Catherine Nixon : firstname.lastname@example.org
It shouldn’t happen to a vet. Did you read that book? James Herriot’s memoir of life as a recently qualified vet in the sleepy Yorkshire village of Darrowby. Trying to modernize a veterinary practice was not going to be an easy challenge in the 1930s, and the book is a hilarious and moving account of his experiences.
One of the reasons why I am feeling particularly passionate about our local vet this month, is not only because it’s National Pet Month, but the essence of being a vet is still hard (never mind in rural communities, try big city life!) Recently a rather alarming social media unsocial experiment played out on one of the big platforms, where defamation of an established practice could possibly have been the awful and hopefully unintentional result. Fortunately, everyone acted in a responsible adult human manner, and I think the fallout has been limited, but it reinforced the fiercely protective natural instinct we all display as humane humans. When we take our child to the GP, or when we take our pampered pooch or clawed deity to Greenside Animal Hospital, humans naturally want to protect bodies in their care. And when you put emotions, care giving, money and medical science into the same equation, life isn’t always going to be smooth.
I walked around the hospital today and marvelled at the range of equipment there, the cleanliness of the facility, the friendliness of the staff and the efficiency of the operation. A routine consult to the vet is one thing, but should your animal need more specialized care, they are well looked after behind the scenes. Everything was spotless (which is hard to achieve even in a human hospital), and the considerable investment in state-of-the art screening and operating equipment, gave me complete peace of mind. My basset hound Gemima was there last week for a dental scaling and the removal of some skin tags. She first of all had some screening blood tests to check that she was in good enough overall health for an older dog, which I felt was important. Then she was given her pre-anesthetic, the teeth scaling was done, her skin tags were removed (also known as little growth warts), she was given a pedicure that I had opted for and a minor procedure that is best left kept secret as it’s personal to her! – and finally brought out of sedation and monitored very carefully. I was shown all the parts of the hospital where the various procedures mentioned took place, her recovery section and of course the blissful freedom of the exit door that all animals visiting the vet know so well. There is a tea/coffee station, a children’s interactive play area, a great range of pet food and bedding/toys/grooming items, as well as a separate cat and dog waiting area. In the US, accreditation is given to veterinary practices that have separate dog and cat areas throughout the vet, and our local vet is up to these international standards.
It’s National Pet Month, or according to the internet it is, but in reality, I think most of us know how important our animals are to us every day of our lives. They soothe us when no other human can, love us unconditionally (even to their detriment), protect us from predators (what other being would bravely go on the attack for another species apart from a dog?) and cheer us up after a long day at work. Yup it’s no wonder we expect the best for our animals when they go into hospital. But enough about the animals, let’s refocus on the vet. If you love animals, you need a vet. Just like if you love children, you need a family doctor. On a complete tangent, it is possible to love human children and animals in equal intensity, despite what many people think. I think that the more you love one thing, the more the heart can grow to love another thing. And Greenside Animal Hospital has a very big green heart.
Greenside Animal Hospital is one of the oldest private veterinary practices in South Africa. It opened its doors in 1943 on the corner of Barry Hertzog Avenue and Muirfield Road. Barry Hertzog Avenue was still a dirt road when the original house that became the practice was built in 1937. It was only the third house built in the newly established suburb of Greenside. (Emmarentia at that stage was still a dairy farm and in the same year, Emmarentia was established as suburb.)
The founder of Greenside Vet Clinic was Dr Jack Boswell, a family member of the Boswell Wilkie Circus family. Dr Boswell originally worked as a state veterinarian in Johannesburg and then went into private practice, establishing a group of 7 veterinary practices all over Johannesburg. Greenside Veterinary Clinic was the second private practice opened in Johannesburg after the Oxford Road Veterinary Surgery in Saxonwold had been established in 1938. Dr Cyril (Zulu) Claus bought the practice from Dr Boswell in 1956 and worked there until 1995, when he sold the practice to Dr Joubert Viljoen. Dr Viljoen upgraded the practice to a fully-fledged veterinary hospital and in 1997, Greenside Veterinary Clinic changed its name to Greenside Animal Hospital. In 2014, the original veterinary practice was completely demolished and a new state of the art veterinary hospital was built. The construction of the new hospital, was done very much within “green building” principles, staying in line with the suburb of “Green”side.
The design of the hospital was done with a view to create the lowest possible carbon footprint to save and conserve energy in the most efficient way whilst ensuring the comfort of patients, owners, and the staff of the hospital. Professional energy consultants were employed in the design and implementation of the project and assisted with obtaining the highest R rating possible. The building is temperature regulated with cavity insulated walls, double glazing throughout and an insulated roof. The angle and overhang of the roof and the size and angle of windows were designed in such a way as to make the best of the trajectory of the sun to allow direct sunlight to come into the building in winter, but to not allow any direct sunlight in summer. There is a fully fledged solar system on the roof which provides the daily energy requirements for the hospital. All light fittings in the hospital are energy saving LED’s and all appliances are A++ to A+++ energy savings rated.
The whole hospital has underfloor water heating and the ambient temperature in each room can be separately regulated by means of temperature regulated thermostats. Water is heated by means of solar panels in summer. In the winter months when days are shorter, solar heating is augmented by municipal gas. All the water pipes throughout the building are fully insulated, and circulation and heating of water is controlled by a computerised geyser supplying a high density heat transforming insulated water tank from a separate plant room. Rainwater harvesting is done by means of large water storage tanks. A computerised irrigation system manages the irrigation of the puppy training lawn and gardens to ensure optimal use of water with minimal water wastage. The garden in front of the hospital next to the parking area is a succulent garden which requires minimal irrigation.
Being ultra-considerate (sometimes a bit yappy) neighbours, the hospital installed sound attenuators on the exterior of the hospital in front of the air vents, to ensure sound pollution is kept to the bare minimum. Greenside Animal Hospital believes firmly in their motto of “sharing the care.” A team effort between them and the pet owner is needed to look after the wonderful smaller creatures that bring us so much joy in our homes. The veterinary professional and compassionate support team provide dedicated medical care in a world class facility. The dedicated pet owner brings their animal to them for the best care, foots the bill and adheres to recommendations for home care and treatment. A quote from Dr Viljoen: “If owners do not help us to provide the ongoing treatment we recommend for their pets, no matter how good we are, we will not have success in the treatment of their pets. The one hand washes the other.”
Now if you are left with any doubt as to the value of your local vet, I hope this article reassures you of the imprint (can I say pawprint) they leave on our community. And if you find veterinary bills too high, please consider taking out pet insurance when your animals are still young. There are many good providers out there, and I can personally recommend both Medipet and Petsure, but they aren’t the only options. Here’s to many more days of being the human that your dog thinks you are 😉 and a few smiles when we realise we are quite often the type that our cats know we are!
By Catherine Nixon, assisted by Dr Joubert Viljoen
GREENSIDE ANIMAL HOSPITAL – “Sharing the Care” : 252 Barry Hertzog Avenue, Greenside : Tel 011 646 4210 . www.greensidevet.co.za Emergency Number : 076 790 7957