As a pre-veterinary student, I am always looking for opportunities to get more hands-on experience with different animals.
At the end of last semester, I got an email from the Winnie Carter Wildlife Center announcing a two- to three-credit course for the fall 2019 semester. I immediately signed up and was very excited; I’ve been waiting for the semester to start since the beginning of summer.
The experience so far hasn’t let me down. For the past six weeks, I have learned so much from Dr. Alice Blue-McLendon, veterinary students, volunteers, and staff there. I get to work with exotic animals that I have never seen before, or do not see on a daily basis, such as lemurs, llamas, sulcata tortoises, African dwarf goats, emus, savannah cats, deer, rheas, and more.
Besides learning how to handle and work with these animals, I also get to learn a lot of gardening skills. I had never used or even touched a mower or weed-eater before, but after spending three weeks at the Wildlife Center, I can now operate them easily and change their gas and oil.
We all have an assigned pen with specific animals in it and we have to complete the tasks that are assigned weekly, including washing the water troughs, food bowls, and shelters; clearing weeds; watering and creating a compost ring around the base of the trees; eliminating ant mounds; picking up sticks; and raking feces for the compost bins or dumpsters.
But there are other activities that we students get an opportunity to observe or participate in, including helping to care for a goat. I was so lucky to be there when they took care of the goat, who had a wound, and then help out as they were cleaning it.
His sister was there, hanging around in the exam room because they are inseparable. She was very happy to get to eat Cheerios just for being there and being a good girl.
Don’t worry! We also treated her brother with a lot of Cheerios once the procedure was done. That was my very first hands-on clinical experience that I have had with animals and I am very excited for my next opportunity!
In addition, I got to witness two of our bucks rubbing off the velvet layer on their antlers. We often refer to them as our “old men.” They are such majestic creatures. I am always in awe while looking at them.
We were not allowed to touch their antlers or head because we do not want to develop a habit of rubbing their antlers against us; it could be very dangerous. Therefore, I always admire their antlers from a distance, and I love how soft and adorable they look.
However, their antlers have a completely different aura as they rub off the velvet layer; they look so “manly” right now. I am very grateful to be able to witness a phenomenon such as this!
The rhea at the Wildlife Center is the sweetest bird I have ever known or met! She loves to cuddle, just like a human.
However, she only loves to cuddle while laying, rather than standing up. You can easily signal her to come and cuddle by just sitting or kneeling down on the ground and she will approach you. She sometimes simply lays next to me and lets me pet her or she lays directly on my lap.
Just a blog is not enough to describe my amazing experience that I have had so far; I can probably write a book from it.
I am extremely grateful to Dr. Blue and everyone from the Wildlife Center for giving me this incredible opportunity and letting me be part of an amazing team that I would never have imagined that I would be a part of. I am very excited for the rest of the semester and my learning journey as a pre-veterinary student.