Group volunteer opportunity for vet tech students

Since 2009, a select group of veterinary technology students from Madison Area Technical College in Wisconsin have taken a service trip during their winter and spring breaks. They’ve visited organizations in Arkansas and Florida to help animals, but this year they traveled to Kanab, Utah, to volunteer their talents at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, while learning valuable lessons.

Veterinary technology students perform service to animals

The vet tech group from Madison Area Technical College“All throughout our program, we require that students perform service to animals in the community,” says Dr. Clarissa Sheldon, the school’s program director. “My goal is for the veterinary technicians to carry that on throughout their lives and realize what kind of potential there is to do good in this world.”

Students work with homeless animals throughout the semester, first assisting with spay/neuter surgeries, then aiding with animals’ medical needs. Not surprisingly, those lucky cats and dogs at the school get plenty of loving as well. In fact, they get so much socialization, the pets are often adopted before the end of the semester. The students also visit the local shelter, assisting with tasks such as trimming nails and cleaning ears. Many also help with the Dane County Friends of Ferals trap/neuter/return (TNR) program.

But their trip to Best Friends was a unique opportunity to assist animals 1,500 miles away from home as part of the Learning Experience.

Volunteering with the animals

Dr. Clarissa asked Nicole Latus to be the student leader for their 2013 winter break trip. She also asked if Nicole had a place in mind to visit. Without hesitation, Nicole answered that Best Friends was her first choice. The Sanctuary was on her bucket list and a lot of other students’ as well. Once people could sign up, the 11 student spots filled within days.

They got right to work when they arrived, helping to care for the rabbits, participating in a shy dog socialization class, helping with puppy training, and attending presentations on puppy mills, TNR, and breed-discriminatory legislation. Of all the experiences, their time at Cat World provided lasting lessons.

Vet tech student Elycia Degenhardt with Darla the puppy at Best Friends Animal SanctuaryWorking with the cats

Time at Quincy House, where special-needs cats live, left a special impression on student leader Nicole — especially when she met Tiny Tim. He doesn’t have the use of his back legs, but does that slow him down? No way!

“We took him outside, and I don’t think he even knew he didn’t have (use of) his back legs,” says Nicole. “He just sped all around the sand and through the rocks and bushes. He had a blast out there.”

And Elycia Degenhardt instantly hit it off with Spud. It was only after she bonded with the cat that she learned he had anesthetic complications, which caused some neurological damage and blindness. “It’s going to be my job to run anesthetic,” says Elycia. “That just really struck me. It reminded me how serious my job is.”

All the students loved the experience, which is music to Dr. Clarissa’s ears.

“The best thing we can do is educate the people coming after us,” says Dr. Clarissa, who feels the trip inspired the students to help animals even more. “It’s energized them; it’s excited them to come back and work with our own local humane society.”

Learn more about volunteering at Best Friends.

Learn more about volunteering as a group at Best Friends

Photos courtesy of Dr. Clarissa Sheldon and Elycia Degenhardt