Inside a historic railway shed conversion on The Strand in Parnell, a modern black chandelier dangles over Parisian-boudoir-chic furniture and grand-cru wine boxes packed with gourmet goodies…
… Outside, on the manicured grass of the little inner city park, clients lounge and chat, sipping champagne and nibbling canapés while in the background a jazz band plays. It’s not exactly your average trip to the vet. But at The Strand Vets, they like to do things a little differently.
Dr Megan Alderson doesn’t treat her clients to bubbly every day, but her annual ‘Christmas In The Bark’ is a must-see event. Last year, over a hundred people and eighty dogs gathered to be entertained not just by the band, but games, prizes and celebrity MCs Mark Vette and his driving dog, Porter – and the canapés weren’t just for the humans.
When Megan set up The Strand Vets three years ago, “I needed to break out of the mould of the traditional vet clinic environment,” she explains. “You know, smelly, a bit depressing, with a sterile hospital feel. I wanted to create a warm, healing, nourishing clinical environment for our animal companions.”
No one looking around the clinic could doubt she’s done that. But despite its designer good looks, the beauty of the ‘little clinic with the big heart’ runs more than skin deep.
“After twenty years as a vet, I’d had it with the ordinary practice model,” Megan says. “I wanted a place I could enjoy being, where my support staff were proud to work, where my clients enjoyed walking through the door, and where their companion animals felt okay too – a place of mutual trust and respect.”
These days, more and more people are demanding the same standard of medical care for their pets that they expect for the rest of their family, and that’s exactly what Megan aims to provide.
“Veterinary care of our animal companions in New Zealand has changed a lot in the last three decades. We’ve transitioned from a relationship that was rural in its outlook to one where our dogs and cats are important family members, and I knew the level of medical care had to change too. I needed to work in a clinic where I could feel sure that the animals in my care could access the very best treatment out there. So in the end, I had to build my own.”
That included a lab for blood work and cytology, radiology, and a brand new operating theatre designed and equipped with the help of Megan’s husband, orthopaedic surgeon Dr Alex Walker of the Veterinary Specialist Group, to enable the highest standard of general practitioner care. But for Megan, the clinic had to be a healing environment, too, one where patients felt calm and cared for, and owners could be supported through what are often difficult times. That meant paying attention not just to the latest technology, but to colour, lighting, texture and smell – all part of the holistic values that underpin The Strand Vet’s philosophy.
“We look at the whole animal, not just the symptoms,” Megan says, “to achieve optimum wellness and health. It’s about doing what’s best for the patient.”
And it’s that philosophy, more so than the annual free bubbly, that has clients travelling from as far afield as Rodney and Clevedon to see vets Megan and Erin, and vet nurses Jolene and Nicole. The approach has also seen the clinic fast become a hub for Auckland’s pet-loving community – whether you need a qualified animal physiotherapist, nutritionist, behaviourist, premium pet-sitting service, designer cat bed or puppy portrait, The Strand is the place to start looking. There’s even a dog-friendly café next door.
“We’re complete animal advocates,” Megan smiles. For twenty years she searched for a clinic she could really put her heart into – and at 114 The Strand, it’s beating strong.