Improving animal health motivates new $500,000 gift to OVC Pet Trust

Donation will name new neurology suite at the Ontario Veterinary College


A deep love for animals and an appreciation of the importance of health care and innovation are what motivated Llewellyn and Susan Smith to make a $500,000 donation to OVC Pet Trust in December 2021. Named in honour of their two Wheaten Terriers, the Smiths’ gift will create the Dana – Zara Specialty Services Suite, which will be home to the Neurology Service within the OVC Health Sciences Centre (HSC).

In photo: Zara at home.

The generous donation from the Smiths met the goal and completed OVC Pet Trust’s $8.36 million project to support capital improvements of the OVC HSC’s intensive care unit and specialty service suites. Slated to open in 2022, the Dana – Zara Specialty Services Suite will include two exam rooms, a larger treatment area and dedicated space for student veterinarians. As a teaching hospital, the OVC HSC provides high-value experiential learning opportunities to Doctor of Veterinary Medicine students on their clinical rotations, as well as for residents, interns and trainees who are pursuing advanced veterinary education.



A cause close to the heart


Susan has a background in science and kinesiology and spent more than 20 years of her career working as an operating room registered nurse. She says her training in health care and the fact that dogs are part of her family make OVC Pet Trust’s cause particularly attractive.  


“OVC Pet Trust is a well-established organization, with a rich history of more than 35 years. The idea of giving back to the Ontario Veterinary College (OVC) resonates with us because it is world-renowned and animals are so close to our hearts,” she says. “OVC Pet Trust’s mission of improving life for pets aligns with our values. It was an easy decision to give back. We are especially thrilled that our gift was matched and we had the privilege of completing OVC Pet Trust’s Critical Care and Specialty Services project.”


Susan (pictured with Zara at Blue Mountain) says as a non-practicing nurse today, she values the educational material about pet health and innovative research that OVC Pet Trust highlights through storytelling in Best Friends magazine – knowledge transfer and progress are important to her and Llewellyn.  



Dogs are family


A passion for pet health runs deep for the Smiths.

Llewellyn and Susan say that they are proactive owners, and they champion the importance of caring for their dogs through diet, exercise and unconditional love, as well as regular visits to their family veterinarian.


“Our dogs are our family, and I think it’s our priority and our responsibility to make sure they’re cared for – and cared for well,” Susan advocates.


Llewellyn (pictured with Zara) grew up with animals; horses, dogs and cats have always been a part of his life. Llewellyn’s family were close friends of the late Mona Campbell, and he says he is very aware of her generous contributions to OVC, specifically in the areas of pet cancer and animal welfare and well-being.


The Smiths’ first soft-coated Wheaten Terrier, Dana (pictured) was a faithful and playful companion who always had a happy disposition and a puppy-like zest for life, Susan remembers. Her and Llewellyn were deeply devoted to giving their girl the best possible life. Sadly, Dana died at the age of seven after being diagnosed with hemangiosarcoma, a cancer of the blood vessels that affects dogs. While Dana was never treated at OVC, her family veterinarian recommended an autopsy, which was conducted at the College, and helped provide closure on the disease that took their beloved Dana’s life.


The couple was touched after their family veterinarian donated to OVC Pet Trust in memory of Dana; the Smiths now make regular donations for friends who have experienced the death of a pet and are proud to pay tribute in a meaningful way to those who are grieving the loss of a companion animal.


“When we make memorial donations to OVC Pet Trust in honour of an animal, it helps owners have closure. It is so comforting to know that someone is thinking about your loss,” Susan says.


After losing Dana, Susan says she began looking more into OVC Pet Trust. She discovered the pet loss support resources published by the Ontario Veterinary College and found them helpful and therapeutic.


Inspiring greatness


Today the Smiths share their home with Zara, a 13-year-old Wheaten, who the couple describe as a loyal and sweet girl who is always looking to please her people. The couple are fitness-minded and Zara joins in on walks and even snowshoeing activities when she can. Susan says that everywhere Llewellyn goes, Zara follows. Susan’s twin sister Mary also has a Wheaten named Zoe, who spends a great deal of time with the couple. Llewellyn and Susan agree the unconditional love that dogs give to people is why they are so passionate about giving back to animal health.

In photo: Zara at the dog park.

The professional couple also recognize the differences in funding for human healthcare versus animal healthcare; veterinary medicine depends on many sources of support from government but is also heavily dependent on support from private donations.


“The OVC is a world leader in advancing veterinary science, learning, education and improving life for animals, people and society,” Llewellyn says. “It is a premier centre with world class facilities for the care of animals. Not only that, but OVC is conducting breakthrough research and innovative work. These are the reasons why we choose to give back,” he adds.



To learn more about the expansion of OVC Health Science Centre’s critical care and specialty services visit the Building a Brighter Future for Petswebsite.  


To give back to OVC Pet Trust and support innovative discoveries that improve the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of diseases of pets, donate online today


Learn more about the work of OVC Pet Trust.