Pawsitively Perfect Pet Care

Story by Jim Zang


Photos by Sergei Belski

Spring 2023

At Happy Paws Veterinary Clinic, pets are people too.

“I was pretty young when I developed a passion for animals,” says Dr. Erin Heck, speaking from the modern new Happy Paws East location in King’s Heights. “I grew up in Olds, and knew from a young age that there was a Veterinary Technician program at Olds College.”

Heck’s partner in business and in life, husband Jeff Boucher, also grew up in Olds, and when his high school sweetheart moved to Calgary to pursue her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine Degree, Jeff wasn’t far behind.

“I worked for a year and a half as a Vet Tech, but found myself really missing the direct contact with pet owners, so I went back to school and was part of the first graduating class from the University of Calgary’s – at that time – brand new vet school.”

With new degree in hand, and Jeff working in the banking industry, the couple were looking for a place to raise a family that had the amenities of a city but with a smaller town feel – and Airdrie fit the bill perfectly. The couple live in town with their two young children, Fiona and Ethan, plus golden retrievers Sam and Sherman.

”Airdrie has a large population of pets that were underserved based on our demographic research,” says Jeff, who handles the business end of things for the company. “It’s also close to our families. It just felt like a natural fit.”

”We had big dreams to both improve the quality of veterinary care in town and improve the lives of the team providing that care,” adds Erin.

And so they opened the first Happy Paws location roughly seven years ago in Bayside. Like many start-ups, they began small, both to minimize risk and because it’s what they could afford, focusing on dogs and cats, working out of a 1,500-square-foot clinic with three exam rooms and mopping the floors themselves. It’s a space they grew into, and out of, it very quickly.

Their business was growing in leaps and bounds, just like the patients it serves. And, to Erin and Jeff, that could only mean one thing – expansion.

“There was so much growth in the city and an obvious need for more veterinary care that it just made sense to open another location,” says Jeff.  “We have a good community reputation and we wanted to be able to serve the community’s increasing needs.”

“In a business where there’s an industry-wide shortage of veterinary professionals, we were turning away good candidates simply due to lack of space,” says Erin.

The new location has 5,500 square-feet of work space, built from scratch and custom-outfitted with all the latest veterinary medical technology, effectively tripling their treatment capacity with nine examination rooms. The ultra-modern facility has separate cat and dog exam rooms, an operating theatre, dental care room, indoor dog runs and kennels, all designed with making the experience more comfortable and less stressful for both pets and owners.

“We chose this location for a number of reasons,” explains Jeff. “The size of the space and the ability to customize it, affordability, and strategic in that it not only gives us locations on both sides of the city but we’re hoping the better accessibility once the new 40th Avenue intersection and connector road to Kingsview Boulevard is complete will bring more business. This was a really unique opportunity.”

In addition to the regular services they offer, like general wellness consulting and check-ups, vaccinations, sick pet visits, integrative care, general surgeries and dental car, Happy Paws is launching two new services, a Palliative-Hospice program called Pet’s Best Life and a mobile euthanasia service to ease the burden on owners of terminally ill pets.

They’ve also added Dr. Sarah Pedersen, a Certified Veterinary Spinal Manipulation Therapist and Veterinary Medical Acupuncturist, to the team as a specialist in Veterinary Massage and Rehabilitation Therapy and pain management.

From a staff of six at their first Christmas party, they’ve grown to 30 and, if things grow as anticipated, they’ll need to bring on another 10 or so “pawsitive people” by the end of this year.

It’s this feeling of family, of genuine caring on the part of everyone, says Erin, that makes Happy Paws who they are.

Customers from the west location are welcome to book at the east facility, comfortable in the fact that because Happy Paws rotates it’s staff through both locations their pets will receive the same professional care at each.

“We’re focused on the human/animal bond,” says Erin. “We provide veterinary medical services by building a relationship with pet owners and focusing on communication, so they can make the informed decisions about what’s best for their pet’s health care. It’s all about helping people create more life, love and memories with their pets.”