OFF the back of a major, state-of-the-art renovation project, it is only natural that client expectations at Willows Vets in Hartford may have changed.

With regards to care, pet owners might justifiably see a boost in staff numbers and gleaming new equipment and expect a higher level of service.

And that is exactly what the team at Willows is offering, while still maintaining its personal touch and longstanding relationships with clients and pets alike.

When the Guardian shadowed clinical director Bruce Waddell during his Monday morning’s work at the Chester Road practice, those who passed through the door were treated as old friends.

“It’s been brilliant all the way through,” said Tracey Green and Stephen Worrall as they brought in seven-year-old Staffie Reggie for his regular blood test. “We wouldn’t go anywhere else.

“All the vets are brilliant. They all know the dogs – Reggie’s mum and dad are 12 and we had another dog before that, and we have always brought them all here.”

Reggie has been diagnosed with Cushing’s Syndrome after a difficult summer which saw him develop symptoms including shaking, excessive panting, and moulting of his tail.

“They did all the blood tests and it’s been a long job,” Tracey said.

“In the end it came back as basically a tumour on his pituitary or adrenal gland which causes all these symptoms and put him on a steroid treatment. It’s going to be ongoing with him.”

But Reggie enjoys his trip to the vets, jumping up and kissing Bruce as he is examined during a consultation visit.

Bruce explained: “It’s still about looking after the pets, and treating them as if they were your own.”

Bruce joined Willows in 2002, becoming a partner in 2010 and moving over to Hartford. He has seen the practice on both sides of the major renovation, which began last year and was completed in the summer.

It included a revamped reception space, two new operating theatres, a new prep area, an additional digital X-ray suite and a new practice room dedicated to ultrasound, endoscopy and chemotherapy treatment.

“We want to look after our vets and staff at the same time – they are the people that make the business.

“There has to be a good communication with clients, that’s what bonds them to you and helps them understand, and in turn makes them want to come back and see you.”

Willows’ flagship Chester Road practice has two arms – a consultancy and a surgery.

It is hoped that a new out-of-hours service involving an on-site vet will open part-time in the new year but, for all the new technology and new patients, the core values of personal care and clear communication remain.

Bruce said: “We are busier – we can offer more in the way of surgery and diagnostics.

“It’s still very important to be able to use your diagnostic skills and what you can take from the animal to make a diagnosis.

“Not everyone can afford everything’s that’s all singing all dancing and you need to be able to provide a service for everybody. You don’t want to exclude anyone – we are so insulated to how much medicine costs.

“For the staff, there is a real variety – anything from a puppy coming for its first vaccination to an animal that is really poorly that you may end up having to put down. You have to be able to change almost instantly to provide the right responses for the owner.

“You have got everybody that wants to work for the welfare of the animals, and hopefully make them better when they are sick and care for them when you sometimes can’t make them better – that, unfortunately, is part of the job.

“Supporting people as they say goodbye to their pets is a really important thing to do as well.”