I am continually amazed by the advances made in veterinary medicine in the last 20 years. I don’t really remember any of my friends having pets when I was growing up. But we always had cats. I’m embarrassed to say that Nittany had 2 litters of kittens before we finally got her spayed. It was most-likely that lack of preventive care that led to the mammary tumors which claimed her later in life. It was this same cat that brought me to Ellwood City late on a Friday night and, ironically, face to face with my future employer.
Earlier that day, my mother had dusted the cat with Hartz flea powder. Today I cringe at the mere mention of the word “Hartz”. I’ve seen more flea-infested kittens in a Hartz-induced seizure than I care to remember. But back in the day, we didn’t know any better. A cat’s natural instinct is to groom itself, and groom she did. Shortly thereafter, the hypersalivation began. We had no idea what to do. So my mom called the only local vet that was open after hours. “Bring the cat right over,” she said. So we boxed up Nitty Kitty and drove her to Ellwood City to a little hole-in-the-wall clinic at the end of town.
I have only vague memories of the veterinarian, but she gently plucked the cat from her cardboard carrier, took one look at her, and put her in the sink. She gingerly yet thoroughly bathed the cat, getting rid of all traces of the toxic powder. I still can’t believe Nit tolerated a bath, but she always was a good girl. The vet towel-dried the cat, put her back in the box, and sent us on our way. I don’t even remember if she charged my mother anything.
Years later, I would interview with that same vet for a receptionist position. She asked if I had an opinion about holistic care. I had never had any exposure to alternative care, so I had no opinion one way or the other. Thus was the beginning of my journey into the world of veterinary medicine. Over the next 10 years I would learn the ins and outs of preventive care, diagnostics, medication therapies, and alternative treatments. I may have started out as just a receptionist, but when I left that clinic 11 years later, I was also cross-trained to perform technician duties like animal restraint, lab procedures, and medication preparation. I also learned to do many administrative tasks.
15 years ago, pets with cancer had little or no options. If my childhood pet were diagnosed with those mammary tumors today, treatment options may include chemotherapy, radiation, acupuncture, and nutritional therapy, just to name a few. Because pets are such an important part of our lives and are treated like family, it is only appropriate that they have the same level of healthcare options. While I may not be a pioneer on the veterinary phamaceutical front or adopting human tests and treatments like MRIs and CT scans, stem cell therapy, and ACL surgery for use in pets, I am still an integral part of the veterinary industry. Every time I schedule an appointment for a sick pet, explain to an owner how to use a product, or learn about a new prescription food, I am helping to further my knowledge and help pet owners make more-informed decisions about their pet’s care. And for that I am proud.