Photography by Jessica Turner

Since she was a kid, Leigh Sendra had a soft spot for needy animals. Now as an adult, Sendra has a nonprofit clinic dedicated to such animals. Sendra opened CHEW, which stands for Compassion Hope Education Wellness, Animal Clinic in January on Walnut Hill Lane. After finding success with her DFW-based Doodle Rock Rescue, she started CHEW Animal Clinic to help Dallas’ most dire pets. 

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How did you get to Dallas?

I grew up in Lincoln, Nebraska, my whole life. I went to TCU, then off to Atlanta for a couple of years and then came back to Texas in 2001, so I’ve been back in Dallas about 20 years. 

Have you always had a love for animals? 

Oh, absolutely, as a little kiddo as well. I always tried to save that bird that wasn’t flying or feeding the stray cat. I remember in college, a raccoon was hit by a car, and I drove around all night long trying to find a veterinarian to take this raccoon. Finally, I was able to get him into one vet clinic, and he had a broken jaw. I would go visit this raccoon every day. When that raccoon became healthy again, it tried to bite me, and I was like ‘Yeah OK, it’s not going to be a pet.’ I had kitty cats and birds. Whatever you could find that needed some help, I would try to help out.

Describe CHEW Animal Clinic and its services.

We offer vaccination, which is wellness. We spay and neuter. I think what sets us apart from a lot of other nonprofits is that we do diagnostics. We have the ability to do ultrasound, we have a digital X-ray, a full lab, and we can also do hospitalization.

What requirements must someone have to meet to seek services from CHEW Animal Clinic? 

Right now, we work with rescue groups that are 501(c)3s, so nonprofit status. We do have a criteria that they either fit within the military or are retired or that they’re within an income bracket that’s listed on our website. 

What made you want to start CHEW Animal Clinic?

Running a nonprofit rescue really got me to understand that there was a need in the Dallas area, specifically for spaying and neutering. What I have found is that there is such a limited resource for diagnostics, and that really is where these patients need us the most. These families just can’t afford the diagnostics. They’re surrendering due to a medical condition that they can’t afford to care for. That’s probably my biggest reason behind doing this.

Why Lake Highlands?

Regarding location, honestly, because I found a great location. It sits on almost two acres. It has a freestanding building, which I absolutely loved. The layout, I had an amazing architect who donated her time to work with the footprint. What I want to do with the acre we sit on, in the parking lot itself, is I want to do community events. I want to do adoption events with other rescues and that’s what I was looking for in a location. I don’t want to be a shopping mall because I want to have community events and not bother the neighbors. 

What goals do you have for CHEW Animal Clinic

The main goal is to have extended hours, long-term goals, to be 24 hours. 

your favorite part of working in the neighborhood?

We have a veterinarian from the Lake Highlands area. Dr. Deason is from Lake Highlands and she’s lived in here for a long time; the love that she has for Lake Highlands solidifies why we’re here in this community. She’s well-respected and loved in the community. We have had a lot of people who have come by and dropped off some things we needed. Other supplies that we’ve needed have come out of the Lake Highlands area. 

Do you have any pets of your own? 

I have a 100-something-pound pitbull ridgeback who is the cul-de-sac favorite. People are pretty intimidated by him, but he is the sweetest, kid-loving dog. Everyone loves Tucker. I’ve got a Chihuahua terrier mix, Tilly. And then through my rescue, I have an aussiedoodle, Pele.

How do you manage it all? the clinic and doodle rock rescue?

Sometimes I don’t. Volunteers help out with the rescue. I’ve been blessed with such an amazing group of volunteers with my rescue that I have been able to delegate a ton of this over to them. (It’s) not to say that I’m hands off with the rescue, but had they not been there and taken on what they’ve taken on, I couldn’t have done it. My time has been spent developing the clinic to make sure that this is successful. The only way I’m doing that is to depend on the volunteers at the rescue, and they’ve really stepped up.

Interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.