tail.

Sometimes nursing sick pets can invite emotional fatigue. It can be hard caring so much for so many. Whenever I feel down, Heather has been my comfort. A quick cuddle or a 5 minute walk together during a trialling day can make all the difference.

I am not alone in getting my ‘Heather fix’. Heather is emotionally tuned to us all. Her friendship stretches to the other vet nurses and vets.

Having a pet at the vet clinic is so beneficial to our vet nursing staff. It allows us to find comfort in a cuddle when emotions are tested. We share our lunch break with a friend and offload to a listening ear. And share the unconditional love that only a dog can offer.

We’re so lucky to work alongside our 4 legged friends and reap the benefits of having a pet at the vet clinic.

Heather is lovely. But she’s also got a wonderful cheeky side.

Heather, not again!

Heather really is a character. She is a very loving, sweet natured with a cheeky side.

Let’s take a look at what a pet at the vet clinic will do to get her own way:

  • Of course there is yummy food everywhere at the animal hospital. To a dog this must smell like Heaven. Heather learnt a few tricks to get what she wants. Firstly, she learnt to open and raid the contents of the bin. Sometimes leaving a trail of destruction across the kennel room.
  • She also figured out how to open our nurse’s sweetie drawer and consume chocolates in wrappers. This ended up in her needing emergency treatment as chocolate is toxic to dogs. See our Christmas blog about toxicity.
  • She used to steal veggie ears and Greenies from reception when no one was looking. Thankfully, she’s slowed a little with her maturing years and isn’tinterested in doing this any more. Mind you, it is good dental hygeine so she’s clearly picked up some tips on veterinary medicine over the years!
  • She mopes around like no one has fed her for weeks, barking at you until you give her a treat
  • The naughtiest incident was working out she could steal a patient’s food. She will pull their blanket from their cage, under the closed door. This pulls the food bowl closer to the cage door just enough for her to stick her tongue in and eat their breakfast. Luckily, we’re onto our food loving resident and put a stop to that one!

Heather has learnt some amazing but cheeky ways to feel her tummy with food. Being a pet at the vet clinic isn’t that bad after all.

Therapy comes in all forms (not just the human kind)

Visiting the vets for the first time can be a fairly daunting experience for a new puppy. Spending a few nights in hospital can seem strange for any pet away from home.

Heather is one amazing therapy dog. Her form of veterinary medicine is to reassure scared pet patients that things are OK in the halls of Fox Valley Animal Hospital.

Very often she’ll be found comforting a pup during its first visit. Dogs learn social skills from other dogs and Heather is on hand to provide the correct doggy etiquette in a safe environment. Our blog on taking your puppy to the vets is a great article about reducing stress level for first timers.

Heather is also a therapy dog a familiar smell and face for our animal hospital patients. She’ll sit by cages or be a constant happy face for pets away from home.

By Dr Alex allowing Heather to be his pet at the vet clinic we’re able to provide a service to pets that no human vet nurse can.

Heather’s senior years

pet at vet clinic -heather fox valley animal hospitalHeather has grown from a cheeky pup poking her nose up clients’ skirts in reception to a matriarch who protects and helps run our animal hospital. She actively participates in veterinary medicine by being a vital part of stress relief. That’s of course when she isn’t taking advantage of her snoozing privileges out the back of the vet clinic!

We have watched Heather over these 12 wonderful years bring sunshine to our animal hospital. Not only to the pets that visit but to the staff who work there as well.

This year Heather celebrated her 16th birthday. We had a party for her that involved lots of free range BBQ chicken and treats. She’s a testament to Dr Alex’s love and care. And is living proof that the right pet healthcare choices can create a happy, healthy senior dog.

Heather still manages to make it to work every day. And is still a constant ray of sunshine in what can be a busy paced environment.

I’m lucky to work in a place that allows us to bring our pets to work. I can’t imagine a work environment without them, especially Heather.

Next time you visit, grab a little of your own veterinary medicine in pet form by asking the vet nurses for a Heather pat. She may be snoozing out the back but she still loves her cuddles and meeting the faces she believes visit her animal hospital.


About the Author
Owner and Vet Alex Brittan, Vet Katie Syms and the team of Fox Valley Animal Hospital pride themselves on quality service. Fox Valley Animal Hospital is the one you choose for your family pet when the care your animal receives really matters.