Cancelling Christmas for the love of animals

Image above: Village Vet staff member with a client

Lara Waterson, Regional Support Manager at Village Vet, has always known that her colleagues were willing to go the extra mile to help the pets of Chiswick.

But it took the Covid-19 emergency to prove just how much they’d be prepared to sacrifice to protect the animals in their care.

Village Vet, at 113 Chiswick High Road, has remained open throughout the pandemic, while some other vets’ practices have been forced to close. That’s partly due to its size, and to the stringent PPE regulations the practice has adopted. But it’s also down to personal sacrifices made by individual staff members.

“The team’s been absolutely inspirational”, says Lara. “It’s been their number one priority to stay safe and well, to enable them to keep coming into work. And that’s been really difficult, particularly over Christmas.”

“They could have gone to see their families, [before Boris announced the Christmas ban on travelling, a week before] but they didn’t. Even team members who have parents abroad haven’t gone home to see their family. Because they knew if they did, there was a risk they might have to isolate, and not come into work for two weeks.”

Lara admits that cancelling Christmas was a tough decision for Village Vet staff, especially the youngsters. But it paid off; the practice has remained open and Covid-secure throughout the emergency. It has helped that Chiswick clients have been “very respectful” of the Covid regulations.

Conditions have not been easy. Some staff were (understandably) nervous about the daily commute on public transport. Last summer, while the rest of Chiswick enjoyed a relaxation in Covid regulations, the Village Vet team continued their work in full PPE in stifling heat. They were unable to even open the surgery’s windows in case a feline patient tried to escape.

“The team has turned up day after day, without any complaint,” says Lara. “No-one’s moaned how hot it was, or that they wanted to go home for Christmas, because they love animals.”

Image above: Village Vet staff examining a dog

Dealing with a fox

Their devotion was made clear to me one Saturday afternoon in February, when a dying fox staggered into our garden. I made an SOS call to Village Vet. I wasn’t optimistic, knowing that the surgery was due to close in half an hour and that wildlife care is usually outside their remit. But within minutes, Kerriann Hayes rushed round to pick up the injured animal. Collecting, transporting, examining and (eventually) euthanising the fox amounted to unpaid overtime for the team. But, as Kerriann explained, “I couldn’t let an animal suffer”.

This wasn’t an isolated incident. Lara says that with local animal charities under increasing pressure from falling revenues and staff absences during lockdown, the team has increasingly stepped in to help with wildlife emergencies.

Image above: Treatment at Village Vet

Finding new homes for puppies

Meanwhile, they’ve also seen changes to their regular clientele. Last year they found themselves dealing with a sudden rush of puppies adopted during the long lockdown.

“One positive thing to come out of Covid is that some animals have got a home,” muses Lara. “Hopefully, people made those decisions based on their own lifestyles. So as long as everyone’s putting training in with their puppies – especially surrounding separation anxiety – the owners will have measures in place if they then go back to work.”

Village Vet has now put together a special package of information for clients on how to adapt puppy socialisation to lockdown conditions. Lara points out that socialisation is vitally important. Without it, she says, “it can cause behavioural problems, or the puppy being fearful and worried about new situations. You can still socialise them, it’s just finding ways of introducing them to new situations in a safe and controlled way.“

While she’s got her work cut out managing seven Village Vet Clinics in West London, Lara admits that Chiswick remains her favourite. “It’s fantastic, like being part of that community. I’ve known some clients for 15 years. And I love the fact that a couple of our work experience students have now qualified as vets themselves!”

To learn more about how to prepare your pets for life after lockdown, see:

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: A year of pandemic – How has Chiswick fared?

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