Animal lovers learn about vet care at CSU’s veterinary teaching hospital open house
FORT COLLINS, Colo. — All things veterinary drew huge crowds to Colorado State University’s James L. Voss Veterinary Teaching Hospital Open House on April 22, 2017. In its 38th year, the annual event featured lectures, demonstrations, tours, children’s activities, a petting zoo and a Fort Collins Police K9 Unit presentation.
Folks of all ages who love animals learned how veterinarians care for them and about the myriad of job opportunities that are available in the diverse field. Friendly student representatives were everywhere, each eagerly espousing their future careers.
Because the free venues were held from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., there was ample time with something for everyone in attendance at CSU’s sprawling, state-of-the-art facility on Drake Road. Visitors from the northern Colorado region and beyond happily milled around dozens of table displays at which veterinary students representing particular clubs and academic specialties shared information. Elsewhere, children busily crafted animal masks, learned to milk a dairy goat, petted a horse, pony and goat kids, or donned medical scrubs to perform mock surgeries on Teddy bears.
As Jillian Klein carefully removed a fabric organ from a fuzzy, faux bruin’s incised middle, she adjusted her surgical mask and staunchly declared her plans for the future: “I’m going to be a vet when I grow up.” The 8-year-old proudly stated one of her qualifications, “I already have a dog and a bearded dragon.”
Across the aisle, the CSU Christian Veterinary Fellowship’s display drew people in with colorful posters and photos of their worthwhile endeavors. First year veterinary student Emily Reeder engaged listeners, saying, “Through mission work, we provide low-cost or free vet care in countries such as Guatemala. For the past three years, our group spent two weeks each summer there. In eight days, we treated 10,000 animals.”
Having personally participated in one of the trips when she was pre-vet, Reeder expressed enthusiasm for embarking on this year’s June mission. She noted that the majority of rural Guatemalan youngsters leave school after sixth grade. The CSU club’s visits inspire especially girls to do something with their lives in addition to the cultural norms of only housekeeping and raising children.
“If we help animals to become healthier and produce better, incomes increase and kids are free to attend school longer,” Reeder said.
A different club benefits not only animals in the U.S. but also the people who rescue them from dire situations. CSU’s Shelter Club (SCASV) is a student chapter of the Association of Shelter Veterinarians. Opportunities abound in the CSU group to tour shelters, volunteer, foster animals and attend on-campus dinner lectures by shelter vets.
Club member Janin Post is a rather non-traditional student. Already possessing a biology degree, a volunteer stint walking shelter dogs inspired the former high school teacher to change careers.
“I turned 30 and needed to reinvent myself,” Post said. “I decided to become a shelter vet; and I have just one year left.”
Down the line of displays, CSU’s Holistic Club reps touted the many benefits of herbs such as peppermint, ginger root, sassafras, lavender, chamomile, cacao and more in treating inflammation, pain and stress in many species. Club President Ashley Schwartz said that professors teach members how to perform acupuncture on their own animals at monthly meetings. Fourth year vet students have the option of taking a for-credit course in the ancient technique.
As formal tour groups meandered here and there throughout the facility, hundreds perusing on their own found animals in portable pens waiting in the breezeway area. In one enclosure, two equines showed their abiding affinity for humans … and one another.
People pressing in to feed her pelleted treats didn’t rattle snowy-white, miniature horse “Dancer,” who seemed proud of her glitter-enhanced hooves. Right next to the itty bitty mare towered 8-year-old “Dolly.” likewise not a bit unnerved by the milling, vociferous throng. Handler Lindsay Henao, a first year vet student, shared the equines’ unlikely story.
Dolly’s owner, Madelyn Melchiors (a third-year student) was concerned about Dolly’s stressed-out behavior. She acquired 13-year-old Dancer to help settle down the big, bay mare. Not only did the match work, the pair became inseparable. They stood so close together in the stall, Dancer’s back reaching just above Dolly’s knees, that the brown and white duo somewhat resembled a self-propelled Oreo cookie.
Meanwhile, back in the Diagnostic Medicine Center, lectures ranged from “So You Want to Be a Vet?” to “Backyard Barnyard Chicken and Goat Care” to caring for exotic pets and wildlife.
A slide presentation on the latter field, known as zoological medicine, featured Krystan Grant, DVM, PhD. Sometimes charming, sometimes graphic photos of racoons, mountain lions, deer, fish, reptiles and other creatures flashed across the big screen, compelling young voices in the audience to pipe up with their own experiences. Adults, too, joined in as the entire, pleasantly informal session yielding a plethora of useful data.
The crowd learned to call CSU or the Division of Wildlife if they find an injured animal or fallen fledgling bird, for example. The Wild Animal Sanctuary in Keensburg provides a safe retirement for neglected/abused animals such as bear and tiger performers in roadside attractions. The Rocky Mountain Raptor Program rehabilitates injured hawks, owls, eagles and other birds of prey before determining which can be released back into nature and which need to remain in captivity. Veterinarians play a big role in assisting all these important animal aid groups.
FISH AND EXOTICS
Grant, whose specialty is fish, listed some veterinary opportunities for those drawn more to the sea than to landlocked Colorado. Beached whales, dolphins and the like always present specialized health concerns. The big field of exotics (i.e. lizards, sugar gliders, ferrets), Grant said, includes hobbyists and pet owners who seek veterinary professionals to keep their unconventional companions well and sound. More careers abound at zoos, aquariums and alligator farms throughout the country and world. Aquaculture, an agricultural practice which combines fish and produce, has become a “big deal” over the last five years, Grant said. Veterinary jobs in the field have increased in the past two years.
As the educational day continued, it wasn’t all study and no play. Freebies such as CSU Ram bandanas, doggie bowls, candies and other goodies were everywhere for the taking. Food trucks north of the Medicine Center served hungry visitors and presenters delicious selections ranging from back-east lobster rolls to Philippine cuisine. Meanwhile, the local Wendy Woo Band serenaded lunch goers in a big tent. Cam the CSU ram was led about an adjacent area seeking photo ops with kids.
Just to the north of the eating area, each of the Fort Collins Police K-9 unit’s presentations engaged an encircling gathering of 100-plus people. On cue, one officer released a well-trained German Shepherd who attacked the protectively suited-up second officer posing as a “bad guy.” As he explained that the canine’s extensive training rather than aggression had incited the assault, the growling dog repeatedly leapt onto the suit. Unyielding teeth, snarls, and head shakes wowed the crowd. At one point, a girl about 4 years old dashed across the circle right beside the ferocious dog chewing on the suit and he never even glanced her way.
Laughter ensued as the besieged officer raised his arm high up, over and over, as if to loosen the dog’s grip. Nope. Then he casually walked around while sporting his German Shepherd dangle bracelet. Canine officer hung like a limp, but very spicy, noodle until commanded to release. Lastly, after the “bad guy” officer removed the top half of his padded clothing, the lurching dog was again turned loose. Amazingly, the suddenly-pleasant pooch sat down before him, tail wagging and then playfully interacted.
All animal lovers, especially those interested in veterinary careers, who attended the 2017 CSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital Open House received a bounty of knowledge about how to care for our fellow-creatures and co-inhabitants of the planet. It was a well-timed event as April 22 was also Earth Day. ❖
— Metzger is a freelancer from Fort Collins, Colo. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.