By popular demand…

When I was a mere babe (a ten-year-old), I began spending my summers at the hospital where I currently practice. I was tall for my age (really tall) so they had no idea how old I was (so they now say).

I worked hard—scrubbing cages, feeding patients, even reading fecal floats under the microscope (one of my favorite pastimes back then). My brother and sister? They spent their summers watching old movies (they’re both in the film industry now—go figure).

So it is that whenever a child or teen brimming with true devotion crosses my path, I make a special effort to take them under my wing. It’s also why I relish making the rounds of the Career Day circuit at grade schools and talking up my college (and my profession) with eleventh grade girls (I went to a women’s college—boys aren’t invited to my speeches).

Unfortunately, our animal hospital is not easily amenable to taking on a horde of devoted volunteers every summer (it’s small). Moreover, insurance issues now preclude the inclusion of the sub-sixteen crowd in our program.

Too bad, I think. Where might I have spent my summers instead? Would I be working here now? Might I have gone into a different field? Who knows? But with parents like mine, I believe nothing could have stopped me.

While mentorship and direct experience are indeed important to every pre-vet, there are so many other factors involved; and I like to think that parents make all the difference.

Evidence?

I remember my mother’s dedication to my cause. She’d drive me to work and back in the summers. During the school year, she’d take me to the barn and sit patiently in the car with a book while I rode my pony for an hour or two every day. In fact, she helped with every aspect of my career planning, from grade school through college.

My father (an architect) helped me with science projects, designing elaborate displays and, once, a bridge that won big at the state level (I guess I could have been an engineer after that project).

It was their involvement and determination on my behalf that earned me my career—I’m sure of it. And so, too, must today’s parents labor on behalf of their children, especially if their goals are lofty ones—like becoming a vet in our highly competitive academic environment.

My son is lucky. He gets to come to work with me one afternoon a week. He sleeps with a French bulldog cradled in his arms like a teddy bear. He has a goat in his backyard. He has a snake in his bedroom. But I also know he probably won’t be a vet. While he adores animals implicitly, his other interests will likely win out—he doesn’t exactly have a taste for surgery, for example.

And so I schedule computer programming summer school, chess camp and fencing classes instead of art workshops and soccer practice (or more time with me at the hospital).

But there’s still no getting around a mom who’s a vet. His third-grade science fair project? “Are fleas repelled by natural products like lavender, orange peel and garlic?” The outcome? I’ll report on it later. So far it looks like fleas are as lulled by lavender as our housepets, but right now I’m too busy collecting fleas from my patients to go into detail…