The closest college with a veterinary technician program was in Toronto. I sent in my application and hoped for the best. I received a letter in the mail inviting me to an interview for the program. Gosh, I didn’t know I’d have to be interviewed. Okay, that was fine. I would do whatever needed to be done.
So, another big day arrived. I went to the college on the day of my interview. I was nervous. This was my first interview for anything. Please keep in mind, I was young, naive, and as a result, idealistic. That’s just a part of late adolescence and early adulthood.
When it was my turn, I went into the room for my interview. I was surprised that the room was so large, and there were four people to conduct the interview, three men and a woman. They introduced themselves and asked me to take a seat in the chair placed in front of the long table where they sat. I was still nervous, and a little intimidated, but I calmed as the interview proceeded.
They asked a lot of questions, which I answered. All in all, it went well, until the last question they asked me. “What would you do if someone brought in a healthy puppy to be euthanized?” My mind went blank. It didn’t sound right to use the words ‘healthy’, ‘puppy’, and ‘euthanize’ in the same sentence. Why would anyone euthanize a healthy puppy?
I sat there trying to regroup my thoughts. I was trying to discern what they wanted to hear. What would be the right answer for them? And then I decided to let go of that train of thought and say what I honestly thought. I said, “I wouldn’t do it.” Their response was, “You have to. It’s a part of your job.”
I racked my brain, trying to find viable solutions to the problem they had set before me. I had to save the life of this hypothetical puppy. I would find the puppy a new home. No. I would take it home with me. No. I would try to convince the owner to keep the puppy. No.
They shot down every suggestion I made. The exchange became very heated, with raised voices and red faces. I was taught to respect my elders, so this was a difficult and awkward situation for me.
I couldn’t back down and tell them what they wanted to hear. I couldn’t agree with what I disagreed with. This felt too important to me. We were at a standstill. I had to find a way to bring this interview to a close. I looked down and thought for a second. Then I raised my head, looked at one of them, and said, “I guess there are times in your life when you have to do things you don’t want to do.”
And that released the pressure from the room. Everyone appeared to relax. The red faces drained to a normal color. The tense bodies relaxed. As I watched that happen, I knew that I had made another decision.
The interview ended. They thanked me for coming, and I thanked them for their time. Weeks later, a letter came in the mail from the college. I was sure that it was a rejection letter. To my surprise, it was a letter of acceptance into the program. I thought about it long and hard, for days. My decision remained the same. I sent a letter in reply, declining admission to the program.
Decades later, I do not regret making that decision. Fortunately, the way animals are viewed and treated has changed over time. There are more options for unwanted pets that didn’t exist before: no-kill shelters, rescues, re-homing, and fostering. It’s not perfect, but it’s a lot better than it was. Perhaps now, my hypothetical, healthy puppy would go on to live a rich and full life.
I had only applied to one school. After I declined my admission, it was too late to apply elsewhere for the fall semester. I got a job and worked through the summer, fall, and winter.
During that time, I did some soul searching. All along, I'd known what I truly wanted to do. It was stuck in the back of my mind. Finally, I found the courage to admit it to myself and others. It caused an uproar in my family. They considered it unattainable and beyond my reach. Who did I think I was? That question was meant to dissuade me. It had the opposite effect. I didn't know who I was or what I was capable of, and I needed to find out.
The application process allowed for three locations. The hope was that you would be accepted into at least one of the three. Again, I only applied to one. I waited and checked the mail every day. Then, the letter arrived. I took it into my room, closed the door, and read it. My application had been accepted by the University of Guelph. I would start in January.
The next leg of my life journey was in academia. There were times when I felt I was in over my head and wondered what I'd gotten myself into. I also learned that I was resourceful and up to the challenge. I learned how to successfully navigate an unfamiliar system. My mind was opened to new possibilities. I was exactly where I needed, and was meant, to be.
© Debra J. Bilton. All rights reserved.
At the end of my second last year of high school, I started giving serious thought to what I would do after school was finished. I didn’t know what I wanted to do. The one thing I did know was that I wanted to continue my education. I wanted and needed to learn more. I also needed to look at my options and then narrow down the field.
I went to the school guidance counselor, who convinced me to take an aptitude test to determine my interests and abilities. I took the test and waited a few weeks for the results to come back. I must have missed checking the box for sex (female) because the top recommendation was that I should become a priest. That wasn’t an option. First of all, I wasn’t Catholic. Second of all, the Catholic church doesn’t allow women to be priests, then or now. I think the next recommendations were counselor and teacher. Neither of those appealed to me at the time.
I still didn’t know what I wanted to do. No one in my family had ever gone to college or university. Post-secondary education wasn’t on the radar. So, there was no one to guide me, give me advice, or answer my questions. And this was back in the day, before computers and the internet. My access to information was limited.
So I asked myself, “What do you enjoy?” I enjoyed being with animals, so I considered becoming a veterinary technician. I wasn’t sure of what the profession entailed, so I read whatever I could find. Surgery....hmmmm. I didn’t know if I could handle assisting in surgery, or even watching it, for that matter. There was only one way to find out. I made an appointment with a local veterinarian to observe a surgery. I needed to know if I had the stomach for it, since it was a part of the job.
The big day arrived. The dog to be spayed was already anesthetized when I arrived. The veterinarian wanted to discuss a potential problem with me. He said that if I felt light-headed or nauseous during the procedure and thought I was going to faint, I needed to lean my back against the wall, bend my knees, and slide down the wall. He made it clear that he wasn’t telling me this because I was a girl. He explained that he had a guy in to observe a surgery. The guy fainted, and on his way down, hit his head on the doorknob. I agreed to follow his advice.
He proceeded with the surgery. At first, I did my best to be quiet and respectful, listening to everything he said. He would gently pull some parts out, safely of course, and explain to me what it was and what its function was. I was fascinated. Eventually, my innate curiosity got the better of me. Questions started pouring out of my mouth.
And then he said, “I need you to move your head out of the way. I can’t do surgery unless I can see what I’m doing.” I was so enthralled with peering into the incision, I was leaning over the patient. I hadn't realized my head was blocking his view. I straightened up, took a step back, and apologized. He completed the surgery, I thanked him and went on my way.
Okay, good. I could handle surgery. I wasn’t queasy about the sight of the scalpel making the incision, the blood, or the stitches being sewn into flesh. I was one step closer to my intended goal. Next, apply to a college that had a veterinary technician program.
Next post: Almost a Vet Tech - Part 2
© Debra J. Bilton. All rights reserved.