BY ANYA KAUFFMAN | COMMUNITY SERVICE NEWS | JULY 29, 2020
Bobbie Summers has been a client of Animal Hospital of Hinesburg since the late 1990s, back when they had a much smaller clinic. He said he has been seeing them ever since, and faithfully.
The Animal Hospital of Hinesburg,a veterinary hospital serving the Hinesburg has long had had a supportive and loyal network of clients—now, with the COVID-19 pandemic, these clients stand by their loyalty.
Dr. Rich Armstrong is a vet and owning partner at Animal Hospital of Hinesburg. He said that when COVID-19 first hit, they had to make some significant adjustments.
When the Animal Hospital closed in March, they postponed appointments. Now, the hospital has reopened and implemented curbside service to account for COVID health concerns.
For each appointment, veteran technicians discuss the pet’s medical history and reason for visiting with clients on the phone, then come out and greet clients outside. Then, the technicians bring the pets inside for examination and treatment. At the end, technicians call their clients back to discuss their findings.
For the most part, the hospital isn’t allowing pet owners to come inside in order to protect both the owners and the hospital’s staff. It is not proven that animals can spread COVID-19 to humans, Armstrong said.
“We’re trying to protect of course both our team, and the clients that we serve while still, of course, trying to take good care of the animals, which is our primary role,” Armstrong said.
With many appointments due from their period of closure and extended appointment times due to their new curbside service, the hospital is busier than ever. In addition, spring and summer are the hospitals busiest times anyway, according to Armstrong.
Sugan Register began taking her dog to Animal Hospital of Hinesburg because she was referred there for a special surgery. She said she was so impressed with their work that she established them as her regular vet, even though there are many other vets that are stationed closer to where she lives.
Register said that it can be hard for pet owners to let go of their pets, even if for just one appointment, but being a client of the hospital for so long, she is completely confident that the technicians are treating the pets just as they would be if she were in the appointment room.
Clients have appreciated Armstrong and the hospital’s dedication towards aiming for safety and still having excellent customer service during this time.
Long-time client Summers had to let go of two of his dogs within the curbside service procedures, and said that the hospital team went above and beyond for him. Instead of putting them to sleep without him, Summers said the team honored the moment, took extra care, and made it as peaceful as possible for both him and his pets.
“A doctor and staff person brought blankets to [the] garden and allowed me to hold my [dogs] as they left this world,” Summers said.
Register said she is very impressed by how the hospital is handling the pandemic, in terms of protecting humans’ health, as well as continuing to serve the animals.
“You watch the pets walk in, and all their tails are wagging. They’re telling you it’s okay in there. You can let your pet go,” Register said.
Summer said he feels that the hospital is handling the pandemic very well and thoroughly accommodating their patients, especially considering how much stress the vets must be under.
“I give Animal Hospital of Hinesburg [an] A+ for maintaining as safe an environment as possible for staff, pet owners, and or course, superlative care for our pets,” Summers said.
The staff at Animal Hospital of Hinesburg strive for clients to understand the value of their services, according to Armstrong. He said that this is more challenging to convey when the clients can’t physically see them working with the pets, but that they are still going above and beyond to communicate over the phone.
“As a business owner, the perception of value is very important…we really want to make sure people understand what we’re doing and the value of that,” Armstrong saaid,
Register said that she even has observed some technicians come out to the parking lot with their masks on and talk to clients directly who are in their cars, if they feel like they need additional reassurance on a treatment.
“They really are going the extra mile,” Register said. “I can imagine it can be a little tough because people in this pandemic and being locked up and having to let go of their pets, some people can be a little testy. And so his staff has to deal with that as well, and they do a beautiful job of it.”
Community News Service is a collaboration with the University of Vermont’s Reporting & Documentary Storytelling program.