Hello, thank you for coming to read my blog. There’s just a trigger warning before you read it: the blog makes reference to pet loss and wellbeing in the vet community so if these subjects are a trigger for you, you may not wish to continue reading.
I was really lucky to have a tour of The Ralph Veterinary Referral Centre on Sunday. I first heard of ‘The Ralph Site’, which inspired the hospital about 10 years ago…in my spare time, and at work (!) while I was doing database work in the summer before I went to university, I listened to vet podcasts! Whilst I’m not a vet medicine student, and didn’t understand all of it – I found it really interesting! Geek or what. Through listening to these I heard a veterinarian speak called Dr Shailen Jasani – and from here I found out about Dr Jasani’s creation the Ralph Site. The Ralph Site is named after his beloved black pussycat Ralph who he sadly lost in a road traffic accident. Through this loss he created the Ralph site to help create a community for pet carers who have also said goodbye or may have to say goodbye to their pets. They provide support, understanding and are a community of people who ‘get it’ – they know that pets are members of the family. More about the Ralph Site can be seen here, there are tons of resources that seek to help.
Following on from the creation of The Ralph Site, the mammoth task of creating a multidisciplinary vet referral centre was born. The Ralph has departments including physiotherapy, dental, neurology and intensive care units. The equipment is what you would expect to find in some large human hospitals – there’s a huge MRI scanner for example – it’s amazing. When I arrived I was given a smiley and warm welcome by the receptionist and given my blue scrubs. I was then introduced to a veterinary nurse with over 16 years experience. She was warm and had a really lovely calm way about her, she showed me around the hospital, introduced me to her colleagues and answered any questions I had – luckily it was a quieter day.
Feline thinking at the forefront
The hospital has separate door sections, reception areas and wards for dog carers and cat carers so that felines and canines don’t have to mix when in the hospital. The cat ward has a synthetic plug in that releases pheromones it’s synthetic and mimics the odour cats release when bunting and it can help cats to relax. Read more about amazing cats and pheromones here. The cat section has been designed with the feline in mind – there are photos of parts of cats on the wall, such as tails, but there are no photos of cat’s eyes – as this can be intimidating for feline patients.
There is also a basket of blankets that have been sprayed with pheromones which carers can bring home so when they come to the hospital again with their cats they can bring it with them so it smells of home. There are tables next to each chair so the cat feels safer on an elevated level while in their basket and are not to close to other cats. There is a feline enrichment area, where hospital patients can play have time out of their pens and look out at birds from the window.
Caring for canine companions
For the dog section there is a large waiting area with water for dogs available and refreshments available for carers. For dogs that prefer to be away from other dogs, there are two sections with walls which make it separate from the main area. There are occupied and free signs so you know if it’s vacant or not – how thoughtful. For pet carers who will be saying goodbye to their pet there is a bereavement room with a sofa where guardians can spend time with their pet before they say goodbye. There is an exit door they can go out of so they don’t have to walk through and past other patients. From a compassionate point of view you can tell architecturally how well this has been thought out.
Care – show me don’t tell me
There is a cacophony of trees from the top level where the computers are for staff who are working. There’s also a room where the staff can do yoga. For those who are fatigued (the Ralph is open 24 hours so they can care for pets around the clock), there are rest rooms with beds if they need a much needed snooze and showers to freshen up too. There is an area where people can chill out with their colleagues and a wall where people can write out what their grateful for (a lovely coffee and a biccie perhaps) and surrounded by a sea of thank you cards there is a pull off take ‘what you need’ – for times where compassion needs to be given from the inside not just given on the outside. The language used by the staff also struck me about the ethos of The Ralph- customers were referred to as ‘carers’ rather than ‘owners.’
In the ceiling above the waiting area a blue sky has been designed with fluffy clouds and a paw print. I’m told that the plans to boost the well being of staff and pets are just the beginning – I was very impressed!
As the warm breeze hit me as I left the hospital, I sighed and felt grateful and full of hope, in a potentially very stressful place that at time that there will be inevitable loss, The Ralph has been designed with great effort and a clear vision to make it a more comfortable and friendly place for pet carers and pet patients, and veterinary staff to visit and work in.
I have not be endorsed by the Ralph or anyone else associated with it, to write this blog, I just think it’s a really special place and was compelled to write about my time there. I haven’t put the names of the staff I met because I didn’t think to ask their permission while I was there they may not want me to and I don’t want to bother them now as they’re very busy helping pets.. but you know who you are if you’re reading this and a huge thank you for having me.
If you have been affected by any of the subjects written about in my blog, there are some websites that may help:
The Blue Cross have a pet bereavement support line for people who have said goodbye or are facing saying goodbye to their pet which runs from 8:30am – 8:30pm. The number is 08000966606
Vet Life for when wellbeing may be out of balance: For independent, free and confidential advice and support you can call 365 days a year and 24 hours a day: 0303 040 2551 there is also an anonymous email option.