If your dog or cat needs a high-priced surgery, a life-saving surgery or just some dental work, the folks at Helping Hands are eager and ready to help. Their sole mission is to not just give you high-quality care at an affordable price, but to get you back to your regular veterinarian. That’s right, they’re not trying to keep you as a long-term client. In fact, once the procedure is over, it’s up to you to go back to your vet to receive follow up care.
It’s a unique concept designed to keep surgery costs low, but it doesn’t mean the team here skips on quality.
The Helping Hands High Quality Affordable Veterinary Surgery & Dental Care (yes, that’s the whole name) is located in an old tobacco warehouse near Hardywood, and was an MCV call center before Helping Hands purchased it.
When I was asked to visit, I had this idea that I would walk in to a lobby of dogs and cats, and pet owners with clipboards waiting to get called back for their procedures. It’s not like that at all.
The ceilings are high and the walls are exposed brick. The lobby is visible and divided from the hall entrance by a glass partition. It is really a place for pet owners to relax, nap, work remotely, watch television or even play video games. Or, even learn more about the city, because they’ve included a visitor center with complimentary pastries and guides on what to do around the city. That’s because procedures performed at Helping Hands can take hours and the Helping Hands team knows some pet owners want to stay with their animals, while others need to be distracted
Once past the lobby you’ll see a unique check-in system; A bar style corral (kinda like something you’d see at a bank) flanked by private rooms. Each designed to allow pet owners to sign in, while keeping cats away from dogs.
During my visit I got to “behind the curtain”, so to speak, and see animals receiving treatment while others were waiting for there’s. I honestly felt like I was in a hospital operating room for humans, not animals. No expense was spared back here. It is a well-oiled machine and designed with state of the art equipment and efficiency in mind. There is an area for dental procedures and separate rooms for soft-tissue and orthopedic surgeries. There are recovery areas, and prep areas for the animals and every doctor, nurse and staff member is moving like a dancer around me.
I only know that I am not in a hospital like say, VCU Medical because there are a few pets roaming in the lounge areas and all the medical scrubs the staff is wearing are black and pink (think Pink Ladies and Thunderbirds from Grease). In fact, the color remains a constant around the facility. I’m told it’s just a color scheme one of the owners really liked and championed.
If this all sounds familiar, it’s because this isn’t the first location for Helping Hands. Originally, Dr. Lori Pasternak and Jacqueline Morasco (aka Jackie of all Trades) worked together in a full service veterinary practice for years and saw animals go without care or saw families struggle between paying their mortgage or paying for a life-saving procedure.
The pair first opened a center in Carytown in February of 2010 and about the time the lease ended, they realized they also needed additional space and moved to the current location on Rhoadmiller in November of 2015.
What started out as a two-woman show, now has grown to 20 employees and they service about 30-35 patients a day, 5 days a week.
Pets do not stay here over the weekend. Once they have say an ACL repair or a tumor removed, maybe some teeth pulled, they are given medications and sent home or back to their primary veterinarian for follow ups, x-rays and care.
I’m told procedures don’t typically cost more than $1,000 with Helping Hands, because they don’t include the typical veterinary additions. And if you can’t afford that, you can set up a repayment plan or possibly qualify for a non-profit work-trade to pay off your bill. There’s a fund Helping Hands manages that allows for this, because the bottom line here is that no animal should have to go without a necessary procedure.
It is this kind of service that brings in patients from all over and it’s another reason why that lobby is set up more like a living room or den than a traditional waiting room. I’m told 50% of the patients who visit Helping Hands are from outside Richmond. Sometimes they’re repeat customers who drive in from a city like New York several times over their pet’s lifespan. And it’s why Helping Hands has been featured a time or two on network television.
The clinic has no plans of moving and is thrilled to be in the Scott’s Addition Boulevard Association. They ask any local business owners to feel free to leave flyers, cards or event info in their client visitor center so their patients can learn more about the neighboring area.
Helping Hands is located at 1605 Rhoadmiller – and you can visit them online at helpinghandsvetva.com