Pets in practice: “She is voted employee of the month, every month”
From Truffles the cat in Pennsylvania to Mayce the border collie in Chesterfield, OT explores what animal companions bring to optical practice
03 December 2021
For Pennsylvanian optician Danielle Crull, it is the moment her Maine Coon rescue cat helped an indecisive parent choose a pair of green frames.
In New Jersey, Susan Manhire recalls how her ‘greeter pup’ Maxwell rushes to welcome new patients each time the door buzzer goes off.
Meanwhile, closer to home in Chesterfield, contact lens optician Beth Ralph describes how tricoloured border collie Mayce unites her practice team.
“Everyone loves Mayce,” she shared.
“The last two years haven’t been the easiest, let’s be honest, but Mayce will look up at you smiling in her doggy way and you can’t help but smile back,” Ralph observed.
OT profiles canine and feline companions that bring joy and comfort to optometry waiting rooms.
Name: Danielle Crull, dispensing optician
Location: Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania
We have had our 4-year-old rescue cat Truffles with us in our office for four years. She has black fur with brown on the tips. It looked like she had a dusting of cocoa on top of her, like a little chocolate truffle, so that’s how she got her name.
We don’t know what breed she is but believe she is part Maine Coon. We also have a bird in the office called Freddy and hermit crabs. All the animals fit within the office in a different way – even the hermit crabs.
Because I specialise in paediatrics, I have a wide patient base. There are a lot who live in the local area, but I also see patients who will drive two or more hours for fittings. They might have a child with a facial abnormality or another condition. I do have some people who call and want to make an appointment because ‘Truffles works here.’
As a specialist paediatric practice, my average patient would be between the ages of two and five. Some of these children have already been to see the ophthalmologist – they have had drops in their eyes, they may have been held down – so many of them are a little afraid. Having a cat around puts them right at ease. They think ‘Oh it’s a kitty!’ or ‘It’s a bird!’ Cats and birds don’t have any hidden agenda.
Truffles is very smart. I learned that early on – I would teach her a couple of tricks and she would perform those for kids. She could sit and do a high five or little fist bumps. One day I fitted her with a pair of glasses. I wasn’t sure what she would make of them but she wears them for a long time and sometimes she sleeps in them. She can take them off whenever she wants. If Truffles comes out and puts a pair of glasses on, children suddenly think ‘Oh OK, I can do that too.’
Her first pair of frames were the Itsy Bitsy style from Solo Bambini, which is for preemie babies. She has since graduated to the next size up, which is newborn. She has more than 20 frames. In the morning I will let her choose between two pairs of glasses. She puts her paw on the glasses that she wants.
Truffles is a very valuable member of our staff – we always say that she is voted employee of the month, every month
Once Truffles was sitting on the couch while a parent was trying to decide between two pairs of frames. She could not decide between a brown pair that matched the colour of his hair and a green pair that complemented his eyes. She held out both pairs of glasses to Truffles and Truffles batted at the green ones. The mum was like ‘OK green it is.’
We do run an air purifier and vacuum and clean everything every day. People who have minor allergies might not want to pat her but she is not the type of cat that will come up to you and rub all over you. I have a couple of patients who have severe allergies so I have a clean room facility on the side of my building that I help them in. Even those patients love Truffles and sometimes she will stand outside the window so they can see her. Truffles is a very valuable member of our staff – we always say that she is voted employee of the month, every month.
Name: Susan Manhire, dispensing optician
Location: Hackettstown, New Jersey
Pets: Maxwell and Izzy
We’ve had our optical business for 48 years, since my husband and I qualified as opticians. We purchased an old house and converted it into our optical practice. There are historical pictures of the house and a beautiful fireplace. We left all the original woodworking to create a feeling of being at home for our customers. Everyone is treated with personal attention and our dogs help create a homey feeling.
30 years ago we brought our first yellow lab, Maggie, with us to work every day. As our dog got older, we realised how important she was to our business. When she became ill at the age of 13, we were told by a breeder that we should get another puppy that would take on her qualities by just being with her. That proved to be the case for our next puppy Oliver.
When Maggie passed, Oliver then took on the baton and he was the Manhire Opticians mascot. As he became older, we got a puppy whose name is Izzy. As we are now getting older, we decided not to get another big dog after Izzy. However, soon we realised Izzy had become depressed after a customer brought their dog in and Izzy perked up – she was acting like we hadn’t seen for a long, long time. So we got a puppy. We call Maxwell and Izzy the directors of treats. Maxwell is the greeter pup because as soon as the buzzer goes off he goes up front to say hello.
Customers will be talking with us about glasses but they have one hand on the dog
In all of our years in business I’ve had only one person come in who was furious that we had pets, and left the office. There was another who stayed in the car because they had a slight allergy, but other than that we have never had anyone say a word against the dogs. Most people are very disappointed if the dogs aren’t here. Every time we have a new customer at our office we always ask them the question, ‘how did you find us?’ Seven out of 10 times people will say ‘We saw your dogs on the website.’
In this world right now many people crave contact. The dogs seem to know when someone is fragile. They act entirely different with a toddler and with elderly people. Customers will be talking with us about glasses but they usually have one hand on a dog while they talk.
Anyone who has ever had a pet will know that they give unconditional love. We feel really blessed that our dogs don’t have to be home on their own. They have their morning routine. They know they are going to go to the office in the car and they come in wagging their tails. I couldn’t imagine not having the dogs here and I don’t think our customers could either.
Name: Beth Ralph, contact lens optician
Location: Chesterfield, UK
Mayce is a 14-year-old tricoloured border collie. She was one of my mother-in-law’s dogs but as Mayce got older, she wasn’t mixing with the pack as well. There was a younger male coming through, wanting to knock her off top dog.
We have had her four years now. An older dog was ideal for us – we didn’t have the time for a puppy. I am a contact lens optician and my husband [Jeremy Ralph] is an optometrist. When lockdown happened, Mayce came to work with us. She generally stays in the lab or the back of the practice but occasionally she sneaks through to the delight of the patients.
Mayce is soft and affectionate. She is very calm, very gentle and yet she still loves to play. Sometimes her brain loves it more than her body loves it. Because she is an old lady, she likes to come across and say hi and then she will wander off and curl up somewhere. She is not a bouncy puppy who will go and hassle people.
My mother-in-law trained her dogs in agility. Mayce can do figures of eight through the legs, she can do walks and a few little bits and bobs. She has bad cataracts and we think she is now deaf because the fireworks used to send her crazy and this year they didn’t. She had stroke in October and had quite severe nystagmus but she seems to have recovered.
Mayce will look up at you and smile in her doggy way and you can’t help but smile back
We have an independent practice in Chesterfield, Derbyshire There are quite a few practices around us – there is a Specsavers, Boots and Scrivens. My husband will walk Mayce to a sandwich shop round the corner at lunch and the staff there will give her pieces of cooked chicken wrapped in foil for her lunch. We are on the periphery so you can park outside the practice and it is easy to access. We tend to get some patients who are less mobile because of that.
Mayce is very sensitive. I was diagnosed with MS recently and have trouble walking. Historically, Mayce would have pulled on the leash or raced on ahead but now she will sit back a bit and walk with me at a slower pace. Because her back legs aren’t what they used to be, we feel a bit of sympathy for each other, and we look after each other.
The practice staff will take Mayce for a walk around the block and give her treats. Everyone loves Mayce - she’s the universal centre of the practice. The last two years haven’t been the easiest, let’s face it, but Mayce will look up at you and smile in her doggy way and you can’t help but smile back.
- Elliott and Heath are currently looking to recruit a part-time optometrist to their Chesterfield practice. Applications can be sent to [email protected]
Do you have a pet at your optical practice? Please get in touch with [email protected]