I am currently going into my second year here at UF CVM, and I have loved every minute of my time here so far! The University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine was my top-choice school, even though I attended SEC rival school the University of Georgia for my undergraduate education in Biology and International Affairs.

I grew up in Chattanooga, TN, and obviously needed a warmer climate because I kept moving south. I hope to pursue a career in shelter medicine, which is a huge change since day one of vet school, when I fully believed I would specialize in ophthalmology.

My current interests are taking care of my zoo of animals (one leopard gecko, one ball python, one Golden Retriever, two cats, and rotating foster pets), baking, running, hiking, and I just discovered stand-up paddle boarding, which may become a new obsession.

Why did you choose the online Shelter Medicine Program?

My entire life has revolved around my pets—I have been competing in dog shows with my Golden Retrievers since 1998. Being involved in purebred dog sport doesn’t exactly prime you for a career in shelter medicine—many dog exhibitors wouldn’t be caught dead owning a mixed-breed dog.

However strange it may seem, I’m against most dog breeding, and would prefer in most situations to adhere to the “adopt, don’t shop” motto. I find that there is a need for well-tempered, genetically diverse, and health-certified purebred dogs; however, there are far more magnificent animals who end up in shelters due to owner negligence or just sheer overpopulation.

I chose the online Shelter Medicine Program because I want to educate myself to the best of my ability in ways to combat pet overpopulation and reduce unnecessary euthanasia. The countless foster pets I’ve had in this past year have taught me so much about the human-animal bond, and I hope I can foster that connection in others in the future.

What surprised you most about the program?

I am only in the first class so far, but I would say what has surprised me most is how widespread the student body is. There are students in my class from all over the country, and even a few international students!

What was your favorite part of the online learning experience?

My favorite part has been viewing the other students’ projects. It’s really interesting to see their completed projects because they’re effectively experts on their little niche they’ve been assigned to. It’s like I get to learn all about these different facets of shelter medicine from an authentic, genuine perspective, but I don’t have to do all the research. It’s nice.

What has been the most useful takeaway that you have applied to your day-to-day responsibilities?

My boyfriend, friend, and I recently traveled to Honduras for the SIVO veterinary volunteer trip, and afterwards we went to Belize for three days. This was somewhat of a spur of the moment trip, and I was shocked at how poor Belize City is (clearly I didn’t do much research before going there). Because of how impoverished the country is in general, and due to a lack of legislation concerning animal welfare, there are street dogs everywhere. From what I could tell, most were intact and either pregnant or lactating, and they mostly looked malnourished and mangey.

Since we’re poor vet students, we stayed in an Airbnb home, and it turned out that our hostess is the Treasurer of the Belize City Humane Society. This organization was dissolved due to lack of organization and general corruption, and just reorganized in February. Cassy, our hostess, explained the issues they are facing and I felt there was lots of room to help them make their organization sustainable and successful with the outcome of helping the animals of Belize.

So far, I’ve been using the resources provided to me via the online class, and Dr. Spencer has been an indispensable resource in helping the Belize City Humane Society. I’ve been passing along information to the Belize City HS, and, so far, they’ve conducted one population count in the downtown area which showed that there are roughly 94 homeless pets downtown and 105 owned pets in need of sterilization. They’ve also scheduled their first spay/neuter day for this next month, and they’re meeting with the city to discuss using TNR methods instead of the current population control methods (they poison the street animals yearly). I am currently trying to arrange for a high-quality, high-volume spay/neuter specialist to come teach the local veterinarians in sterilization methods.

Overall, I do not think that I would feel so empowered to help the Belize City HS if I weren’t currently enrolled in the shelter medicine class. I felt that I had the resources available to help me help them, and so far I think it’s working!

How has furthering your shelter medicine education affected your current work?

As a student, I don’t get much of an opportunity to work (too many tests), but I will say that my shelter medicine education has influenced how I interpreted the Belize City situation. I don’t think I would have felt as compelled to help them had I not found a calling in shelter medicine.

I am also taking advantage of as many opportunities as I possibly can, and this year I am very excited to be the lead technician at the vaccinations station at the Community Cat Management Course workshop from August 10-14.

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