It’s not every day that a dog gets to lounge in a Jacuzzi, receive an acupuncture treatment or sleep in a room that more closely resembles a bachelor’s pad than it does a kennel run.
But that is the type of treatment pet owners can expect their animals to receive at the Restore Health Center, a nonprofit rehabilitation center for dogs and cats.
Although the center is still in the planning stage, the land for it has already been purchased in Garden Grove, Calif., and construction is expected to begin this spring.
“It will be a unique center for short-term health care,” says W. Jean Dodds, DVM, who is the driving force behind the multi-million dollar operation. “As far as I know, it [will be] the nation’s first center focused on restoring health for dogs and cats with special needs and during recovery.”
In addition to acupuncture and chiropractic treatments, Dr. Dodds’ center will also offer herbal therapy, aromatherapy and physiotherapy.
A health care center for recovering pets is long overdue, says Dodds, a veterinarian for 42 years. She adds that the center is neither a hospice nor a boarding kennel, but merely an option for pets whose health conditions are beyond an owner’s ability to offer immediate care.
“What do you do if an animal breaks its leg and its owners are 80 years old and can’t look after it?” Dodds says. “We support [these] animals with short-term care needs after surgery.”
A home veterinary-nursing service will also be offered to special-case clients who need staff members to travel to their home to provide care for a pet.
In emergency situations, the center will provide a pet ambulance service to transport dogs and cats to the facility.
Giving the Gift of Life
No stranger to pioneering new projects, Dodds founded Hemopet, the nation’s first nonprofit dog blood bank that also rescues greyhounds from the racing industry and finds them new homes.
Greyhounds registered into the program are carefully screened for infectious diseases and blood type. After donating blood for about 12 months, or until they reach 5 years of age, each dog is entered into the adoption process.
Since its start more than 20 years ago, Hemopet’s staff has rescued and found homes for more than 1,000 greyhounds.
The new center will offer a permanent space for greyhound rescue activities, including a group apartment-style unit for 200 rescued greyhounds, complete with an outdoor exercise yard and playground.
A proud environmentalist, Dodds plans to have the units constructed from environment-friendly resource building material.
“All of the greyhound units will have solar power and the 27 greyhound suites will have solar heating for hot water,” Dodds says.
Although the center’s amenities may sound like those of a hotel, its services aren’t nearly as pricey. Dodds says she even plans to offer a financial aid program to pet owners with little financial means.
“We don’t want to have a center that is only available to people [who] can afford it,” she says.
Service charges at the center will be decided on a case by case basis, she adds, noting that the amount will be comparable to what other veterinarians in the industry charge.
Dodds plans to hire at least two veterinarians on staff to start, including one who specializes in alternative medicine.
As for the staff at the new greyhound facility, Dodds plans to bring the 50 employees who currently work for Hemopet on board.
In addition to hiring a paid staff, Dodds will have volunteers on site who are passionate about animal care and want to gain hands-on learning experience in the field.
The entire project, including the health center and the Hemopet facility, is expected to cost around $10 million, $1.5 million of which will be used as an initial endowment to equip, staff and operate the overall facility.
The financial backing for the program is still in the works, although Dodds has already received $200,000 in seed money from the community. A donation of $15,000 was also made in November by Dodds’ friend, Joanne Carson, Ph.D., of Brentwood, Calif.
Dodds hopes to collect the remainder of the money through fundraisers and donations.
Bringing a Concept to Life
With the location set, staff selected and financing in the works, only one key component of the plan was still missing.
In order to build a unique facility, Dodds needed an architect who was also one-of-a-kind.
Recommended to Dodds by a friend, George Miers seemed the ideal candidate for the job because of his previous experience on other domestic animal care projects such as the San Diego Campus for Animal Care.
He first started as an architect in 1974 and launched his own company, George Miers and Associates, by 1982.
“It feels like I’ve been doing this for 100 years,” Miers says. “I have completed a wide range of animal care facilities across the United States and Canada, [but] I’ve never had the opportunity to house animals in such a unique environment as [the one] envisioned by Dr. Dodds and her staff.”
He adds that one of his favorite aspects of his job is transforming a client’s idea into a three-dimensional building.
“I certainly bring the work I’ve done over the years to the table, but the most important thing is listening to the client,” he says.
Both Miers and Dodds look forward to seeing the impact the facility will have on the surrounding community, and the influence it will have on animal care around the nation.
“I think the public will be really interested to see what they’re doing [at the center],” Miers says.
Dodds hopes that this project will act as a model for other Restore Health Centers that may open afterward.
It’s a social statement,” she says.
The project is expected to be completed by the spring of 2008.