My Fall as a ‘Veteran’ Pet Trainer

Angelica F.Fall finals are done and out of the way for undergraduates!!

Yay! I survived…barely. Finals take an emotional and physical toll on just about everyone.

But looking back on this semester, I would say the fall was, overall, successful. Throughout this semester, things got a little crazy in my house with my roommate’s two pets, an 11-month-old Great Pyrenees, Toph, and a 7 year-old-cat, Moo, as well as the service dogs I’ve been training that came in and out of the house.

Back in August, I started off with a white Labrador Retriever named Pokey. He got along very well with the other pets, rough housing and keeping Toph company and even bothering, with mutual respect, of course, Moo. Training a service dog during the semester can be difficult; however, what made it harder was my replacement dog for Pokey, who returned to the headquarters of Patriot Paws of Aggieland to learn more advanced training. He may graduate as soon as spring 2018 to a veteran in need.

In his place, I received a white English Golden Retriever named Woodward (or Woody, for short) in late September. Woody was a puppy of 7 months and only knew the command for “sit.” I had a handful in trying to balance training a puppy, keeping up with academics, and continuing my active involvement in my organizations like Pre-Vet Society and as an MSC Hospitality tour guide.

All in all, having to train a service dog, or even deciding to have a pet of one’s own, is a very difficult challenge while in college. It takes a lot of responsibility and time to care for a pet and, perhaps even more so, to train one. My word of advice is to wait before you get a pet and do some research on budgeting both the time and money that will be required to invest in one. If you already have a pet, look up ways to maintain your pet’s health by exercising, training, and feeding them healthy, correctly portioned food.

Best of luck to everyone still finishing exams and have a very Merry Christmas!

Filling a Puppy-Sized Hole in my Heart

Laine and her dog Karesen
Laine, before her undergraduate graduation, and Karsen, the service dog she raised, who graduated to become a diabtic-alert companion for a woman in Arizona.

It’s funny, the things you look forward to in life as time goes on and things change. Looking forward to the break has always been a constant in my life and now that I’m nearing the midpoint of my second year in vet school, I only have two winters and one summer left to cherish—what a thought!

I’m looking forward to going home and visiting my family, of course, but I’m also excited to go back and work for the veterinary clinic I’ve been helping at since I was 16 years old. They’ve always been a second family to me and I’ve never failed to learn something from the staff there as I practice my new knowledge. It’s never really work when you’re with people you love, doing what you love.

That isn’t the only reason I’m excited to return home this winter, though!

As an undergraduate student, I raised a service dog that is now in Arizona doing diabetic alert for her forever partner. It’s been so fulfilling knowing I’ve made a difference in someone’s life, but there’s been a hole in my heart where a lovable dog once was and for the continual work that kept me ever-busy.

After watching my friends’ dogs recently, I’ve noticed this hole growing even larger. Most recently, I puppy-sat my friend’s two dogs while one of them was recovering from back surgery, performed at none other than the Texas A&M Small Animal Hospital. All the extra time I spent taking him out to the bathroom in a sling and medicating him every 12 hours made me prouder of my future profession and the magic it can do. Already he’s gaining mobility back in his hind feet and beginning to wag his tail again.

This experience has also served to remind me just how much I miss having my own dog to care for regularly. So, finally, I decided to fill this hole.

This break I will be picking up the little sister of the service dog I raised to keep as my own pet. I cannot express how I excited I am! I hope to continue working for the community through dogs by either training her for search and rescue or therapy work. I know that with my new best friend, I’ll be able to change even more lives… but I have to make it through the slipper-chewing and the potty-training first, all over again. Wish me luck!