When we think of going to the vet the first feeling that usually channels through our mind and body is anxiety and stress. I'd like to say that I'm someone who hasn't had to frequent the vet on a regular basis, but Elmer's ever reliable snout has caused us to take several trips not just to the vet, but to the emergency vet. Naturally my situation always falling into the emergency category – I'm a ball of stress, Elmer is far from comfortable and you'll probably find me shedding a few tears worried for my little sausage dog. With all of our experiences combined over the years the vet has never been a pleasant trip for Elmer.
For the past while I knew it was time for Elmy to head in for a checkup, so when Downtown Animal Hospital approached us to visit their Fear Free Certified Practice I was more than curious to find out what exactly that meant. Fear Free signifies a transformative approach to veterinary care in Canada that puts emphasis on a pet’s emotional health and well-being and ensures it is given the same level of attention as their physical health and well-being. This is the thing I as a pet owner would neglect when visiting the vet, Elmer's overall emotional well-being. As a pet owner you just want to bring your animal in, make sure they are okay and get them back to their regular life. Fear Free is all about making sure your animal feels comfortable, welcomed and loved in the space that they're in. The exciting thing is that Downtown Animal Hospital is the FIRST Fear Free certified practice in Canada!
The intersection right next to the clinic (Church & Isabella) has a rainbow painted crosswalk so you know I was already freaking out at how serendipitous the location was!
Heading into the clinic you could tell Elmer was a bit hesitant at first, it's like that fear instilled in you as a child when heading back to the dentist. When walking in you're greeted by the friendly staff and relaxing classical music, which is played throughout the clinic. Throughout the waiting room there are multiple touch points with treats and toys to make your animal feel more at home. If you're a pet owner I'm sure you know the feeling of having to "force" your animal onto the scale to be weighed. Elmer usually curls up into an awkward hunched ball and scurries off of the scale as soon as possible.
Hospital manager, Wendy Eveleigh (who was amazing) let Elmer figure out the scale on his own (all a part of the Fear Free practice). We guided him into coming up on his own with a few treats and within no time the scale was his best friend. I have never seen my dog willingly want to hangout on a scale at the vet and by the end of our appointment he had no fear of this previous monster in his life known as the scale.
In the exam room there are pheromone diffusers installed which are used to reduce an animal's anxiety, warming blankets, therapy pillows, more treats and toys and an overall welcoming environment for your pet.
We let Elmer decide what area of the room made him the least nervous (the floor, my lap or the table) and to my surprise he ended up choosing the table. The exam tables that are used have hydraulics in them used to help your pet up and down. We lowered the table to ground level and Elmer was comfortable and gladly accepting more treats.
Dr. Heather Steede made sure Elmer was comfortable and stress free throughout his whole visit. The best part of it all was hearing how healthy Elmer is, he got so many compliments during our visit his ego went through the roof and was inflated 10x more than it already is (trust me this dog knows he's handsome).
no fear mom :)
Ever since our first visit, Elmer and I have headed back for a second trip and I am over the moon to share that the first thing Elmer did when heading in was going to the scale on his own and taking a seat. Thank you Downtown Animal Hospital for helping Elmer and I to understand the difference in care that comes from bringing your pet to a Fear Free Certified Practice; your animal's emotional health is just as important as their physical. To see the difference in Elmer when returning makes me feel that much more at ease for our next visit together!
photos by: @dortasphotography