2020 Year in Review: Dr. Karra Pierce, Interim Veterinary Director

It’s time to look back on 2020! Check our blog between Christmas and New Year’s for a variety of stories and memories of 2020 from the staff and volunteers of the Wildlife Center of Virginia.

2020 will be remembered for a lot of things, but for me, it will be remembered as a year of saying good-bye. We said goodbyes to Dr. Peach, Dr. Ernesto, and several beloved education ambassadors. These events evoked different emotions for me,  as all of these relationships were important and valuable to me in different ways. Working in wildlife medicine, you know not to get attached to your patients because their outcome isn’t always a good one. As humans, though, we want to place our attachment somewhere, so in my time at the WCV, I have placed my attachment in the staff and the education ambassadors. My year-end memory is looking back at the goodbyes I’ve had to say and the lessons I’ve learned from these good-byes. 

Dr. Peach

Dr. Peach became one of my closest confidants and best friends in Virginia and her goodbye was perhaps my saddest and my happiest. Since the day I met Dr. Peach, I knew her dream was to work for a state agency as a wildlife vet. Seeing someone you care about so deeply have their dreams come true makes it pretty hard to stay sad for long. I still missing laughing with her in our office, her telling me to be quiet, and sneaking around the Center together to hide things in people’s Christmas stockings. Since Dr. Peach has been gone, we have remained close and our friendship has continued to develop. This goodbye taught me to find the silver lining and to lean into them.

Dr. Ernesto

Dr. Ernesto leaving the WCV changed the course of my life. I have always enjoyed being a leader but wasn’t expecting to take on the role of Interim Director of Veterinary Services this year.  This goodbye was a tough one; I was saying good-bye to a friend and mentor but also stepping up into a very important position.  I learned a lot about myself, my personal goals, and my leadership style from this goodbye. 

Buttercup the Black Vulture

The passing of Buttercup took me by surprise. Every time I’d walk by Buttercup’s enclosure, he was always up at the front, trying to engage with me. I’d often hurry by, running on to the next task, but would think to myself – next time I have time, I’ll go back and spend some time with Buttercup. Buttercup’s unexpected death and unforeseen good-bye has taught me to make time in the moment for the small things and to collect little bits of joy where you can and to hold on to them. 


I remember when I first started as an intern at the WCV, noting that many of our education ambassadors were in the latter half of their life expectancy. When I first started, this worried me – there was the possibility for an incredible amount of sadness in my year ahead. As a year turned into two, and two turned into three, my thinking and feelings about these senior ambassadors shifted. I no longer became afraid to say goodbye to them but realized that, as a vet, facilitating their good-bye could be the most impactful thing I do for them in their time at the Center.

Edie is a perfect example of this. I loved Edie – she’d always find a sunbeam to perch in that illuminated her in an ethereal way. Her enclosure is dim when I walk by now, no matter how bright the sun is shining. I feel at peace knowing that she caught those sunbeams up until her very last day. Saying good-bye to Edie reminded me that while good-byes may be sad, they are an important part of my role as a veterinarian.

“Goodbyes make you think. They make you realize what you’ve had, what you’ve lost, and what you’ve taken for granted.” – Ritu Ghatourey

-- Dr. Karra, Interim Veterinary Director

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

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