Davy, Inspiration and Service Dog in Training

As a biomedical sciences student (BIMS), I have become active in organization that sparked my interest for a long time—Patriot Paws of Aggieland, the College Station branch of an group whose mission is “serving those who have served” by training and providing “service dogs of the highest quality at no cost to disabled American veterans and others with mobile disabilities and post-traumatic stress disorder.”

I have always wanted to join an organization that has to do with animals and, more specifically, training and raising animals for a good cause.

Patriot Paws is one of my favorite organizations because their mission appeals the most to me. However, because of my schedule and limits with transportation, I could not join the organization until my junior year of college.

In the fall, I went through the entire training for the whole semester to become a puppy raiser. And, now, here I am, qualified as a puppy raiser.

As a puppy raiser, I was partnered with two other puppy raisers, and we all share the responsibilities of housing, taking care, and building on the training foundation of that puppy.

Our first assigned service-dog-in-training is a puppy named Davy, an adorable and intelligent 3-month-old Labrador Retriever.

Currently, my partners and I are focusing mostly on Davy’s behaviors at home and playtime, as well as working on simple cues such as “sit,” “down,” “touch,” and “leave it.” He learns very quickly; I was actually able to teach him three cues in two days!

Sometimes, it is very amusing to see how he tries to fix his mistakes. Whenever he realizes that he did something wrong—often when he gets really excited—he backs up, sits down, stares at me, and then looks back and forth to see what he can do to make up for it.

It melts my heart every single time because I know he is just a baby who is constantly trying to please me.

As I have been trained, every time that happens, I immediately redirect him and give him a cue that he was supposed to do, and if he does it right, I will give him a treat.

Working with him makes me feel like a proud mom! He amazes me so much by how fast he is catching up and learning new things. We also are trying to work on his biting habit that results from his teething; he is getting better at it, which I am very happy about.

Working with other raisers and being a part of Patriot Paws have taught me so much as a pre-veterinary student.

I have become so much more organized and better at time management. I am also consistently improving my communication skills as I work with my partners and our trainer every week to make sure that Davy is getting all of the training and care that he needs.

Another thing I have seen is an increase in my confidence; thanks to the way Patriot Paws operates and the strong connection among members, I now feel so much more confidence knowing that they will always be willing to help me. Additionally, I have learned to be more patient and dedicated during this experience.

Raising and training a puppy for Patriot Paws makes me feel great, not only because it is for a great cause but it also gives me a new spark of happiness in my life.

When he is not working, Davy always has a blast playing with my roommates and me, and we also enjoy playing with him because it is very fun and helps us to destress from school work.

Patriot Paws is not only a good experience for a pre-vet student but also a person who loves animals and wants to get more involved like I did.

I am very grateful to have an opportunity to work with this amazing team and incredible dogs, and I am looking forward to learning more from the others and the dogs, as well as to see the dogs grow.

Last but not least, I am definitely looking forward to the day these amazing dogs graduate and get matched with their veterans!

Tales from My Class at the Wildlife Center

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.