When staff at Vale Park Animal Hospital showed up to work at their new building for the first time on June 15, they had no way of knowing that Wigglebutts would be there to greet them. As the staff celebrated their first day at the new hospital, located at 3515 Lake Meade Circle in Valparaiso, their first emergency patients were Valparaiso breeder Angela Ogle and her litter of adorable miniature American shepherd puppies.
“We’ve been going to Vale Park and Dr. Sheller for years because she’s a breeding specialist,” said Valparaiso-based breeder Angela Ogle. “These puppies were just born early this morning so we didn’t get much sleep, but all are healthy and doing good!”
After years of hard work and anticipation, Vale Park Animal Hospital (VPAH) opened the new location on June 15. The cutting of a ceremonial red ribbon marked the beginning of the official first day, a moment three years in the making for co-owners Dr. Mary Ann Sheller and Dr. Brent Lakia.
“To actually open today is a little surreal,” Lakia said. “We’re excited for our clients and patients to experience this new building and some of the comforts we offer to make visits easier for everybody.”
“When I arrived in 1992, Vale Park Animal Hospital was a condensed building with about 3,000 square feet of space,” Sheller said. “Shortly after I became a partner we did a major addition, enlarging the clinic to 6,500 square feet. We now have six new doctors and have outgrown our space again, which led to the new venture.”
Practice Manager Susan Lafferty has seen VPAH grow over the past 20 years, and witnessed first-hand the years of hard work that culminated with Monday’s grand opening.
“The best part of my job is being able to influence growth, innovation, and change for the hospital,” Lafferty said. “One thing that I have been extremely passionate about is finding ways to create an environment that helps pets become more comfortable with veterinary exams and procedures.”
Vale Park Animal Hospital has always been invested in finding ways to make veterinary visits less stressful for pets, offering puppy classes that help establish fun and positive experiences with the hospital during that early period. They’ve also added yummy treats, non-slip mats, pheromones and previsit medications to help patients have a relaxed experience. Separate dog and cat entrances are another exciting addition.
“This will be a huge benefit for our furry felines who don’t always appreciate doggy interaction,” Lafferty said. “We also have a beautiful boarding facility that, in addition to overnight boarding, will eventually offer doggy daycare and more training opportunities for pets.”
“Creating a less stressful environment and experience for the pets would not have been possible without Dr. Lakia and Dr. Sheller,” Lafferty continued. “They have provided lots of advanced education for the team and thanks to them we have about 30 percent of our team Fear Free Certified.”
The move to the new location was smooth and swift, an accomplishment Lakia attributes to the collective efforts of a tight-knit staff.
“We had a great move. Our team really gelled together, bonded, and moved everything from our old building to here in about a two-day period,” Lakia said. “We did some training, got everything settled, and had a lot of laughs and fun doing it.”
One of the greatest benefits of the new building is the custom design made possible by architects with prior experience in veterinary hospital design, which affords a higher level of efficiency throughout the day.
“Since we were able to design the building from scratch, we now have a lot of really long, straight lines for optimal staff and patient movement throughout the building,” Lakia said. “Our case load has also increased, so we’ve added more exam rooms and are now able to take care of more folks. Another great feature is a much clearer path to the emergency services area.”
As they welcomed the pitter patter of paws making their way down the halls, Dr. Lakia, Dr. Sheller, and the entire VPAH staff were settled in and ready to continue serving Valparaiso’s furry friends and their owners.
“The best part of my job is developing relationships with clients, and making connections with them and our patients,” Lakia said. “I’m looking forward to creating more lifelong relationships where we can take care of pets through sickness and in health.”
“We are so pleased with the results. The design is beautiful and the extensive experience the architects had with veterinary hospitals has really been invaluable,” Sheller added. “We are excited to help Valparaiso pets for many years to come.”