2017 Year in Review: Jenna Larios, Veterinary Technician Intern

It’s time to look back on 2017! Check our blog between Christmas and New Year’s for a variety of stories and memories of 2017 from the staff and volunteers of the Wildlife Center of Virginia.

Wow, 2017 has been a year of experiences and huge changes in my life, and WCV has been a massive part of that. Starting as a vet tech extern for six weeks earlier this spring and now being back as the veterinary technician intern, I think it’s nearly impossible to pick just one memory. So, I’m just going to start from the beginning of this journey and see where this blog takes me!

I came here at the end of March 2017 as an extern, only a few months away from graduating vet tech school. I had a lot of experience with dogs and cats, but none in wildlife or exotics. I must admit the first few weeks were overwhelming. Clinically, I felt fairly comfortable. Being around a bunch of new animals, not having almost any medical history or natural history info is overwhelming enough -- being around so many individuals that were full of this knowledge was even more intimidating! But, I was ready for the challenge and new and exciting experiences. 

As an extern, my highlight was working with the Black Bears. During this time of year, we were admitting cubs, which as we all know are SO adorable. How could that not be exciting? But we also were getting ready to release the yearling bears from the year before. One second I was holding or treating a cub and the next I was with the doctors as they were darting 35-kilogram yearling bears! That side of it was heart pounding, not only to be around animals that could do serious harm but also due to the sheer speed at which we had to work. For our safety and the bear’s safety, we had to work very efficiently while the bears were sedated so we could get all the diagnostics done and move them to a new enclosure – all within about 10 minutes. Working with animals of their size was something I’d never done before and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel super cool being able to do it!

How could I forget the new skills I learned as a technician? In small animal medicine, machines run our blood work, and here I am learning to do blood work for mammals, birds, and reptiles! That’s not something most technicians can say they do on a daily basis or that they have that skill. So for me, that was one of the most valuable long-term things I learned in those six weeks!

After being at WCV as an extern, I knew coming back as an intern was an opportunity I couldn’t let pass me by. I learned so much in those six weeks, imagine what I could learn in one year.

I came back early this fall as the intern, and before I even started, I already began to learn so much! The week before I started, they were doing surgery on a snapping turtle in hopes to get a fishhook in its stomach taken out. While I was here as an extern there weren’t a lot of surgeries going on, and surgery is one of my passions. When I heard about the turtle, I decided I had to go in. That day I learned how to do turtle anesthesia! It was so cool and different. It was one the longest surgeries I have sat in on (4+ hours long) but it was so cool to see and be a part of!

Since being back I’ve learned a lot about myself -- things I’m good at and things I need to improve on. One thing I learned I enjoy doing is teaching the students that come through our doors. I remember being where so many of them are – how it felt to do something for the first time or learn something new and cool about birds and reptiles that is totally different. It’s very rewarding and humbling to be a part of so many people’s learning and new experiences.

From all the patients we have admitted this summer and fall, I have to be cliché and say that both of the new Bobcats have been my favorites.  Bobcat 17-2495 was special because she came with so many injuries, we were unsure if we were going to be able to fix her – particularly her eyesight. She had serious head trauma after she was hit by a car, and her inability to see for multiple days was scary to all of us. The day we realized she could see was nothing short of relieving! But, she still had many challenges ahead, since her femur fracture still needed to be repaired. I was so excited and honored to be the technician who monitored her throughout her surgeries. Monitoring her surgery was something I had done in many house cats, but considering the bobcat’s story, it was still very intimidating.  How many people can say they’ve done anesthesia on a bobcat? She was definitely a fighter as she has done so well since her admission date. It warms your heart to see an animal that, at one point, you were unsure was going to make it, now bouncing off the walls of her enclosure, growling at us, and enjoying life like she can now.

The cherry on top of it all was the adult bobcat 17-2688 that we admitted on Thanksgiving. I went into that day thinking we weren’t going to admit anything – we’d just do morning treatments and then head home to prepare Thanksgiving dinner. When Dr. Alexa got the call that an adult bobcat was stuck in a car grille, we all knew this Thanksgiving was going to be one for the books! Unlike the juvenile bobcat who came in so injured that she at first didn’t act like a normal bobcat, this one was the exact opposite. She was three times bigger and ten times more alert, and very intimidating! Considering her story, it was amazing her injuries weren’t more severe. This was a day to remember not only because we received an adult bobcat with an odd story, but also because we admitted her by ourselves! If this was any other day, the whole vet staff would have been playing a big part, but it was just me, Dr. Alexa, and our vet extern Sayrah. Not many things make you feel confident and capable of your job skills than a situation like that.

To think I have only spent a total of five months at WCV between my extern and internship, it blows my mind that I have already a lifetime of stories to tell. I cannot wait to see what the next eight-and-a-half months have in store for me. This experience is one that only a handful of people in the world can say they’ve had, and every day I feel lucky and proud of having this opportunity. Bring on 2018!!


Check out all of our year-in-review posts!