It’s time to look back on 2013! Check our blog between Christmas and New Year’s for a variety of stories and memories of 2013 from the staff, students, and volunteers of the Wildlife Center.
I spent five weeks at the Wildlife Center of Virginia as a vet extern last spring. I’m from Brazil, and it was my first time in the USA, first time in another country, and my first time seeing snow. I left home on a Saturday, got to Waynesboro on a Sunday and on the following Monday morning I was ready to start!
My first two days were spent with the rehab staff. I remember my first job was to go outside to see the enclosures. It was so cold, but I was so happy to be surrounded by snow! I didn’t even mind to slip and fall into it and work the rest of the day in wet pants. And that day was also when I first saw a Bald Eagle in one of the flight pens. I thought “these guys are really huge!”.
So I then started working with the vet staff. I was amazed with how much trust and responsibility I was given: examining new patients, updating paperwork, drawing up medications, anesthetizing animals, catching all kinds of raptors and much more!
For almost two weeks, I was the only vet extern at WCV, so I was given whatever patient came in. One of my first patients to examine was a baby Red Fox, one of the many species WCV gets that we don’t have in Brazil. I confess it was hard to focus on the physical exam, because the cuteness and the very experience of examining a Red Fox was so exciting. What I didn’t know back then was that I would do the same with baby bears a few days later (we also don’t have bears in Brazil).
But the experience that I tell all my vet student friends is the one that took place one night that I was on-call as the primary vet extern. Dr Rich called and asked me to go back to WCV to receive a baby cottontail rabbit that had been attacked by a cat. So another vet extern and I went there to take care of that bunny. She held it as I checked for bite wounds. When I found them, I called Dr. Rich to report it and he asked me: “Do you think that the wounds can be sutured?” I said yes, thinking he was going tell me to give the bunny some pain meds and antibiotics, and then him and I would suture the wounds together in the morning. But no. He said: “All right. Then go ahead and do that and after you’re done, get back to me.” That was the first time I was entirely responsible for that sort of treatment on a patient by myself. I got so nervous but everything went well.
Working at the WCV made me feel capable. I could finally see myself doing a good job as a vet. All the staff members were very nice and welcoming, and had lots of patience with my rough English (another thing that got so much better there). I learned so much about veterinary medicine in wildlife, and that was only one aspect of all the things I learned. I recommend the WCV to every vet student I know.
Keep checking the Wildlife Center's blog for more year-end posts this week!