Part of the fun of being aboard a huge ship with a crew of your colleagues (as I was last week) is the inevitability of meeting someone whose interests and ambitions intersect with your own.

Among my new cohorts was a dual-boarded veterinary specialist in internal medicine and veterinary critical care (talk about an over-achiever!).

Though I’m not fit to lick her shoes—especially when it comes to the level of medical competency it takes to be Dr. Rita Hanel—I successfully held her attention throughout an animated conversation on the merits of our non-paying veterinary sideline careers.

Dr. Hanel’s thing? K-9 Down.

K-9 Down is a not-for-profit service-dog oriented program that teaches cops, paramedics and military personnel how to care for their dogs in a life-threatening emergency—before vets and their fancy equipment can attend to their typically traumatic injuries.

Far from the obligatory basics on how to stop bleeding and how to conduct CPR, this program actually goes well beyond skills as advanced starting IVs, placing endotracheal tubes and administering complex drug cocktails.

It’s a crash course in high-tech emergency vet medicine—from placing chest tubes (hard for me) to getting catheters inside bones when veins won’t do (something I’ve never had sufficient enough cause or equipment to learn).

The weekend program is offered in several cities, mostly on the eastern seaboard, but feel free to ask for a course in your neck of the woods. Your local emergency response militia might just get lucky if it’s interested in gaining ER competency at this atmospheric level.

I mean, this is big stuff! And this is what Dr. Hanel does on a daily basis. Forget Emergency Vets. This cool chick works as a criticalist at North Carolina State University where her patients have almost immediate access to board-certified specialists of all denominations—In addition to her own ridiculous skills.

So you know, there are perhaps a handful of veterinarians so trained in the US and they’re all rock stars in their professional spheres. They have more letters after their names than in my alphabet soup. And they’re as clinically competent as you could ever hope for should your pet experience a life and death emergency.

No, I’m not saying my ambition rivals Rita’s. I don’t think I’ll ever match her academic drive, for example (though I know mine ain’t so shabby). And God knows I’ll never beat her at poker. But she and I do have a few things in common: We both love goats and Frenchies…and one day we both plan on living la vida local on a farm at our own Bed and Breakfasts. In Costa Rica, maybe?

In the meantime, I’m just in awe of her. And after my hefty loss to her stellar poker face, I’m officially calling for a rematch…at the Scrabble table. Just try to beat me, Rita. At least you can’t touch my skills there...I think.