Meet Me Out on the Savannah
As a child I wanted to rescue every little critter I could find. I rescued baby birds fallen from trees, lizards caught by my own cat, and any little furry thing that would slow down long enough for me to catch it. I had several different types of pets, including several of those little turtles that swim around in the plastic bowl with the little island in the middle complete with a plastic palm tree. As much as I enjoyed helping these animals, there was also a medical fascination for me...
Just what would a baby bird eat? How fast can a rat run in grass? Why did my cat disappear for days and then two months later I was watching kittens being born?
I always knew I wanted to work with animals. I saw myself out on the savannah, studying the Big Cats! I loved the movie Born Free, which of course left me drowning in tears as a kid. With those lion cubs in mind, I headed off to college at Texas A&M University, determined to major in Wildlife Science. When I needed a job, I wound up at the lab animal and research facility of the University. I really knew very little of what went on in that facility…I only knew I was to hose dog poop and clean rat cages. Oh, and because I was in an “animal major”, I was required to take part in the Thursday euthanasia clinics where we gave peaceful endings to animals from the surrounding shelters. It wasn’t until decades later that I would step back and notice the effect this experience had on me personally.
But back to college…not long after my arrival at Texas A&M, I was startled by being shown films of wrestling alligators and other non-furry types. About that time, it also occurred to me that not many people actually get paid to hang out and watch big cats for a living. So I floundered around a while before leaving college, changing towns, and getting a job at a pet store. Fast forward a few years, and I found myself in my first veterinary practice, as an employee this time. I worked the night shift in an emergency practice. The first case I recall was a Pekingese with an eyeball popped out…wow, that was startling! I wasn’t quite ready for the drama or the hours, so several months later I headed into a day practice in a strip center with a single doctor-owner. This was where I truly learned the art of veterinary medicine, by doing every task possible in that little clinic, and watching an amazing woman become part of these furry pets’ families.
Then I learned about a new program of veterinary technology opening near town. While working at the strip-center practice, I was able to go to school part time and work full time. It was a labor of love, learning the hundreds of parasite life cycles and millions of anatomical parts of the cat. I moved to a larger general practice toward the end of those years to meet the requirements of my preceptorship. Many years in this larger practice gave me a good firm basis of being a technician, where we were utilized much to our full potential. However, after the 1000th nail clip and anal gland expression, I was open to something new. Along came an opportunity to work in a “human” hospital, teaching “human” surgeons how to do their first surgeries on animal models.
I believed in the work; I knew it was beneficial to their training and these animals were destined for euthanasia either way. I saw their sacrifice as noble, and made sure I did my part to keep them comfortable during their stay. Yet after a few years, I missed the feeling that these animals had someone waiting at home for them, someone who loved and cared for them. I missed the Heart that is companion animal medicine. So I applied for a job at the local referral hospital, and went literally from the frying pan into the fryer!
As a client services liaison in a practice of internal medicine and critical care specialists, I was thrown from an environment with no pet owners, to a practice with pathologically attached pet owners! But it was here that I would learn the immeasurable depths of the human-animal bond. I would also come to see my interest in taking care of the pets morphing into taking care of their families, and finally taking care of the veterinary practice team. Before I even realized it, I was headed toward management, where I could have a positive effect on the facility for the benefit of all!
Now, as a consultant and compassion fatigue specialist, I use what I learned as a technician and even before to relate to the teams I help. And when I go on site to a practice and pull on my scrubs to hang out with the team on the floor, my technician heart is right back where it belongs!
Welcome to my blog…I’m happy to be here!