Sharon Hayes, animal nurse

11 Sep

Sharon Hayes: “I like walking round the streets.”

Everyone has a story, so meet animal lover Sharon Hayes doing the perfect job. Interview by Nicola Baird.

Sharon Hayes gives a huge Cheshire-cat grin and looks around happily at the place where she works as an animal auxiliary nurse at abbeyVET on Blackstock Road.There are bags of Science Plan pet food piled up along two walls, orchids thriving by the bay window and a stash of pet magazines for anyone waiting to see the vet.

Another wall is covered in ads for lost and found animals.

It’s 2pm, a quiet time of day – morning surgery and operations are all over – but all the staff are waiting for an injured cat that a lady has rung to say has had an unfortunate collision with a car.

“Animals are very quick to heal they really astound you,” says Sharon, hopeful for the RTA*.

For 20 years Sharon was a clerical officer in the DSS* until she was offered a way out – redundancy. “I saw an opportunity to become master of my own destiny,” she says, grinning again. “I could get out of the rat race, pay off my mortgage and do something which I particularly enjoyed.” That’s how she came to work as an animal auxillary nurse at abbeyVET, which has two branches in Islington, at Cross Street and Blackstock Road, where she works.

Working with animals is a dream job for many, but Sharon reckons: “It’s even better than I expected. It is really popular, it’s quite hard just trying to become a volunteer even – the RSPCA* is turning people away. Eventually I’d like to train to be a veterinary nurse, but that’s two years of study. I’ve been here three and a half years – after a trial day to see how I reacted and to check that I wasn’t squeamish.  I still answer the phone and take appointments, but my office environment before was quite formal, there were lots of rules and regulations. We were behind screens in case people wanted to attack you! It’s not like that at a vets. It’s more like a circle of friends. We’re on first name terms with people; we say hello when we pass in the street, some of our clients will pop in to have a cup of tea. It’s nice and friendly. It’s a good place to work if you like people.”

And a good place to work if you like cats – which seem to be Finsbury Park’s most popular pet. Sharon has two at home, Bailey and Sophie. “They are rescue cats from a local animal rescuer. I said I’d foster them and somehow they wrapped me around their fingers so they are still with me. Sophie gives me a bath every morning – she sits on my chest, gives me a massage with her paws, and then licks my face until I can’t take it anymore. And Bailey, well, he has a face only a mother could love,” she says – admitting that her cats have their own Facebook page.

When I ask about the claw marks on her wrists, Sharon looks surprised, then laughs. “You do get a lot of scratches. It would be hard to hold a cat in gloves, as you’d need really thick fireman’s gloves. We spray Feliway, a synthetic pheromone, to calm the cats down. But I normally find the biggest dogs are the most compliant.”

So what do you need to work with animals? “You have to have compassion and nurturing skills, and lots of empathy. It is sad when an animal has to be put to sleep. We try to make it as peaceful and calm as possible. I ask clients if they’d like us to play classical music when we’re putting their pet to sleep. And when the bodies are being sent to the crematorium I sometimes put in a little flower.”

This is partly why the staff have flowers growing in the back garden and there are a splendid array of orchids out the front. Sharon found the purple spotted one at Hampton Court Palace flower show, and the others were a car boot sale bargain.

“I don’t have a favourite animal,” she claims when I ask her what she hopes will be brought in when the entrance buzzer sounds. “We treat all different types of wildlife and domestic animals – chickens, parrots, budgerigars, gerbils, hamsters, rabbits and dogs. Oh yes and cats.”

There’s something about Sharon’s joy with her job that’s very hopeful, especially for anyone who has ever had to deal with a big change like redundancy.


  • RTA – road traffic accident. In 2006, see, PetPlan insurer found that 230,000 cats were run over each year.
  • DSS – the Department of Social Security was big between 1988-2001,see here. It is now a defunct government deparment, many of its roles were taken on by the Department of Work and Pensions. Out of habit people still use the term DSS and in the UK most of us just about know what it means. People who worked for the DSS were civil servants.
  • RSPCA – animal charity, for info about volunteering see here.

Over to you
What do you think of this wonderful woman? By the way, if you’d like to feature on this blog, or make a suggestion about anyone who grew up, lives or works in Islington please let me know. Thank you. And yes, this blog is inspired by Spitalfields Life written by the Gentle Author.


4 Responses to “Sharon Hayes, animal nurse”

  1. Nicolette September 11, 2012 at 1:14 pm #

    Another great piece, and well done, Sharon. I love this blog.
    Perhaps I can ask Sharon a question – I once went in to Abbey Vets on the day her predecessor said he was planning to propose to his girlfriend that evening. My daughters remember this conversation, and we have wondered ever since what happened. Do you know if she said yes?

    • Roley September 12, 2012 at 9:31 am #

      Hi nicolette, my name is Roley the chap you spoke to nearly 2 years ago at abbeyvet. I still work there, She did say yes after a meal and her parents dropping massive hints! we got married at waltham abbey on 10th October 2010. we had our reception for 250 guests at the Marriot Waltham abbey, It was a fairytale day! We are now expecting our 1st child due date November 6th.

      • homemadekids September 12, 2012 at 9:37 am #

        Hi Roley – what a lovely addition for the gossip jigsaw. I’m so happy Nicolette and family have such a long memory – brilliant your girlfriend said yes that day, and very exciting news about your baby. Good luck! Nicola

  2. Nicolette Jones September 12, 2012 at 9:47 am #

    I am glad to hear you are still there, Roley, though we are now petless. My daughters will be delighted to hear this fairytale ending. Many congratulations! And very best wishes to you and your wife.

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