Not many 26-year-olds can say they own and operate a business, but Kelsey Streef had her mind made up at a very young age that she would work with animals when she grew up.
“When I was about eight years old, I watched a W5 episode on the University of Guelph’s Ontario College of Veterinarians and I turned to my mom and I told her yep, that’s what I want to do, I want to be a vet. She said I would change my mind ten times over and I just never did. I have always wanted to create an opportunity for animals to thrive in life.”
Kelsey is a Registered Veterinary Technician and owns Willow Grove Animal Wellness Centre in Norwich Township just outside of Princeton. “It is an all-inclusive boarding, daycare, and rehab facility. We do physical rehabilitation, which is one of our more unique services, and I am one of the only Registered Veterinary Technician-owned facilities for boarding and daycare from London to Kitchener.”
The young business owner has taken an education and science-based approach to animal care and husbandry. “I work a lot with the animals one-on-one, our staff are also educated, and we make sure we are using that education to make sure the animals in our care are comfortable. That would be what I feel makes us unique.”
She also has the wellness centre side of things that provides a more wholesome methodology. “We have a canine chiropractor, and we are looking at bringing in a registered massage therapist for animals, so we have these things we use for integrated approach. We want to be a one-shop stop linking the veterinary and pet industries,” adds Kelsey.
A lot of people have bought pets during the pandemic and because of that the veterinary sector has been stretched thin. “We are seeing a heavy influx across the entire industry, and we are working with them to ease some of the tension they are finding in their clinics and relieve some of the waitlists they are seeing.” She adds the boarding and daycare services are quite full but there is room in the chiropractic and rehab side of the business.
Kelsey says her practice sees a wide variety of ailments, many of which are neurological or orthopedic. “Orthopedic could be a broken leg, hit by a car or general arthritis. A lot of dogs get arthritis in their spine as they get older and that’s called spondylosis which requires pain management and muscle building. On the neurological side we deal with everything from the canine version of ALS called degenerative myopathy, and intervertebral disc disease which is very common in Wiener dogs and corgis where they can slip a disc. A lot of them come in paralyzed but we can help them walk again.”
She can also help with arthritis and general disc maintenance, along with sports dogs needing winter conditioning in the off season. “The main thing people would see is their dog limping or favouring, even a dog not doing the things it normally does like jump up on the bed or into a car. These are indications that your dog should probably come and see us.”
As much as Kelsey enjoys being busy, she does feel that small-town Ontario has a shortage of available pet care, much like in the health care sector. “I am the only registered technician outside of a clinic in the area, and we use referrals getting our clients coming in from Brant, Norfolk, and Oxford Counties. We are taking on a vast amount of animal care, and I think honestly there’s just not enough of us and not enough access to care in rural Ontario.”
For more information on the services offered by Willow Grove Animal Wellness Centre, go to their website at https://willowgroveawc.ca/.