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It was a Tuesday morning at 6:00am when I woke up to our beloved dog Malcolm having a seizure.

And I did what any other mamma bear would do — I sprung out of bed like a ninja on espresso, threw on my clothes, got Malcolm into the car and rushed him to the hospital.

Oh, and I grabbed my hubby along the way. ūüôā

By the time we got there, Malcolm was back to himself, seemingly fine.

And then, just like that, while in the waiting room, he started to have another seizure–tongue hanging out, urine on the floor and BOOM, he was scooped up and rushed into the ER.

An hour or so later, the Veterinarian on staff came into the exam room where we had been waiting… and waiting… with a serious look on her face and a deep wrinkle on her brow.

“Malcolm died”,¬†she began.

“He died for just under a minute and just as we had started to administer CPR, his heart starting beating again.”

“Oh,” I said¬†as I turned to look at my husband, feeling a bit numb like I was watching a strange surreal film, “Malcolm had an NDE (near death experience.)”

“He’s doing okay for now”,¬†the veterinarian continued.

“He needs to stay here in the hospital while we run tests and see what’s going on.”

Many tests later, we found out that Malcolm had a heart arrhythmia attack (his heart rate was beating as fast as a Hummingbirds) and the Cardiologist wanted to keep him in the hospital to monitor his heart and see how he did with his new medications.

Here’s a pic of Malcolm being very zen after his NDE while at the hospital:


After just under a week of visiting Malcolm twice a day and not knowing if he was going to live or die, he decided to live and heal, and came home with us on my birthday.

(A pretty bad-ass birthday present, am I right?)

The point of my letter to you today?

This animal hospital happens to be top notch.

The docs and staff are kind and compassionate and wicked smart and there are specialists on staff who are available pretty much any time.

There is tea, coffee and filtered water available in the main waiting room.

And yet …

The windowless exam room where my husband and I spent most of our time waiting and waiting, and waiting during each visit that week felt scary.

The bright overhead lights along with the stainless steel exam table, white walls and a few cat and dog prints scattered around on the walls seemingly placed without intention, left both of us feeling anxious and unsafe.

And, of course, if you know me, you know I spent a lot of that time waiting in that room visualizing a new design for the space and how a more patient-centered approach could’ve helped calm us during those super slippery scary moments.

I imagined a room where wall colors, lighting, seating and artwork could have been different—making us feel safe, relaxed and nurtured.

And then I went back to my studio and designed it. 

Here’s what I came up with:



This design concept is for an exam room at a dog and cat hospital where human parents often wait for their pets during hospital visits.

It includes:

1) A comfortable sofa for pets and parents upholstered in a high end custom commercial faux suede that is soft and can be cleaned with bleach (if necessary) every day.

This sofa is based on the Urban Sofa from West Elm. The arms are nice and wide for cats to climb on and hang out on. The space under the sofa is very minimal so even the smallest cats can’t get under and hide far away from our reach.

2) A four foot tall x six foot wide art print of a cat and dog snuggling that spans across much of the back wall.

Yup, that’s¬†a 24 square foot image of pure love staring at you the moment you walk through the door.

It was intentionally selected because the human brain responds positively to seeing dogs and cats cuddling. There are thousands of YouTube channels with millions of followers dedicated to this.

3) Offerings of filtered water and tea at my disposal.

Imagine waiting to visit your beloved pet in the hospital and having access to specialty teas that were specifically chosen to induce calm and healing in the body and not having to ask any of the staff for refills.

This is especially important when you are crying your eyes out and don’t want anyone else but your family to see you in this state.

4) Gentle, soft lighting so the room feels cozy and nurturing.

There is plenty of science out there that proves just how healing and restorative the right kind of lighting can be on the mind, emotions and body.

Lighting is one of the easiest ways to create cozy in a room. Simply bring in a variety of lighting and spread it out throughout the room.

In my design above, I have hung LED pendant lights over the offerings table, one single overhead light fixture and two matching table lamps on each side of the sofa.

This layered lighting creates shadows and helps relax our nervous system.

5) And, finally an upholstered dog or cat exam table that feels like it’s part of the room.

The only time I’ve ever seen a pet exam table different than the typical metal ones was at Mt. Tabor Veterinary Care in Portland, Oregon.

When owner and Veterinarian Dr. Kristin Sulis opened her new practice in 2008, she decided to ditch the traditional metal exam tables and replace them with:

1) A bolster on top of a wood table covered in soft and washable fleece to examine her feline patients and
2) A large ottoman upholstered in pleather for her dog patients.

Both of these tools made her clinic’s exam rooms feel more like home and both her human and pet patients love it.

(And yeah, MTVC is my client and I’m so proud.)

Here’s the bottom line:

There’s so much that can be done in your healthcare practice to create a patient-centered space that facilitates your compassionate care and creates an exceptional experience your patients will remember for a lifetime.

That you can count on.