This month, Tanglefoot Veterinary Services are celebrating ten years since they first opened their doors in Cranbrook.
A lot has changed over that past decade, and Dr. Uli Helvoigt, the owner and one of the vets, and Jeff Cooper, the practice manager, shared their thoughts on the milestone and the history of the business.
“It doesn’t feel like it’s been ten years,” Helvoigt said. “It’s one of those things that it still feels like it was just yesterday, the time just flew by. Ten years seems like a really long time.”
The biggest thing that struck Helvoigt is the speed at which Tanglefoot grew.
“Ten years ago it was me, my truck and my dog in my truck, and that’s all that was there,” she said.
“And now we have 28 full-time and part-time staff, five veterinarians here in Cranbrook and two in Fernie. It’s been an exponential growth that nobody ever predicted or anticipated.”
READ MORE: Tanglefoot to open vet clinic in Fernie
February 28, 2009, was the day Tanglefoot Veterinary Services Ltd. first opened its doors, then in a leased building on the strip. The building that was their first home was essentially an empty shell and so extensive renovations were needed to transform it into a functioning mixed-animal clinic. At that time they had just four staff members.
Five years passed before it became clear that the clinic needed to expand in order to totally serve its ever-growing clientele. In October 2014 Tanglefoot broke ground and began clearing trees and commencing construction of their new building at its current location on Industrial Road F. The new clinic opened in the spring of 2015.
“I look back at plans that I had ten years ago and they were, maybe in five years time we’ll hire a third veterinarian and have three full-time staff and it just exploded really is the bottom line,” Helvoigt said.
During their expansion here in Cranbrook it also became incredibly evident that the Elk Valley had an increasing need for veterinary services and so in early 2016 Tanglefoot purchased a building at 1161 7 Ave. in Fernie. A few months and a lot of renovations later, Tanglefoot Fernie Veterinary Services Ltd. opened its doors to the public in July of 2016.
There was additional construction and renovations completed in 2018 to accommodate further growth. The Cranbrook clinic expanded again with construction of the Large Animal facility in the summer of 2018. That opened officially on Nov. 1, 2018. Further renovations were completed in the summer of 2018 to the Fernie clinic as well, providing more space for a new radiation room, a new suite of animal cages and a shower room.
Cooper explained a part of all that growth is that it has allowed Tanglefoot to help students get experience in the veterinary field. Since last fall and through until the end of this summer, they’ve had nine different veterinary or veterinary technologist students come from all over the world to do their practicums. They had a vet student from the Czech Republic in the fall, a student here now from Thompson Rivers University doing the animal health technologist program and two students coming from Germany in the Spring.
“That’s kind of a neat aspect of it that through that growth it’s allowed us to be able to provide these kinds of opportunities for students that are coming into the field of veterinary medicine,” Cooper said.
He said that the program has been so well received, with students offering nothing but positive feedback and then going back to their respective homes and telling their peers about it, that they’ve actually had to turn some students away.
“We’ve actually had to turn away three additional vet students from University of Guelph because we don’t want to overtax all of our staff,” Cooper explained, “so what we try to do is never have more than one at a time.”
Helvoigt, who first moved to Cranbrook 16 years ago, says that she thinks this is a great town, and part of what’s helped the business thrive and expand for the past ten years is their connection to the community.
“Just getting to know your community, being a member of the community, not being a stranger when you see people,” she said. “It’s such a small town, and you see people all over the place that you know through work and vice versa, you just need to be a part of it.”
“One of the things that a lot of people don’t always see behind the scenes is the true care and compassion that every employee has at every level for the pets when they come in,” Cooper added.
“They’re cared for so greatly as if it’s the staff member’s own pet. Sometimes people get a sense of that when they’re in the room with the vet with their vet, but behind the scenes or if there’s an operation underway, the amount of care and attention to detail is just really evident.”
Cooper and Helvoigt both expressed how grateful they are to their many clients over the years.
“The main focus of this is thank you to all of the loyal clients that we have and for entrusting us,” Cooper said. “It’s like going to a doctor right. A lot of the pets are just like or are another member of the family and so it’s just saying thank you for the trust that clients put in us and leaving their pets with us and for staying with us and supporting the clinic.”
To celebrate this ten-year milestone, Tanglefoot will be hosting an open house on Friday, March 8 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Stop by to take a tour of the Cranbrook clinic, including the new large animal facility, have some free cake and coffee, enter to win some door prizes and even get a nail trim for your cat or dog by donation, with all proceeds going to the SPCA. They are also offering 10 per cent off all pet food for the month of March.