North Wales based Pet Photographer Kristen Kidd recently sat down with Beth Mehaffey, Veterinarian and founder of Perkasie’s Pennridge Animal Hospital and Harley’s Haven Dog Rescue.
What inspired you to become a veterinarian and what inspired you to start Harley’s Haven Dog Rescue?
My dog Harley is the answer to both of these questions… I have wanted to be a vet since I was 5 years old. I was that kid, but in college I really started doubting if it was the right choice for me. That was when he came into my life. He busted into my life as a scared little soul who needed someone to love him, and love him I did. He reaffirmed for me that being a veterinarian was what I was meant to do, and totally changed my life and my stars. I moved to keep him, and so many other changes spiraled from having him, that ultimately made me who I am today. He is also the driving force behind starting our rescue, Harley’s Haven, and saving him inspired me to lead a team that has saved over 1000 dogs in his name, and we will continue to save dogs in his name!
As a veterinarian, what are three things that you want every pet owner to know?
Three things I want every pet owner to know:
- Yearly exams are important – even when your pet is healthy, there is value in having them examined annually to catch illness earlier, so we can intervene and keep them around and healthy for as long as possible!
- Veterinary medicine is not one size fits all – I think a lot of people have a negative connotation with going to the vet, and just see dollar signs. My job is not to dictate to people what they should do with their pet – my job is to work with each pet owner as a team, to decide what is best for their pet. Sometimes this means giving a rabies vaccines and doing an exam, and sometimes this means performing testing and ultrasounds, and consults with specialists to get to the bottom of a problem. Though money plays a factor in what we do for each pet, it should not be the deciding factor. I feel very strongly, that no pet owner should ever feel bad, or inadequate for not being able to perform some testing, or choosing not to – there are always choices, and our job is to work with you to choose the right care for your pets!
- Veterinarians are here to help. I feel like some people are also afraid to call the vet when they have a question or a concern, but you should be calling! I would much rather a client call me with a simple question, than turn to the internet and get wrong advice, or just worry without knowing the answer. Our goal is to help you be good pet parents. So always feel free to reach out.
As a dog rescuer, what are three things you’d like every aspiring dog adopter to know?
- Be realistic in your expectations for a new dog. Most of the dogs or puppies who are returned to our rescue are returned because the new adopter didn’t have the right expectations. If you are bringing home a puppy, they are a lot of work! They will need lots of time and training, just like a baby. Expect a lot of accidents. Expect some chewed up stuff and furniture. Expect some sharp puppy teeth. With adults, they need a decompression period – 2-3 weeks of quiet time to settle in. So I know you want to parade them around to new friends and family and meet other dogs, but this can set them up to fail. They need to settle in and destress FIRST before they can appropriately meet new friends. The vast majority of adult dogs who are returned is because the new family failed them, and didn’t give them the time they needed to settle in and decompress. Having these appropriate expectations is SO important to making sure that you keep your new furry and it is a positive experience.
- Not every home is the right fit for every dog, and that’s ok – just because you wouldn’t be a good home for a high energy border collie mix, doesn’t mean you aren’t a good home! Choosing the right dog is the most important part of dog rescue. This is why we do the 2 week foster-to-adopt period, because there are many times where people realize they can’t commit to a puppy right now, or they need a dog with a different energy level, etc. Knowing what dog and energy level works for you, is super important to a successful adoption!
- Adopting a dog is a commitment. Dogs are family. So, when you commit, once they are adopted and they are the right fit, that should be it. When the going gets tough, the tough don’t quit. They work through it. Not every dog is perfect, whether a puppy or an adult. All dogs have the potential to develop issues or need training, but just because they do, doesn’t mean you should bail on them! You should talk to your vet, a trainer, or the rescue and work through it. These pups rely on us to have their backs, and that is hard to do if you give up on them!
What is it in your day to day work that brings you the most joy?
This would have to be helping pets. I know it is a general answer, but I really do get joy from educating people and helping them to be the best pet parents they can be. Whether it is discussing the importance of spay/neuter and changing someone’s mind who wasn’t going to do it, or figuring out a chronic allergy so that a dog who was in discomfort is now free from itching – I love knowing that I make a difference, and seeing my patients be happy and healthy. (Especially the adorable puppy patients.)