Jennifer Hazelwood, OD sometimes finds herself gravitating towards animals—or them to her. As the only optometrist in her township, her days are filled with prescribing contacts and providing primary eye care to patients of all ages. But still, she finds a way to keep one of her biggest passions around: her pets.
It all started when she opened her own private practice in 2008. She rented an empty building in Copley, Ohio, and built her practice, The Eye Site in Copley. As the practice grew, she found herself spending more and more time at the location. When her elderly Labrador, King, started having accidents at home, she didn’t want to put him down or leave him alone for too long. “I thought to myself, ‘I have my own practice now. I can do what I want or need to do,’” Dr. Hazelwood says. She converted one of the emptier back rooms into a “doggy daycare,” complete with a baby gate to keep King in. But it didn’t seem to keep patients out.
“Lots of patients got to know King, and kids loved him,” Dr. Hazelwood says. “Patients could often complete their eye exam or pick out glasses without having to worry about their child, because an old yellow Labrador was babysitting.”
Old King passed away in 2012 at the age of 15. Still, patients—and their now-adult children—ask about King, as recently as just a few months ago. “He’d be the oldest lab in history by now!”
She’s had two more dogs since King—a Labrador named Luna and a blind sheepadoodle named Oreo.
While she’s not a low-vision OD, she remembers a seemingly normal day in which a little girl with extremely low vision and Down Syndrome who visited the practice by chance with her parents. Dr. Hazelwood happened to bring Oreo to work that day, and the two “completely hit it off.” “It’s moments like that that I’ll remember forever,” she says.
That’s why she loves the idea of incorporating furry friends into a practice, when possible– it really only brings joy, she says. Now, the larger practice means more people and more hustle and bustle, which means there’s really only a pup there after-hours. But when a patient does get to meet up with Luna or Oreo, “it’s all positive.”
“I think animals enhance our lives in so many ways,” Dr. Hazelwood says. “I believe they make everything just a little bit better.” The pups were welcome company during the slow, early days of the pandemic, too. “I was still coming in, answering phones, ordering contacts and doing emergency visits,” Dr. Hazelwood says. “Bringing the dogs with me made my days better.”
Dr. Hazelwood—who goes by her maiden name and not her married name in practice—inspired our recent poll: “Turn and Face the Name Ch-ch-changes.” Take the poll here. Let us know if you have an idea for an upcoming poll by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Check out other pet-related WO stories here.
Learn more about Dr. Hazelwood’s practice here.