The staff at Happy Paws Vet Clinic pride themselves on doing animal care differently, in a way that prioritizes owner-pet relationships and allows all parties to be informed and involved.
Jeff Boucher and his wife, Dr. Erin Heck – who own the clinic in Bayside – began with a dream to bring quality medical care to the furry friends of Airdrie nearly six years ago.
“We chose the community of Airdrie because it seemed like a really good fit, not only for our family, but it had the capacity [for a new] veterinary clinic because it was under-served at the time,” Boucher said.
He explained that in 2015, the couple were living in northeast Calgary while Heck worked as a veterinarian at an emergency clinic, and Boucher held a business finance position with Scotiabank.
Boucher said Heck was feeling the call to open up her own practice and so the pair made the decision to purchase a 1,500-square-foot property in Airdrie’s Bayside community, while still living in Calgary. After two years of commuting, the couple moved to the city, just a few blocks away from their clinic.
“It was such a small team back then,” he said. “I used to get off work and I’d rush over to the clinic and I’d come help mop the floors and do what we [could].”
He added that within their six years of business, Happy Paws has grown from a team of three employees to 16.
The owner and administrative manager said that while the building exists as a clinic with high-tech equipment offering a multitude of services, it is truly the employees that make Happy Paws what it is today.
“What really makes our clinic is the staff that we have and the atmosphere that we present,” he said.
He further explained that the “Happy Paws experience” is different from most veterinary clinics. Pet owners are allowed to join professionals in the back room to witness their pet’s treatment, thereby being a part of the process from start to finish.
“I really think that animals and pets pick up on energy, and if staff are having a bad day and clinic energy is down, then pets pick up on that,” Boucher said, adding the ultimate goal is to have a positive work environment where staff, clients, and pets feel comfortable and reassured.
“We find a lot of pets, they’re more comfortable with their owners around. So, if we can make them more comfortable, the treatment is obviously going to be a better experience for everyone involved,” he continued.
However, Boucher explained that for a period of time, the ‘open-door policy’ had to be rescinded as a way to stay safe in the business' fight against COVID-19. There was a transition to curb-side appointments, but he said everything is now back in line with their pre-lockdown practices.
Recalling the decision to open a business and ultimately plant roots in the Airdrie community, Boucher admitted it was definitely exactly what they needed.
“I look back and I’m glad we did it – it was the best decision we’ve ever made,” he said.
After finishing second in the best vet office category in the Airdrie City View’s Readers’ Choice Awards multiple years in a row, Boucher was surprised and honoured to learn Happy Paws took home the Gold in this year’s competition.
“It’s kind of that fulfilment of this dream that we had when we wanted to open up this business,” he said. “We went through the process of, ‘If we build it, hopefully people will come and enjoy what we’re offering here’ and now we’re seeing the fruits of that labour.”
Big things are in the works for Happy Paws, as Boucher said an expansion is in the near future. He explained the business has outgrown its current space and soon will be moving into a much larger building to accommodate more staff and clients, while still keeping a small operation out of the original Bayside location.
Happy Paws Vet Clinic is located at 5-1301 8 St, SW and can be found via happypawsvets.com