Veterinary students at South Johnston High are lending a paw to staff members this summer through the school’s Pet Salon.
For a small fee, staff members can drop off their pets for a bath and a nail trim and not only help students gain valuable experience but also support the school’s veterinary programs.
The response to the salon has been “overwhelming,” said Candace Parker, who oversees the program.
“We’ve been booked solid since we opened in February,” she said.
The salon began as an added feature to the school’s growing veterinary assisting certification program. Many students are interested in the Animal Sciences pathway. Students can enroll in the Veterinary Assisting course, and if they successfully meet the requirements, can become certified as a level one veterinary assistant through the Texas Veterinary Medical Association.
The certification program requires students to complete 300 observation hours with a cooperating veterinary clinic. While many area clinics were willing to support the program, Parker knew she couldn’t let her students out into the wild without some basic skills.
“It can be very difficult placing an untrained student in veterinary clinic and allow them to be successful,” Parker said. “Therefore, as an experienced veterinary assistant, I saw the need to train our students in the basics of animal care prior to releasing them into their internships. This not only allows the student to have more confidence going into the experience, but local clinics are also more willing to sign up as cooperating sites in our program.”
Parker said the salon program and subsequent internships have led to an over 75 percent hire rate for students once they finish their internships.
During the school year the salon operates on Wednesdays as a simulated business with students in complete control. Staff members drop off their pets in the morning to be groomed and then pick them up at the end of the school day.
Currently the salon is open only to staff members, but Parker said they’ll be testing out a referral program in the coming weeks to open the program up to staff member families. Parker said she currently has about 10 to 15 staff members using the service, and over the past several months they have become loyal customers.
The summer program is being run by student volunteers. Students over the summer log their hours and after meeting a threshold can receive a credit on their transcript for time spent at the salon.
The summer salon is open for three more days this summer: July 18, Aug. 1 and Aug. 8. For a bath and nail trimming it is $15 for small dogs, $20 for medium sized dogs, $25 for large dogs, $30 for extra large dogs, and $20 for cats. Other single service options are available for additional fees.