“We have tried to establish a new standard of care,” says Sascha Brinker, manager of Ellerslie Veterinary Clinic, “a new way of doing things, and I think people are really appreciating that.”
It’s impossible not to appreciate — even to be awed by — the clinic, a state-of-the-art facility built from scratch by German-born husband-and-wife team Sascha and Kathrin. Only into their second year, it’s already established as one of the leading practices in New Zealand, even bagging an esteemed gold certificate from the International Society of Feline Medicine — one of only three such gongs to have been handed out on these shores.
Vets do not often come much more qualified than Kathrin, whose 13 years of study and post-graduate board certified training saw her recognised as a small animal specialist in Germany and parts of Europe, a qualification that, alas, is not honoured here. “People are always impressed that I have a PhD,” she laughs, “but that was a breeze compared to the five years’ training that followed!”
Growing up in a semi-rural region just outside Munich, Kathrin always knew she wanted to work with animals. “We were always surrounded by them,” she says, “guinea pigs, cattle, ponies, cats, dogs and rabbits. Around pre-school age, I made a little drawing saying I wanted to be a vet, which my parents found and presented to me before my graduation, which was a lovely surprise.”
The feel-good factors of being a veterinarian are pretty self-explanatory. Kathrin, the vets Cate, Jess and the team of nurses enjoy doing full clinical work ups from ‘start to finish’ and the expertise and diagnostic tools allow them to fully investigate even complicated and challenging cases. Kathrin also receives referrals for diagnostic works ups for example in ultrasonography.
One of the sadder aspects of the veterinarian profession is when a pet requires euthanasia. However, it is with empathy and understanding that this procedure is carried out: “Our designated ‘tranquillity room’ within the clinic gives pet owners time to grieve and think.” The soothing space doubles for visits when sick animals are kept overnight. There are also designated cat and dog sections to alleviate stress (mainly for the cats’ benefit!). An ultrasound and x-ray room, unsterile and sterile surgery theatre, and cattery replete with all manner of fun feline features to keep them both mentally and physically stimulated — including a giant hamster wheel-type contraption (Cats are only territorial when in their home environment, otherwise they mix well. But private lodgings are available for them if desired). Ellerslie vets take care of dental needs and even offer a pet physiotherapy service, too.
“We have assembled such a great team here,” says Kathrin, “and we have such a lovely clientele. They come from as far as Waiheke and Whangamata and obviously they will sometimes arrive in a great deal of distress, but it really helps people to see that their animals are being cared for in such an environment.”
After school and during the holidays, the cattery residents will even have the added treat of being fussed over by the couple’s young daughters. So, are they too vets in the making?
“We don’t push them to do anything,” says Sascha, “but they are certainly showing an interest.”