IT WAS a magic moment for Ipswich veterinarian Dr Andrew Hemming when a dog bounded into his Flinders View surgery, jumping up to greet him like a long lost friend.
Dr Hemming hadn't seen Whitey in nine years, not since he treated him for serious injuries following a car accident.
"He was a beautiful dog but we had to put him in surgery due to the accident and we amputated one of his legs,” he said.
"It's incredible how readily dogs adapt to something as severe as an amputation, and Whitey recovered well from the surgery.”
Dr Hemming had just moved to Ipswich after years of travelling around Australia.
He was working for a vet in Silkstone which is where he met his then girlfriend Sarah. The couple had fallen in love with Ipswich, and married shortly after. The pair then established the Flinders View Veterinary Surgery.
The story of Whitey's incredible recovery still lives on in the mind of Dr Hemming. It is one of his earliest memories as a veterinary practitioner in Ipswich.
The recent heart-warming reunion of the pair proved the feeling was mutual.
"About six months ago Whitey's owners found me and brought him in for a vaccination,” Dr Hemming said.
"The moment he saw me he gave me a big lick and a kiss. It was amazing that he remembered me after all that time.”
It's moments like these that keep the passion for the profession alive for Dr Hemming, who is currently preparing to expand his business to include a new state-of-the-art veterinary hospital at Ripley Town Centre.
The new Ripley Veterinary Hospital will complement his established Flinders View Veterinary Surgery to bring a new level of pet care to the region with a range of services including ultrasound and advanced dentistry.
"Our aim is to be industry leaders in animal care,” Dr Hemming said.
"We want to maintain the standards and values we have developed over many years by bringing over several strong members from the team at Flinders View to the new practice.
"Flinders View is fully self-sufficient so we plan to replicate that at Ripley Town Centre by having all the equipment we need to pretty much do everything in house. For example, we can currently run blood tests in just 15 to 20 minutes.”
Since graduating from the University of Queensland in 2005, Dr Hemming notes that veterinary care has changed significantly in the past decade.
"The industry is always changing, always improving,” he said.
"What we do now in animal care is different from what we did 10 years ago and different again from what we did 20 years ago.
"The main thing we strive for is to improve pet care and to make a difference in the lives of animals and their owners.
"As a professional, you learn to get the information you need from the animal and we pride ourselves on going that step further with a thorough examination. An animal can come in with one problem but a full examination can reveal so much more that might be going on.
"We also strive to do it in a stress free environment, which is just as important.”
Dr Hemming says animals are no different to humans when it comes to a hospital visit and this is leading to one of the big changes in the field.
"There's a new movement towards reducing stress for animals in veterinary care, and we're currently in the process of gaining Fear Free certification for our clinics,” he said.
"It's about creating a better environment for care. This starts with making sure our hospital doesn't smell like a vet clinic which puts the animals and their owners more at ease. It allows our staff to do a better job as well.”
The practice is also seeking ASAV Hospital Accreditation and, once achieved, would make it among just one of five in Queensland to meet that standard.
The accreditation scheme recognises companion animal practices that achieve the highest levels of quality health care and practice management in state-of-the-art hospital facilities.
Dr Hemming, and his wife Sarah, a veterinary nurse, also plan to expand their service offering at Ripley Town Centre to include a Pet Wellness Hub.
"Veterinary care isn't just vaccinations, nutrition and surgery these days,” he said.
"Sarah is currently gaining qualifications in veterinary massage and myotherapy to rehabilitation. The effect of this treatment in the recovery process is amazing, especially for our orthopaedic cases, which are a passion of ours.
"Our long-term plan is to provide complementary services including alternatives such as acupuncture, naturopathy and herbal medicine to provide complete treatment for animals to cater to the needs of owners.”
For Dr Hemming, who has worked in the profession for more than 13 years, said nothing beats the love people have for their pets.
"We do definitely have some passionate pet lovers in the area more than any other place I've worked at,” he said.
"Now we're seeing more and more people from the Ripley region bringing their pets in to us.”
Dr Hemming said he's had "a lot of fun” building a successful veterinary practice where he has embraced changes in the industry.
"Since we opened I've also found a new passion for my staff to help them develop to their full potential both personally and professionally,” he said.
"We have a unique set of staff who are accountable for what they do and very involved in the business.
"We encourage them to undertake ongoing professional training, as well as leadership training, and it's wonderful to see them grow and excel.”
Flinders View Veterinary Surgery currently has 13 staff, three of which will transition to Ripley Veterinary Hospital when it opens in coming months. Three new staff members will be enlisted for the new practice at Ripley Town Centre.
"We're very proud of that and the fact that we have some staff who have been with us almost since we opened,” Dr Hemming said.
"The integrity of your staff is just as important to provide the best in animal care as are their skills - and when they enjoy each other's company as much as they do, the animals can really pick up on.”