What is the most dangerous situation you have been in working with large animals?
The one time I had to TB test a bull and he was very mean, but I had to get in the pen with him and the people was holding onto the bull by a chain through the nose. But he couldn’t hold on. So I got over the gate faster than I ever thought I could! If you have a dairy herd and have bulls in the herd, those are the most dangerous animals. I am a stranger, I work with the female cows, and I smell like blood. So I have three strikes against me in those situations.
What types of animals do you find most difficult to treat?
It has nothing to do with the type of animal. It’s usually the animal that has not been socialised. They’re scared more than anything else. But as long as I can get my hands on them and calm them down, everything is fine. As far as dangerous animals, I was working with a rodeo animal…Those animals are taught to get rid of anything on their backs or on front of them. And they are very good at that. So when you’re working with an animal like that, you have to be very careful. But when you’re dealing with small animals, the scared ones are the toughest.
You’re clearly not squeamish about much, but what was your most awkward animal experience?
I was practicing many years ago and a guy brought in a dog who he said was trying to have pups. And she had a patch of maggots on her back, which was a little bit much. But I bit the bullet, got them cleaned up, and the dog had a bunch of healthy pups.
If you had not become a vet, what other career would you have pursued?
I always wanted to work with animals, and since I grew up on a dairy farm, I probably would’ve gone into that.
Do you have any advice for an aspiring veterinarian?
Keep your grades up, that’s the first thing. Get everything that you need to do to enter college. And then do not apply to just one school. Have an open mind and try to get into wherever you want to or can get in. Start shadowing vets. We have a lot of students come here, (high school, vet techs, etc.). They come here to shadow us. It’s important to get your hours in with a veterinarian.
What is the most exotic disease you’ve ever encountered in one of your patients? Have you ever had to deal with a quarantine situation?
TB is a disease that almost was eradicated except for the deer in Michigan. It is still in the northeast part of the Lower Peninsula. The entire state of Michigan had to be quarantined. We could not ship cattle to other states. This was within the last 10 years. The TB had gone from deer to cows. We’ve been doing a lot of testing in this area and it is now nearly under control. In the Netherlands, when I was in college, we still had outbreaks of foot and mouth disease, which is one of the very bad viral diseases we need to watch out for in the United States.
Does it affect you when you have to make the decision that an animal has to be humanely put to sleep?
Yes. And it’s a decision that I cannot make. The owner has to do it. I am not god and I will not tell them when they have to put an animal down. So ultimately the decision is with them, but if it must be done I do it as humanely as possible.
Do you have any pets of your own?
Oh yes. One is the big Great Dane. We also have a Newfoundlander and three cats. They all live happily in the same house. They all get along fine. The Himalayan cat is in one of the commercials.
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