Sunshine Bloggin’ It

It’s a bird, it’s a plane… it’s a new form of chain mail?

Well, I have to say thank you to the Mainepaperpusher (Linda) You should definitely check out her blog… here!

So, I didn’t know what the Sunshine Blogger Award was and with that in mind I’m going to give you a brief rundown of what it is: The Sunshine Blogger Award is given to those who are creative, positive and inspiring, while spreading sunshine to the blogging community. (Not my words, the description I got.)

So how does this work?

Well, it’s the bloggy, friendly equivalent of chain mail… which coincidentally I always ignore. So, to those whose blogs I plan to link–feel no obligation to continue the chain, I’m doing it because… well, Linda rocks!

Also note, for many of these blogs I am a silent observer so, well… sorry if you don’t recognize me! Some of them are single posts too, just certain ones I’ve read and liked. To any blogs I follow and didn’t list, or that I comment on regularly and don’t have on here, I mean no offence! I tried to include some of the blogs I less actively comment on or that I recently reread after an absence.

Basic info:

Generally you link back to your nominator.

You answer the 11 unique questions chosen by your nominator.

You nominate another 11 blogs (no tags-backs!).

You make a set of 11 questions for your nominees.

And you put up the Sunshine Blogger Logo at the top of your post and give the rules.

Now, this has been a long time coming. Mainly because I forgot about it, partially because compiling a list became a real process, and partially because I was dragging my feet on unleashing my first ever piece of “chain mail” unto the world. I have decided that it will be my one and only. So, enjoy it guys, in no particular order (if you want to go straight to my answers to the questions from Linda just go past the list)!

Dogtown–I love the simple things and hearing about peoples lives and this blog is one of my favourites for that.

D.I.Y.-ing Machine–I specifically love this post because I relate to it super strongly, but in general I love to see other people accomplishing their creative ideas and this is the place I look to for that.

jhubner73–This one is because it gave me a new Canadian artist to listen to who, honestly, didn’t scar my ears and sounds chill enough to chill me out (a tall order!).

Until Tomorrow— One of those, thank God I’m not alone, posts I read a while back.

Monahchopsis–One of my favourite places for a poetry fix.

Etcetera, Etcetera, Etcetera–For the love of photography.

Observaterry–A walk on the arty side of my love.

Tea and Bannock— This article fabulously addresses mental health, self care, and a culture of busy people, relating specifically to higher education and I love it!

Hawaii Pacific Review— A poignant poem on breaking, power, beauty, and death and the relationship between it all.

Travel 67— Some striking Geisha’s (I am unsure of some of the terms used) and fabulous photos of the moment.

Sketching Family— Another arty trip.

And an extra little something for those curious clickers…

Now for Linda’s questions:

1. What do you believe is the root of the world’s problems today?

Probably greed, and ignorance. I just hate the “I worked hard for this so I’m not going to share because you haven’t worked hard enough/gone through enough in my opinion to deserve my government-papers-that-confer-value” and the “I-think-Google-and-me-are-smarter-than-my-doctor” attitudes. I mean, don’t enable and do advocate for yourself. However, while you’re at it stop trying to tell me that you need a new sports car every year and don’t want to pay taxes when you won’t step off your pedestal and help out the less fortunate without being forced to, and stop insisting that someone with eight years of education is lying because of twenty minutes of googling. Doing away with those attitudes could help us turn a corner towards supporting all people (regardless of nationality or economic circumstance) and advancing innovation and problem solving.

2. If you could be a television star, what character would you want to be?

Hawkeye, both Dr. Benjamin Hawkeye Pierce and the Hawkeye/Clint Barton at once but in parallel universes (so, not like a Clark Kent/Superman thing where I have to change in a phone booth or anything) and you know, female versions of them.

3. Other than basic necessities, what are 3 things you would take with you as you colonize Mars?

Um, is a bag/box/storage pod of books a single item? I’m going to say yes. So, that, and since its “things” I’m going to say family doesn’t qualify, and pets don’t so… a fairy garden of earth plants, and…my favourite pocket knife.

4. What is the title of the book you would write if you were stranded on a desert island?

Lessons of Lakes and Rivers: The Mirage Reflections

5. If you were a color, what would it be, and why?

Sea glass teal–because while I’m easily understood as I am now, you’ll never completely know where I’ve been, or clearly see whats inside/who I am. I think never truly knowing a person is true of anyone but the whole not knowing me/where I’ve been isn’t because I’m trying to be cryptic or melancholy, it’s just because of the sheer number of adventures I’ve gone on completely within my own mind.

6. What food do you absolutely detest?

I hate the texture of tomato innards.

7. In the “Queen/King of the World” election, who would you vote for and why?

Ryan Reynolds, because he has a fantastic sense of humour and seems to tell it like it is. I don’t think he would take himself too seriously, and he might even get something done.

8. What is the weirdest dream you’ve ever had?

In an airport parking garage elevator with some singing superstar and her body guard (he’s between her and I and the squish is crazy tight) and she has long dangley earrings. I look over and notice she has a piece of sliced sandwich meat hooked to one of her earrings. So I’m like, “Excuse me, you have a piece of sandwich meat on your earring.” She glances over at her earring, yanks the piece of sandwich meat off and says, “Oh, that’s where it went”, and proceeds to eat it. Throughout it all her body guard doesn’t even move.

9. If you could pick an existing symbol/icon/logo to represent you, what would it be and why?

The Toblerone mountain–to remind myself and everyone who encounters me to explore more.

10. What is your favorite joke that you’ve told more than once?

Oh, cheesy as all get out but the interrupting cow one and less cheesy but also less relevant now unless you change all the names the George Bush and a teenager in a plane one.

11. What is your favorite mode of transportation, even if you’ve never experienced it?

First, horseback, but as it is typically a little too slow… Trains. Love em. Slow enough to see the sights (unless we’re talking bullet I suppose), but fast enough to get you there before your holiday is up. I also love planes, mainly because I find turbulence fun but really there’s less to see. Although, on the unexperienced list would be dragon, hypogryph, and pegasus.

Now, your mission (my eleven questions), should you choose to accept it, is difficult, harrowing even. Know there is no shame in not completing all the objectives, the only true objective is personal reflection (some of the answers here are probably awfully personal so no pressure to post all your answers):

  1. What one thing should someone know about you if they truly know you?
  2. What is one thing you regret doing?
  3. What is one thing you don’t regret doing that others might think you should?
  4. What is one thing you regret not doing?
  5. If you had to get a tattoo what would you get (feel free to draw this one or put in a picture)?
  6. What is your opinion in the debate about doctor assisted suicide/human euthanasia (controversial I know, don’t feel obligated to answer even if you are doing the questions)?
  7. Are freedom and law and order at odds with each other?
  8. If you could make up any word and it would instantly become part of the vocabulary of the world what would the word be, and what would it mean?
  9. If your life where reduced to a single haiku what would the haiku say (in your own words)?
  10. What where the first words out of your mouth after you made the biggest mistake of your life (thus far), do you think they were fair?
  11. If you knew that the love of your life (assume you believed such a thing existed), your true match, had passed away before you ever met them, would you still pursue an imperfect love with someone else?
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The Case of the Dangerous Dog

The bark is very rarely worse than the bite.

Wow guys, it’s been two weeks since my last post! The last couple of weeks have been amazing work wise, and fun during my off time, but also super busy. Regardless, I’m back!

I thought today we might talk pets! Specifically dogs, because who doesn’t love dogs. Maybe later we’ll talk about our feline companions.

As you might already know I am a vet student, which means I often deal with your pooch pals when they are feeling NQR (not quite right). I mean, yeah, I also see dogs (and puppies) coming in for vaccines or just a wellness exam but more often you bring in your dog because there’s something going wrong,

Now, I love my dogs, and much of the time I love your dogs too but… well, some dogs…

Let me be clear though, probably ninety percent of the time it is NOT your dogs fault… it’s YOURS. However, it is most often inadvertently your fault so, don’t feel too bad I guess (just bad enough to change a little bit).

I want to step back a second though. Over the last three decades much of the world has undergone massive urbanization, which leads to a disconnect between people and animals. While many people were closely involved with farms or related to people from farms one or two generations ago, today many people deal very little with what the animal industry terms production animals (cows, goats, pigs, horses to some extent etc.).

Those with family pets growing up might also know that while many farm kids have chores and learn a lot about the health of their animals, many kids with pets are not held responsible for paying attention to the pets health, eating and drinking habits, or grooming.

Together, the disconnect from farming and the low levels of responsibility given to young people for their pets means that fewer and fewer people (in the younger generations) know how to administer proper first aid, how to judge when an animal is sick enough to need a vet, how to train their pet, or even what to feed it. Even amongst the older generation there are many misconceptions with pet care because growing up the standards were different.

These are all hot topics but I’m really only going to talk about training today (in which I am not an expert, only a concerned observer). I will briefly say of the rest:

  1. Pet first aid is a thing and taking a course or asking some basic questions of the veterinary technologist at a checkup is super recommendable.
  2. On knowing if your animal is sick–if in doubt call the vet clinic and describe the problem to us–most clinics have fantastic reception staff who will quickly identify if your case requires urgent action or could be booked in for tomorrow or even next week AND if the vet is free they might even present a summary of your case to the vet and give you some free, sound advice straight from the horses mouth. Just please be friendly on the phone and go easy on us if we have to put you on hold, we are often quite busy.
  3. Finally on food, food is not love, and obesity is dangerous. There are myriads of options out there but the most important thing to do is feed the appropriate amount and keep your pet at their ideal weight, whatever you choose. If you choose a raw diet though YOU have a SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY to tell EVERYONE your dog interacts with that it is on a raw diet, especially when there are children involved (due to high risk of E. Coli, Salmonella and other pathogens possibly present in raw meat; and because dog kisses from dogs on raw diets are not welcome in any world including the veterinary world).

Now, back to the topic at hand–training. I personally hold all types of dogs to the same standard: NO JUMPING, NO GROWLING, NO BITING. I don’t care if your dog is a 90 kg mastiff or a 2 kg chihuahua, it should meet these three criteria to be what I would call a good dog. These are super basic standards, but when your pup is feeling NQR they can become more difficult for the dog to keep in mind if they aren’t well established.

Now I can hear some people already, “Oh, but Joey Chihuahua is so tiny, if he jumps up it doesn’t matter!” Here’s the problem, I have been climbed like a tree by chihuahua’s, pomeranians, and a variety of other small and toy breeds far more often than by mastiffs, german shepherds, border collies, etc. and their nails hurt like heck (nail trimming is also a pet peeve of mine).

Most people acknowledge that a large breed dog jumping up is not okay–they at least try to train them not to, and apologize profusely when they do. With the little guys though, their jumping is treated as a cute parlour trick. Not so, jumping sets a precedent. If you say yes to jumping you are saying, “My space is your space, take it!”

This creates tech/vet/student climbing tinies that try to perch on your shoulder like parrots, or jump off it like flying squirrels. Not only is this dangerous for the dog but it forces us to use increased restraint which is never as nice as being able to hold the dog loosely and calmly, and makes any procedure way more difficult than it should be.

Now for those of you who let your large breed puppies jump and say you’ll train them not too when they’re bigger and it matters, STOP. Think about it, if you want your kid not to throw food at the table do you wait until their five and their hands are big enough to throw significant amounts significant distances? I HOPE NOT!

Now, the no growling rule gets some people. Maybe your looking at me thinking, “Hey, look, he never acts on it. He’s just letting me know he’s not a fan. Plus, how do I stop him.”

If your dog is an adult this may get really difficult, and you may never totally fix it but bear with me and try, for the love of your vet okay? Your dog may never act on his growling with you but how hard do you push its patience? Techs/vets/students don’t have the luxury of saying “Oh, he growled at me as we were trying to get his pre-anaesthetic meds in, I guess we won’t do the surgery today. Lets wait until he’s in a better mood.”

Want to know the magic, no growl solution? Drive your puppy nuts, every day, all day, until he is full grown and barely blinks an eye at you. I mean pull their tail (lightly!), tug at and flip back their ears (if they are floppy and again, lightly!) and make them sit still so you can look in their ears; look at their teeth on a regular basis (lifting up their lips and shifting their head around), even scrape your nail on the surface of their teeth, brush their teeth (even if you think its stupid, it doesn’t have to be daily if you really hate doing it but try a few times a week at least), open their jaws (gently!) and look down their throat (this one takes time an patience to get them to accept it); trim their nails, play with their feet, lightly pinch their toes (lightly!); roll them over, lay them down, make them sit nicely on a scale, lift and move their feet and limbs (NEVER forcing them in any unnatural directions of course!); introduce them to new people all the time, and new environments, and new dogs (all once they have their first set of vaccinations of course); practice playing really energetically with them and then having them calm down quickly, take away and return their food mid-meal etc. Throughout all this REWARD them for every time they tolerate it/every time they succeed in getting closer to the desired behaviour.

When you do all these things make sure not to force anything, and be careful with the amount of pressure you apply. If they do growl at you, give them a firm vocal reprimand and a tap (on the nose, on the shoulder, on the paw) to refocus them (and I do mean a TAP, like you were playing a staccato note on the piano or finger painting a single dot with extreme excitement). Now rinse and repeat until your dog barely bats an eyelash when you do weird things.

Side Note: I would NEVER recommend you have young children try to train this sort of thing, as kids most often don’t know how to ensure they don’t apply TOO MUCH pressure to the dog. After you have established acceptance of some of these things though, you might be able to show your kids how to help the dog continue to grow in some areas like brushing the dogs teeth, or playing and then calming down, or sitting on the scale (with you supervising).

Alright, so your dog is being held to these standards now we come to the final and most important rule: NO BITING. First off–if your dog is a fear biter, or has been known to be aggressive LET YOUR TECH/VET KNOW!

You could even mention it while booking your appointment, it may help us choose a time for your dog to come in (maybe first thing in the morning before other clients are booked, maybe last thing in the afternoon after all the other animals are home) and it will help us to at least attempt to set up an environment that will be welcoming for your dog (we have pheromone sprays that we can use in the room, we can set up a dog bed, or maybe have his favourite treats around, or make sure he always has the same tech/vet, or even have a muzzle ready). We want you to be safe and we want to be safe.

That said, you may have done all the right things, and the vet team may have taken all possible precautions and your dog may still end up biting a veterinary team member because what can go wrong, did go wrong despite everyones best efforts. We understand this can happen even though we use every handling technique that we can to reduce the chance of this happening.

Now, to those of you who think a puppy chewing on your hand is funny… Do I need to say anything more than what I already have?

I will say there is, for sure, a difference between playful mouthing and actual biting but while some handlers may be able to make this distinction and train their dog to do one and not the other MOST PEOPLE can’t. So for most people: DON’T EVEN TRY.

Start with a strict no teeth on a person ever, rule and stick to it. Try to keep a toy handy. Have you ever seen canine unit police officers with Kongs in the side pocket of their pants, just below their guns? I have, and I would recommend it when you’re around your puppy (not the gun, the toy). If they want to chew on something, give them something to chew, just not you (and yes, I know police use toys to reward when the dog bites and get them to release sometimes, I’m not suggesting you use it in that way).

This may not prevent your dog from snapping at a veterinary team member at some point, when they are really pushed to their limit during a treatment or test but it will prevent them from learning that biting is appropriate/okay.

When your dog does snap (at you or anyone), which may or may not ever happen this requires immediate and firm correction (but also remember your dog will only connect discipline to an action for like five seconds after it has happened, so the reaction being immediate and short is important). How you correct depends on your training method, but remember reactions should always be proportional.

Adult dogs though, are a whole different kettle of fish. Established behaviours, which the animals have effectively employed to achieve a desirable result (being left alone, making a person stop doing something etc.) are very difficult to change.

Whether your dog is a puppy or an adult I would recommend obedience training, and at the first sign of aggression towards people or other dogs, or the first time it attempts to bite (and I mean a proper bite not puppy play), or when they begin to show abnormal behaviours, find and consult a professional.

You may want to take a dog to the vet and see if the behaviour is pain or disease related but if it is just bad behaviour there are certified animal behaviouralists out there (and I mean PROFESSIONALLY certified) that develop behaviour modification plans for dogs and even abnormally aggressive puppies. And again, ALWAYS inform the person your consulting of the biting/aggression issue BEFORE they start interacting with your dog.

Final word on this: I have seen more bite aggressive small dogs than I have seen bite aggressive large dogs, despite statistics that suggest large breeds are of greater concern than small breeds. I think a major factor of this may be the level of injury a single bite from a large dog versus a small dog can cause. While the 60 kg dog that was trying to bite me when I touched it’s collar earlier this week bothered me and was concerning, it was a situation a encounter less than you would expect and one that I see mainly in dogs that have lacked directed handling/training. Regardless, don’t think your chihuahua biting is any less concerning.

I’ll finish with a story: I once asked a woman if I could pet her chihuahua and when she gave the okay placed my hand, palm down a little ways from its nose to introduce myself. The dog proceeded to lunge forwards and chew up and down the side of my hand and snarl all the while.

Did the dog break through my skin? No.

Was it’s intent and desire to? Absolutely.

Do I consider it an aggressive and poorly behaved/dangerous dog? A hundred percent.

Was I hurt? No.

Was I upset? Not really.

Do I think it is just as concerning as a german shepherd or malamute or any other large breed biting me? Yes.

Was the owner laughing when it happened? Yes.

Have I seen versions of this happen more than once with small breed dogs? Yes.

I understand the owner was laughing because the dog was biting extremely unsuccessfully however, despite the chihuahua biting me being far less damaging than a large breed dog biting me, I find the behaviour equally disturbing and more often ignored. While a large dog that is known to be aggressive is almost always identified to me by the owner before I even get near it, or gives clear signals that it is going to behave aggressively near the outset of our interaction, a small dog with an extremely extensive bite history is often just mentioned to be grumpy, or a little nervous. A bite history is a bite history: whether they broke skin or not, whether the snapped and missed, whether they were “provoked” it is a BITE HISTORY.

I will never judge you for your dog being a work in progress, my dogs are works in progress until the day they die (I mean, there are always new things to teach and do with them) but I will one hundred percent not love, or even vaguely enjoy being around your dog if you are convinced it is an angel and refuse to acknowledge it has any need for additional training when it is clearly behaving poorly. AND if you laugh when your dog tries to bite me or anyone else, I will politely tell you exactly what I think of the dogs behaviour and yours, because that is not okay.

 

xx.

 

Pitbulls and Poetry

Today was tough, though by the time you read this it won’t be today. I decided to write a poem about it but one of my favourite writing sites had a short story prompt. The idea was that you would write a short story in six words that would be evocative and emotional, finishing with a word that rhymed with a given word.

I cared for a patient today that, combined with an incident earlier in the week, really disturbed me.

Naturally, I composed a reply for the prompt and posted it but I found that six words was just a bit to small for what I really wanted to say. So, I composed an extremely similar piece with a few more words/slightly different words. I thought I might share it here.

 

From the Front Lawn of Strangers

Status: FUBAR on arrival

Saturday-night-special: Birdshot smile.

Patient: pitbull, Sweetpea (Jane Doe).

Dx: PBAB

 

xx.

 

P.S. FUBAR and PBAB are common medical abbreviations, as is Dx: FUBAR means fucked up beyond all repair/recognition, PBAB means pine box at bedside, and Dx is short for diagnosis.

Walking With Death

I grew up around death. While my immediate family was relatively healthy, as the daughter of a vet I began my understanding of death at a fairly early age.

When my dad became independent, starting his own business, it meant my sister and I became little tag alongs. My dad narrowed his business to beef cattle exclusively and many of his ranchers and farmers welcomed us onto their properties with open arms.

When we were young we only went on select calls–fun ones, where there were other kids play with. I remember climbing round bales to watch the animals move from a higher vantage point and giggling with other kids.

Even selected calls aren’t sterilized for children every time though. It’s hard to know exactly what you may encounter and what might have started as a calving becomes a dead calf delivered, or a calving and a quick look at a dead cow, or a diseased animal becomes a lead treatment case and so on,

Dead things just sort of were when I was a kid.

Death never interrupted my life in a significant way and I walked beside it, without apathy, but with a deep consciousness of it as a natural part of the process of life.

As I got older calls stopped being sterilized for me, and I went onto more and more ranches and farms and saw more and more animals: healthy, sick, dead, dying. All this was normal, the healthy ones were always better though, or the ones you knew could be fixed: Calves with broken legs, calvings that just required a bit more finesse, prolapses that were caught early, twins that are tangled up with each other, abscesses, bull testing, preg-checking.

Walking beside death wasn’t entirely bad either though. It was an end to suffering for some, it was an untimely but quick solution for others, it was a gradual process of many years for others still. Altogether death was, not a friend, but a teacher and a necessity.

I knew this was not the way most people saw death. I was very aware that most people shied away from, or postponed death, some people even feared it. What I didn’t understand is why?

My great-grandmother died when I was in my late preteens or early teens (this estimate might be a little off, but there about). It was the first death I experienced that was directly connected to me.

My great-grandmother lived into her nineties (again, an estimate) and saw a lot of life. She was under relatively low care up until the last couple of years of her life, and I remember having tea with her, and her baking all sorts of goodies for us.

She was a sturdy woman who (in most of my memories) possessed a stooped back, eyes that saw very little, a good nature, and a smile. Her hands were knarled from knitting, crocheting, and who knows what else over the years. I remember her very fondly.

I remember her funeral as well. I remember sitting there, wondering if this was truly a moment to be sad? My great-grandmother was a faithful woman who trusted God would take her home. It seemed to me that she lived well until her final days, and suffered for a very short period of time (not that she didn’t have some health concerns prior but she had remained a relatively active woman for her age). I honestly couldn’t conjure up a tear, or a particular emotion that seemed to line up with what I knew I was supposed to feel.

Does that seem callus?

I loved her, but each person, each animal, each spirit in this world has a limited time to be with us. Great-grandma had lived long and well and I accepted that almost immediately, all the while knowing that it was odd I did.

So life went on. A friend of my moms, who lived too far away for me to feel the fallout, passed away from stomach cancer which metastasized. We saw her previous to her death, she had to spit in a cup because swallowing was painful and was lacking her stomach and a large portion of intestine (if I remember correctly). You could see her bones through her skin when I remember it. She was a doctor.

Her kids had been friends with my sister and I. I remember the couple of days (maybe it was a week) that we spent during our holidays with them. She had seemed so tired. I was too young to really keep in contact with her kids (I mean, maybe it was even previous to my great-grandma dieing, my timeline isn’t great), but I sometimes wonder how they felt about things. This may sound terrible, but was it a bit of a relief?

I suppose for me, having walked with death year after year, I see prolonged suffering and I wonder when a compassionate death will finally come. It’s not my mother though and I would never down play the pain this event must have caused for these kids. I was just on the outside looking in.

Then, in high school, at seventeen my spirit died. Odd phrasing yes, but my horse Smokey was… he was my first horse, maybe I’ll post about him another time. Let me just say, he was my lifeline through middle school and high school. I rode for hours, every day, no matter the weather. Smokey was the reason I got out of bed some days, and the reason I bothered to care other days.

Smokey was almost the same age as me when he died. Just after my birthday and just before his (we were only days apart) Smokey dropped out of my life. We had a final ride that… talking about it to a friend recently (six years after the fact) still made me tear up. He passed suddenly, most likely of massive multiple organ failure (I just didn’t have the heart to approve an autopsy to find out).

I cried about it the morning I found him. When a piece of you just breaks off it’s hard to know what to do, but the next day walking past his body (under a tarp), out to the fire that burned for three days to allow us to unthaw the ground enough to bury him on property, I knew he wasn’t there anymore. Even the morning I found him he was cold, and though his body looked little different from normal there was nothing of my old friend left there.

Three days later, most around me would say it seemed like nothing had happened. Today though, writing this, I have tears in my eyes because I still love him but, I have no regret. I am happy he went fast, I wouldn’t have been able to watch him suffer. I count his swift death a great blessing.

My moms dog passed a few years later while I was in Australia.

This Christmas (during my time off from school) my dog, a beautiful twelve year old (approximately) border collie, after slowing down significantly over the summer, seizured. I came out to see her struggling, flailing to get up, drool dripping from her jowls. Up until that point her quality of life had been good, but I couldn’t justify waiting things out over night to see if there was improvement. I could see.

My darling dog was done, she was ready to go. I gave the go ahead and my dad called a vet friend (he chooses not to euthanize small animals). I held my pup while we waited and she calmed down in my arms. I held off her vein for her injection and stroked her head while her heartbeat faded.

She’s beside Smokey, on the back hill and now I’m really crying.

She was ready though, and that’s what mattered. Two months later my seventeen year old cat, still healthy and happy, passed in her sleep. So now all three of them lie together.

Recently, my walk with death has obviously become much more personal and our encounters much more intimate. This week though, I faced one of the most difficult encounters I’ve ever had with death, and it wasn’t because the death was abrupt, or unnecessary. It was because the death was so necessary that it broke my heart.

A dog was brought in, we’ll call him Love. Love was in bad shape, and as animal care professionals my colleagues, boss, and I tried to provide the best care possible.

It became clear that Love was on borrowed time: his paws were cool to the touch, he was devoid of colour in his tongue and gums, and he strained for every breath.

As the vet had the dreaded conversation with the owner, who kept suggesting/asking: “He’s going to be all right though… right?” I held Love as he flailed his paws about and heaved in laboured breaths. I cooed to him, and told him what a good boy he was and finally the decision was made and I helped move Love to where he would say his goodbyes.

For Love though… I can’t imagine how painful these moments were.

In a culture where humans prolong life as a matter of course, we see this in the treatment of our animals as well. I went home very angry after this encounter because I couldn’t imagine leaving things to that point and I called my dad. We talked for a long time.

The fact is though, I can’t be angry with people who haven’t walked the path I have, for not accepting this. We live in a world were death is so sterilized and separate from most peoples every day lives that it is impossible to blame them for being shocked when it becomes the only option. I just wish there was a way to normalize death without people becoming apathetic towards it. So that we all could recognize when to start preparing ourselves and find a healthy way, and a good time to let go so that it minimizes the suffering of the one saying the final goodbye.

I smiled thinking about my great-grandmother today (I wish you could hear her voice in your head saying all her funny little quotes), and I didn’t cry because she had really hilarious things to say, and because she went when it was her time.

I cried when I wrote about Smokey, I cried when I wrote about my dog Niki, and reflected on my cat Angel’s passing. One went too soon, one went too traumatically, and one went peacefully.

I cried hardest for Love though because Love was so far past ready to go but, Love’s people were not ready to let him go.  And that’s not their fault. And I can’t be angry. Yet I feel his pain acutely and he will weigh on my mind as I move towards being a vet.

He will be a part of every end of life discussion I have, not as an example but as the picture in my mind that drives me to provide the best palliative care I possibly can.

Maybe Love will teach us all an important lesson, in letting go, in quality of life, and in dealing with death.

 

xx.

Slow Small Steps

Last weekend I had my first thunderstorm in my summer city. Naturally I went out for a walk, because all cities are the quietest when it rains it seems (or at least in this part of the world). The evening was fresh, beautiful, and, as anticipated, quiet. This left me to think and wander at my leisure with no disturbances despite the fact that it wasn’t raining terribly hard. Being a country girl I revelled in the time to myself in a busy place but I also settled into a Saturday night melancholy. This lead to a poem sorting itself out in my head which I titled Slow Small Steps. Now, this is rather rough, and I haven’t done revisions but I thought I’d share!

Slow Small Steps

 

I set off down a road I hadn’t seen before

until I found a path I’d never walked.

Down the path I wandered

’till I came upon the water,

and thereupon the green, green grass of home.

 

Here amongst the willows

and the tall strong trees of childhood

I rest my head upon the rain wet roots.

And I wonder at the sky,

which upon my cheeks does cry

 

is it lonely for the silence

that no one breaks to comfort?

That no one dares to walk to with a smile.

Does it weep for lovers lost

Or simply for the forest?

 

Again I walk back home

with more questions

and a poem,

but no more answers

than before I left.

 

But a sense of quiet solace,

with the cloudy sky above us

draws me closer to the earth

as others huddle in their homes,

and a solitary dog huffs as I pass.

 

xx.

Nearly Nomad

“The thing about chaos, is that while it disturbs us, it too, forces our hearts to roar, in a way we secretly find magnificent.”  -Christopher Poindexter

Hey y’all! So, update on my summer thus far: I finished my first week of work for the summer. It went well. To be totally honest I don’t think I have ever worked in a more functional workplace. The communication is great, the people are cool and kind, and the animals are amazing. I’ll probably talk more about this later in the summer but today I have other thoughts on my mind.

I would call myself nearly nomadic. For the last three, going on four years, I have spent eight months of the year moving between two locations: my university city and my hometown. The other four months I am… where ever the pasture is greenest, and by pasture I mean job prospects. 

I haven’t spent two summers in the same place in at least three years, and haven’t lived at home for the summer since I was sixteen. To solidify my nomadic tendencies in your minds I might add that I have taken my horse everywhere with me for the last four years, until I sold her this Christmas. I am already looking forward to the next animal that will travel with me (most likely a dog, but maybe another horse, or both).

Even this summer, I am living in a different city than the one I am working in, and so my nomadic-y continues. Today I’ve been thinking about this, as I put out a call on Facebook for church recommendations in my summer city. Looking back on the week I see many instances where my roving lifestyle is apparent—using my roommates library card (because I don’t have one here), having to ask what my other roommate meant when she said “The Park”, discovering new food places, or struggling to mentally place where my coworkers are from when they give small town names to me.

Today I was telling my roommates about something I call “The Tramp Effect”. In “Lady and the Tramp” (yes the Disney movie) there is this scene where Tramp is wandering through the city looking through windows at happy families. The Tramp Effect produces a longing for that love and the community that family (biological or chosen) provides, while you simultaneously appreciate and desire the freedom being outside the window affords. As a young nomad I often feel this effect acutely.

The trouble is I exist in no place consistently enough to feel part of a community typically. Part of this is because I form relationships very slowly and typically maintain most people at arms length with very few close friends, I’m not sure if this personal distance is something I do subconsciously or something other people do to me for whatever reason. In general though, I often feel as though I am looking through a window. Those I would consider close friends/family are scattered very diffusely across my country, and a few are on other parts of the globe. I adore these people, this network of family, who I can count on should I ever turn up in their orbits.

Each move presents a difficulty though, or I suppose a choice—do I find friends in this new place, or do I just work, do me, do whatever, and not worry about it. If I find friends I might feel wanted, I might find a community, and I might love it; on the other hand, if I do me and form a few acquaintances but nothing exciting or deep, I may be lonely but I will also do many things, maybe adventurous things, because I feel the freedom to move about as I want.

This strange no ties type living, I can only say, is not bad or good. Roving simply is. Some days I find it liberating to be able to take detours, to be able to disappear and do what I want without having to think about other people, and other days a part of me questions why people don’t want to love me, or maybe what I’m doing that’s preventing them from loving me.

I guess what it comes down to is that community is important, but during your life you may have seasons (sometimes seasons that last years) of solitary roving, with those you love rotating in and out of your vicinity. I am in a season of wandering, I have been for a long time, and as I search for a new church community that I know I will leave again in a matter of months I once again sit like a Tramp outside a window loving my freedom but wondering when I will be the one inside the house.

With all this in mind I went searching for some words on wandering, so please, enjoy the fruits of my Googling.

 

xx.

 

“I was forced to wander,

having no one,

forced by my nature to

keep wandering because

wandering was the only

thing that I believe in,

and the only thing that believed in me.”

       Roman Payne

 

“Wander at will, day after day,

wander away, wandering still

—soul that canst soar! Body

may slumber: body shall

cumber soul—flight no more.”

       Robert Browning

Self Over-Educated

Hey guys, want to know how big of a nerd I am? Well let’s talk about my summer plans in list format!

 

The adventures I currently have planned are:

I bought “Scales, Chords, and Arpeggios for the Piano” and a three-in-one theory book to improve my musical foundation and plan to play from it for thirty minutes a day (feel free to bug me about this on any post I put up between now and August, maybe then I’ll feel guilty enough to actually keep up with it).

My roomie for the summer and I made a bet which is resulting in an art competition between us, winner gets two boxes of their favorite cereal or two coffees of their choice based on my other roomies judgment.

I have planned out my reading, separated into fiction and non-fiction, and scheduled it week by week with morning and evening timeslots. It’s library time!

I’ll be doing one sketch each morning or at least working on one (again, feel free to harass me about them/ask to see them).

I’m going through all my notes from my major classes last year (starting with the courses worth the most credits first) and compiling them into a single, personal, integrated “textbook”. Also, I am creating a basic cheat sheet for the start of each of my binders.

I am travelling for two weeks in July.

I have two weddings to go to this summer (possibly three).

My roomie and I are going to visit a corpse flower that is blooming in the local botanical garden. (Woohoo! Incredibly large flower that is so stinky it was named after rotting flesh!) Hopefully this is going to occur at midnight, but we’ll see.

One word: Bananagrams. Millions and millions of games of bananagrams.

I found two of the coolest fibre stores in the area I’m living for the summer! One even gets its own dye lots that aren’t available anywhere else (there’s this one that is just… drool). And they both carry roving!

I bought some gorgeous wool to weave a wall hanging with… yep.

I get to work! So excited (and I bought scrubs! The best scrubs ever, they’re so great).

 

Adventures currently in the works:

Trying to see if the local P.D. will allow me to observe their military working dog training or take me on a ride along with one of their canine units.

Trying to see if I can get a private tour of the national MWD training center (which is a couple hours away).

I am hoping to sign up for a beginner, one day fibre dying course.

Folk festival maybe, I don’t even know if this city has one…

I might do a bit of painting, or a series of detailed portraits of my family (black and white with one colour element).

 

Adventures being considered in a general sense:

I want to do some hiking, not quite sure where yet.

I am thinking of a couple of small road trips.

I am thinking about trying to swim a couple of days a week again, since I’ve gotten out of the habit.

A figure drawing class… I’m just going to leave that at that.

 

Yep, I am high on the nerd scale. Most of what I’m planning is moderately educational and totally devoid of risk. I’m a little bit Bilbo Baggins, when really I wish I was more Pippin, and Mary (or Aragorn, but then we’re not staying on the hobbit theme). That said, which of these would you like to see a post about most? Do you have big plans for your summer? Any suggestions for things I’m missing in my summer?

 

xx.

A Strong Voice

Quick recap—I applied to vet med last year and got an interview last May, my previous post Shaking Hands talks about the preparation I did for the interview if you haven’t already read that part, Final Destinations talks about my first year in vet med and what it was like to get accepted. The interview itself was in the first week of May and my interviewers were a small animal ophthalmologist, a production animal ethologist, and a private practice vet who had had a multitude of roles over the years.

If your looking for the most interesting tidbits and the questions that nearly made me scream in public skim down towards the end, there’s some fun stuff in there. So, that’s a fair warning that this is long right?

I arrived twenty minutes early, checked in with the administration office. Where I sat and waited there were many magazines from the professional associations (both national and regional). I read through the ethics and education sections of the most recent while I waited (which actually was very helpful during the interview). I was invited into the room right on time and offered water, and coffee or tea too I think (I took a water incase my mouth went dry). I shook hands and was introduced/introduced myself before being asked to sit down. I almost wanted to apologize for my clammy hands (I ended up keeping it to myself because it would draw attention to my nervousness and I was sure they already knew I was nervous).

I’m going to touch on the questions that stood out to me in the interview (and my answers) in just a second but wanted to remind you that this is the gist of it, not word for word (unless I say otherwise). Also I won’t be mentioning every question as I can’t remember all of them.

So, starting with my general feelings: I folded my hands in my lap where they trembled almost continuously, and despite occasionally raising them to rest on the table (tightly clamped together to prevent the shaking) I was able to quell my fidgety tendencies. I had practiced this (albeit always one on one) three times after all.

I was asked after introductions (they talked about their backgrounds) if I had any questions before we started. I turned to the ethologist and said, “I’m really sorry but I can’t say I really understand what an ethologist is?” He explained very nicely and we moved on.

By about five minutes in I felt as though we were just having a nice group chat (with me as the topic of conversation, which is weird). I did get cut off by another question during my responses at times (typically it was a follow up to something I had just said but occasionally it was shifting to a new topic). Overall, the time flew by.

My interviewers let me know which part of my application they would each be asking about ahead of time if I remember right—the private practice vet was asking about my leadership, hobbies, and current events; the ethologist was asking about my animal experience; and the ophthalmologist was asking about ethics and professional conduct I believe.

Now the interesting part, the standout questions (in approximately the order they were asked and in order by interviewer as listed above):

What type of leadership roles have you had over the last couple of years?

-I have worked at camps as a wrangler and lifeguard, both of which require you to take charge of groups of children from the ages of 6-18 while also making sure they have fun. I also lead rides at these camps where I was in an active teaching role and also was responsible for safety, incidence response and reporting, skills testing, and general planning for what we were doing on each ride.

I was prompted for more recent participation in leadership (I had been back to the camps more recently but not for long periods, and they wanted to know what I did during the school year that involved leadership).

-I know it’s not what you’re looking for but I have to admit I am one of the set painters of the world. I’m not always drawn to spotlight, leadership positions and really prefer to be behind the scenes. That said, if a leader comes to me with a job I’m happy to help out! Last year I played board games and lead a book club with retired monks and nuns in an old folks home—which is more down my alley.

What are some of your extra-curriculars?

-I love horseback riding during the summers (and would/did all year round but I can’t afford board for my horse at university), and am a real reader. I also enjoy art and writing during the school year. I like animal training, although since I started university that’s been on the backburner. I enjoy a variety of sports non-competitively. (There was other stuff but it’s not leaping to mind right at the moment).

Current events were brought up as well, although I can’t remember the exact question. We chatted about some major forest fires occurring in the area, a recent murder (another murder was brought up in regards to the court case and I had to admit it wasn’t a story I was familiar with) and a regional chain restaurant that had started preferentially using imported beef because they had changed their certification standards for humane production (which created a huge outcry because very few farms in my country had that particular certification, but still were treating their animals within the standards). The restaurant issue will come up again later.

That’s all I can really remember distinctly from the private vet—I do remember she seemed unsatisfied by my answer on leadership until I used the set painter analogy at which I remember a few nods and indistinct agreements/smiles. There was also a follow up on my mention of sports that I think was just about what sports in specific and whether I was on a team at the moment. The ethologist asked me a bit about riding and my horses as a follow up to my interests, and that’s where we’re going to pick up.

You mentioned that you guessed calling your horse a filly wasn’t really appropriate anymore when you said she was five years old and corrected yourself to call her a mare? How are you making that distinction?

-It’s a bit dubious in horses when to make the distinction. In cattle it is based on whether the animal has ever had a calf before, which makes it really easy. The trouble with horses is that many are never bred. So, it would be like calling a seven year old, never bred bovine a heifer to call a five or six year old female horse a filly. It’s definitely a true statement, but it is a bit misleading when you leave the actual age out of it. I would classify my horse as a mare and not a filly because, while she has never been bred, she is fully sexually mature and has stopped growing for the most part (other than in width), and in horse shows she would be shown in a mare class.

What vaccinations do you use for your horses?

-I vaccinate my horses for strangles, western and eastern encephalitis, rhinopneumonitis, tetanus, West-Nile virus, and I believe rabies (I’m not entirely sure if it is in my combination vaccine or not). I tend to vaccinate more rather than less as my horse travels anywhere I go, which includes camps where the herd size can range up to eighty animals and there’s a high number of people coming in and out.

You mentioned you were following the story regarding beef sourcing for _________ restaurant?

-Yeah, the most recent developments have been encouraging. The company has really been backing away from this new type of certification in favour of finding a way to establish which local ranchers meet their requirements. I think it’s also great that the public has become so aware of this and is really standing with our local ranchers. I also saw a statement from the company saying that they would prefer to use local beef regardless, and would love to find enough ranches to meet their supply needs.

What vaccines did you use for feedlot cattle, and what did you use for the cow-calf operation? (Just a little background: I have worked at both a ~5000 head feedlot and on a cow-calf ranch with ~1200 head.)

-They all get blackleg (either added to the 7-way making it an 8-way, or alone); a 3-way for BVD, IBR, and PI3; and a 7-way for clostridials. They might also get tetanus (particularly on the feedlot, and I believe it is sometimes added to the 7-way). The biggest difference between the feedlot and cow calf is that the feedlot was generally adding hormone implants while the cow-calf producer may or may not. Both places also put in ear tags or temple tags (another type of ear tag) when we process—for identification—at the feedlot though, even already tagged animals had their old tags removed and new ones put in so that they could be registered in the computer system and identified the right way for the pen they would be put in (radio identification tags were left in though). We also branded at both places, but less frequently at the feedlot.

What implants were you using?

-Um, mainly the Revlor series and the Ralgro series, depending on what the buyer wanted.

What do you mean by series?

-There’s different types for different ages and sizes of animals, so like Revlor-S versus Revlor-G. Saying it out loud I’m actually not sure if Revlor is the one that comes in S and G or if it’s Ralgro, but same idea. Some of them are numbered (like Revlor-1000 or whatever).

You mentioned your dad has specialized his practice for beef cattle, does he have a PhD or a board certification in that are?

-No, I suppose specialized would be the wrong term. He has narrowed the focus of his practice to that area, and takes all his continuing education in the area.

He asked me a few more questions about my dad’s practice (whether it was ambulatory or if he had a physical clinic location, which vet college he went to, when he graduated, really just curiosity questions). This is basically all of what I remember from the ethologist, so we’ll move on to the ophthalmologist. This is where I really had to put a lid on myself as I have some very passionate feelings on some things.

I don’t remember being specifically asked about the professional governing bodies although I vaguely remember talking about the roles of the regional and national bodies at some point, possibly to clarify something for another question.

This one is ALMOST word for word: So, I’m really mainly small animal and I don’t really know about cattle production, why would I want my beef to be hormone treated?

Okay, before I put my answer let me say, AHHHHG! This question nearly drove me up the wall. Well not the question but the set up—for a veterinarian (small animal or not) to try to convince me that they don’t understand hormone treatments… I mean either you think I’m stupid, or you honestly need to educate yourself a bit more (I mean I know its not your area of specialty but at least have a passing awareness of it)! Alright, got that off my chest. My answer here and in the next question, especially the last part of the follow up question, is pretty much word for word because I had just been reading up on this topic the week previous to my interview.

-Well, the main hormone in most of these implants is estrogen, we administer it under the skin in the ear and it is in like, tiny slow release tablets. These can be administered from very young ages and all the way through life at certain intervals. By administering these hormones we are able to achieve faster growth, a larger amount of beef in lbs/animal, and better feed conversion. Ultimately this means less food and water is needed to produce more beef, which is far more environmentally friendly. Better feed conversion means less gas production, and less time per animal spent in a feedlot before they reach slaughter weight. Altogether, with increasing populations hormone implants are the only way to produce beef sustainably enough to keep up with demand and not wreck the environment.

But won’t those hormones be bad for me? (My answer here, especially the last part is pretty much word for word because I had just been reading up on this topic over the last week)

-While some estrogen may be excreted into the environment and run off from feedlot site, improved feedlot management and waste management makes this pretty inconsequential. As for the beef you eat impacting your hormone levels because the animal was hormone treated, you would pretty much have to eat the cows ear right after implantation to get any significant amounts of estrogen. All of the implants have withdrawal times before slaughter meaning they are out of the animals system before it becomes your steak. From a more technical perspective though, a 75 g serving of beef from a hormone implant free animal contains approximately 1.1 ng of estrogen in it, while a 75 g serving from a hormone implant treated animal has approximately 1.9 ng. Which is different, but when you consider a birth control pill contains 20 000-50 000 ng and 75 g of cabbage contains 2 025 ng things may come into a little more perspective. Hormone implants in beef certainly aren’t going to change your hormone levels, I mean even an adult man produces 136 000 ng of estrogen a day.

The answers above resulted in a moment or two of silence. Oh, and sorry for the lecture.

What was one of the most interesting cases you encountered when you worked with vets?

-There was one case I saw where an older, unspayed female dog came in with a uterus full of puss, gosh what’s it called (interviewer provided: a pyometria). Yeah! That’s it. Anyways, it of course resulted in one of the messiest spays ever. That was pretty cool. Oh, and I saw an abdominal exploratory in a pit bull puppy that revealed a dog tag style necklace that was starting to involute a part of his gut, and an incredible amount of tangling. It was even funnier though because he was initially brought in because his owner thought he’d eaten a brand new pair of lacy underwear.

What type of practice do you see yourself working in?

-I want to start in mixed and keep my options open, but imagine I’ll do more large than small if I had my way.

Can you give me an example of an animal rights organization versus an animal welfare organization and tell me the difference?

-Well PETA would be animal rights, and the SPCA would be considered more animal welfare. PETA believes that animals should have the same rights as people, but typically has a high number of urban supporters who don’t understand animal behaviour or production animal systems and standards, while the SPCA is more focused on humane standards of care and humane methods for administering care.

It sounds like you’re not a big fan of PETA? (the ethologist)

-I think that PETA supporters want what they think is the best for animals but, often get overzealous in trying to achieve it.

Now, generally interviewers are encouraged not to voice their thoughts on an interviewees responses but the ethologist really liked this one and said something along the lines of, “That’s a very nice way of putting it, I don’t think I’ve heard it explained like that before.”

So, what do you think a veterinarian gets paid starting out?

-Well, the national average is in the low $80 000 range to my knowledge but as a new grad I wouldn’t expect more than $65 000-$70 000 per year.

Alright, so these last two questions from this interviewer just annoyed the heck out of me. I almost lost a bit of my cool over the first one, not because I’m ultra feminist but because you could easily ask the question without any mention of gender and it would still be a valid question (work/life balance is a major issue in veterinary medicine in general) but, she felt the need to gender it because…? Also, both are given nearly word for word. Anyways, onwards because wow is this getting long!

As a woman how do you anticipate dealing with the challenges of work/life balance?

-I imagine much like a man.

Okay brief pause, because I actually did let that dangle for a few seconds before I realized I probably should expand on it.

– I mean, I had a dad who was a vet, and there were definitely times when my mom was frustrated with his long hours, or where he was less than pleasant to be around because he had to go out to three calvings between midnight and five in the morning. As a child in that sort of dynamic though I always knew that my dad was there for me. There were busy seasons where that was less true but I never felt less loved. I also think by being in a veterinary household I know better than most what boundaries I want to set on my time personally, and also I understand that I will have seasons where I have to just suck it up. Besides that, at this point in my life I’m not in a relationship that takes up my time, and I’m not very keen on having kids, so I imagine I will have fewer demands on my time than many people do.

You mention in your essay that this is the lifestyle you want for yourself, not just the career and you say that you anticipate being “bit, kicked, bruised, and ocassionally bloodied”. You want that?

Okay… again, this is right up there on the list of stupid question set-ups. Sure ask me why I mentioned that, but to ask me if I WANT that? Do you think I’m a masochist? Seriously, whaaaat are you thinking? (Honestly, the ethologist gave her a weird look about this one too.)

-Um, I certainly didn’t mean that I want those things but in the profession, no matter how careful you are, accidents happen. I mean, you often end up dealing with animals under extreme stress or that are extremely scared or both (and they often outweigh you by more than 10x) and while I would always take the greatest precaution there are times when either something just has to happen now and that means you have to take a calculated risk to make it happen or Murphy’s Law kicks in and what can go wrong, does go wrong despite your best efforts. When that stuff happens, because of the field of work, it means you can get hurt, sometimes very hurt. That’s part of the job, understanding the risk and doing your job despite it.

At the end I was asked again if I had any questions, I think I did ask one or two. Then I was offered a cookie, “or two if you want! It seems like all the students today have been too nervous to take them, that or they’re all on diets.” I took two, and it was a very good day.

I joked with my dad later that it either went really well or really poorly because it felt like a very casual conversation most of the time. So, either they assessed within the first few minutes it was a lost cause and decided to just have a nice chat, or I was just really relaxed (that worried me too though, maybe I was to casual about it myself). Obviously it all turned out well though and I am proud that I could “stand” with a strong voice despite my shaking hands!

xx.

P.S. These last two posts have been a little adventure to show you guys a snapshot of the vet med interview process. I hope it was fun for you, I enjoyed writing it, but let me know if you liked it or what your weirdest ever interview question was! However, for those of you thinking this isn’t your cup of tea don’t worry! I’m not going to be talking this much about vet med again for a while, summer fun from now on.

Shaking Hands

I interviewed to get into the college of veterinary medicine in May of 2015. I applied after two years of undergrad, I interviewed once, and I was accepted (for more on this pop over to my previous post—Final Destinations). So, what is said here is based on my own personal experience and only one interview. That said, I think some of this info could be applied to other programs (in some ways).

I thought, as it is basically the anniversary of my interview I would tell you guys what I found out, both while preparing for the interview and during the interview. I’m breaking this into two pieces (one on Monday and one on Tuesday) because it turned out rather long. The first will be on preparation and the second on the actual interview.

The school I applied to does a panel interview (with three interviewers: a practicing veterinarian (mixed or small animal), a specialist from the college (or the dean etc.), and an industry spokesperson/ agriculture professor/large animal vet). Many, if not all of the questions will be college specific (so don’t rely on my info alone to inform you about your college of choice) and some interviewers have favourite questions that they use frequently. A number of veterinary programs are now using the multiple mini interview format used in medical school interviews, I hear.

This is the first big part of applying! Know the colleges you want to apply to inside and out. Know the due dates for different aspects of your application, know how they calculate averages, and what criteria they use to choose interview candidates. Further, know what they are looking for in the interviews, how they score candidates, and how much the interview is weighted compared to your grades and application essay/resume. I’m going to focus most of this article on the prep for the interview and the interview itself but, what I listed above is how you get the interview in the first place (if you guys like this, and want to see more info on this aspect let me know)!

For preparation for the interview I personally chose not to do the student run mock interviews provided by the Pre-vet club at my university. In fact, I wasn’t part of the club at all. This is in part due to my unique connection to the veterinary industry through my dad (a vet) which allows me to “jump the queue” and get to know a lot of vets on a first name basis and see and participate in many areas most students can’t. The other part of me not being in the club was… well frankly I’m not big on clubs of any sort. One of the first things I did was seek out agriculture professors who I knew had helped with interviewing previous years.

I made a meeting with one particular professor, and asked similar questions of two different vets who had been on the interview committee before. I spent some time asking basic questions, I’m only giving the gist of their answers since I obviously don’t remember them word for word:

What sort of dress were you looking for?

-Professional but not over the top dressy generally. Don’t wear jeans but a fancy dress might not be the best either, as there may be some doubt whether you would be the sort to actually get your hands dirty.

What did you notice first about applicants?

-Some would sit down without shaking hands and introducing themselves, or being invited to sit. It might have just been a nerves thing but it didn’t look great. Also, your hands can shake but try to breath and keep your demeanor steady, friendly, and open. Dealing with people is a huge part of the job and they want people who are already pretty good at this.

What was the biggest mistake you saw during interviews?

-A lot of students didn’t have an awareness of themselves, which meant they forgot to breath, fidgeted without thinking, didn’t make eye contact, or sometimes rambled instead of answering questions directly. Try not to talk with your hands overmuch, as well, for girls mainly—don’t touch or twirl your hair, for everyone—don’t bite your lips or tap the table or the chair arms etc. The students who could relax were far more successful communicators and far less likely to exhibit fidgety behaviours. By far this is where most students could improve, be mindful of yourself.

How is the interview structured?

-Each interviewer has a line of questioning that they are expected to pursue but may jump in after your initial answer to another interviewer. Also expect to be/know you will likely be cut off during some of your answers if you are a person who gives really in depth replies. The time may seem like forever for you but, often it is hard to get through everything we want to ask with talkative students. That’s not bad, just don’t feel weird if you get cut off. Also, try to make your answers succinct.

Then I brought out the big guns: What can you tell me about the interview questions?

-There’s a pretty standard set of question types:

You will 100% be asked the difference between animal rights and animal welfare.

You’ll probably get one on leadership, what it looks like, and how you have participated in it throughout your life.

There will be an ethics question in most cases, and they may also ask you to define what a professional is or professionalism in general.

You may be asked a question about who your role models are (and they’re not looking for clichés).

It is likely you will be asked about the governance of the profession and the structure of the governing bodies as well as what their roles are.

Current events will be brought up, particularly stories involving the pet or agricultural industries but also the general human-interest stories.

You’ll likely be asked what you expect to get paid as a veterinarian.

Euthanasia generally comes up at some point.

Other questions will likely pertain to your personal areas of experience and interest as the interviewers are given the students files days ahead of time so they can review them and ask relevant questions.

The vets also asked me some of the types of questions they would normally ask a student applying. At the end I asked each vet to score me on a scale to five as to where they would’ve placed me (as in the interview all questions are scored on this basis, with notes from the interviewer) and how I could improve. While one of the vets gave me a 4-4.5, the other scored me only a 3. I will note that between the two vets there was definitely two very different personalities, they were from two different clinics, and they were of different genders.

When I asked about improving the vet who gave me a 4-4.5 told me I may benefit from making my answers a bit more succinct and that I needed to brush up on my understanding of roles of the governing bodies of the profession and current events but that he would change very little overall. The vet who gave me a 3 suggested that I needed to try harder to answer the question specifically and succinctly. She also told me not to overstep the boundaries of my knowledge and to brush up on a couple of things regarding my personal experience areas.

I presented myself for all my “mock interviews” as I planned to dress for the interview and asked each person whether there was anything about my attire they would change. Universally I was reminded to shine up my cowboy boots the day of, but otherwise was fine in my dress pants and blouse, with no makeup on whatsoever.

So, that was my preparation! Hope it was interesting. Let me know in the comments whether you’ve done similar prep for interviews and whether you found this interesting. I know it is very vet-y.

 

xx.