Put your wellies on

I often recognise that animals provide us with the key to unlock our front door on the days the all-consuming demoralising cloud of depression would leave us feeling trapped. Our four-legged companions can remove the barrier of fog in our minds, and lead us to the great outdoors.
Animals are my therapy.

Many of the benefits of animal therapy stem from the healing powers of being outside.

The outdoors are also my therapy.

So, what do I gain from the outdoors?

1. GRATITUDE

I cannot measure the profound feeling I experience when hiking in the Swiss mountains. Instead of attempting to quantify my success and productivity, I wholeheartedly appreciate the little things in life when enchanted by nature. The things that are free of charge from sunrise to sunrise. 

We are surrounded by it, and is not a fleeting time period of our life. It’s an escape, a refuge, a safe haven. Imagine nature as the secure foundation of our lives, strip back everything else, and you can continue to experience gratitude for being alive.

2. MINDFULNESS

img_2555-3

When the extra things in life can feel overwhelming, the basic foundations of nature ground us. You can simply “be”, surrounded by sights that make you grateful for the life you live. Stop and be captivated, there is no experience likewise. 

Mindfulness involves the other 4 senses too. Allow yourself to touch, taste, hear, smell, and see the natural environments without judgement.

Slow down. Switch off of your inner critic. Sense the wonders of life.

3. STRESS RELIEF

img_7012-1

Nature provides an easy escape from the academic rat race. The change of scenery from four walls and a pile of revision, to picturesque open spaces is an immense stress reliever.

The outdoors offer a chance to gain practical skills, to add another string to your bow whilst learning outdoors. Sequentially, this reduces the stake and mental intensity of textbook learning. 

4. EXPLORATION

Whilst others are being sheep, be the goat that takes the mountain sides.

Whether the outdoor offers you increased spontaneity is in the form of taking your muddy dog on a new route, or hiking in the sweltering heat abroad, always be a goat.

It is easy to be tempted to go off track, to explore new areas, to meet new people. 

Why is the outdoors therapy to you?

Moat Goats, 28.12.17-2.1.18

“We will open the book. Its pages are blank. We are going to put words on them ourselves. The book is called Opportunity and its first chapter is New Year’s Day.”

My final chapter of 2017 was spent in New Moat, Wales. 200 goats, 2 dogs, and a wonderful crazy goat family with a new arrival.

You can read my detailed daily blogs of kidding here.

I returned for a week in July before seeing local large animal practice then flying to Finland.

img_6503

A dream


Seeing the new year in with Fred was a dream!

Rather than intensely research the handful of ailments I saw to, like my other Moat Goat blogs, I wanted to share a few of my happiest moments during my stay and an insight into staying away for work experience.

The first time I stayed away from home was in February. I was seeing practice in the Lake District and certainly did not anticipate the challenge of breaking out of the hotel reception at 4.30am. Backpack strategically placed, I frantically jumped up using the tip of my fingers to budge the top bolt of the grand entrance door.

Due to the long hours of lambing, I stayed just over an hour away so I could be out on the quad at 6am. I vividly remember being outside in the pet lamb pen until 11pm due to the viscous colostrum and lamb-sized diameter stomach tube.

That brings me to kidding time at Moat Goats, I instantly felt at home. Hot chocolates and murder documentaries in the midst of 2am kiddings and bottle baby care. I was eager to return before heading off to Finland!

6 weeks in Finland… life changing.

Feeling oh-so-professional taking trains down to Somerset to have a good nights sleep in my luxury king sized bed, I enjoyed my first goat conference.

I believe that brings me to my most recent trip. The quote “always plan for the fact that no plan ever goes according to plan” is appropriate.

Coffee coffee coffee

After the final stretch of my journey being majorly postponed due to a cancelled train, I sipped my Starbucks latte and bitterly wondered why I had been up since 3.30am. A switch flicked and I appreciated the warmth, my coffee, the fact that I would get there in the end and that no transport system is perfect. Everything and everyone has flaws.

It was that moment that I heard the announcement for a postponed train direct to my final destination. If I ran to the platform I would make it. I would then arrive at the farm earlier than scheduled with my original plan.

Nothing in life is free, and I forked out £65.00 on this 4 hour train. It was my third and final train, it was the best option because time with the goats is priceless.

Shout out to Costa and Starbucks.

img_6024-1.jpg

There is no smell like foot rot


Following my recent vet practice posts, I will start with the health aspect of working on a goat farm.

Boer goats are renowned in the goaty world for their poorly adapted hooves for the weather in the UK. We caught some of the does to trim their hooves. If only goats saw trimming as a pain-relieving manicure to solve all of their hoof troubles! One goat head-butted my head torch into my nose, sadly I cannot speak goat to explain that I am trying to assist her. Cuddles and food help.

Successfully nursing and treating two goats with Listeriosis was hugely rewarding. Listeria monocytogenes cross the blood-brain barrier and often cause encephalitis. Therefore one of the major symptoms was head pressing, which is disturbing to see along with the body spasms and foaming of the mouth. Every animal deserves a chance, and this is why I keep coming back to work on the farm. One goat’s severe neurological symptoms subsided with the antibiotic treatment. Over the course of a few days I saw her partly paralysed to trotting around like a healthy happy doe. 10pm ventures to the shed to inject a bucking goat will be memorable.

On my first day, I noticed a doeling with a clouded eye. I assumed that she had peculiarly developed partial blindness, perhaps due to a fight or accident as goats can always find trouble.

This was an unknown eye problem so we rushed her to the vets. The vet used a fluorescent diagnostic dye to identify areas of trauma to the cornea. Ulcerative keratitis is the veterinary term for a corneal ulcer. He then used an eye drop that contained a local anaesthetic before gently rubbing the eyeball to encourage neovascularisation. I held the doeling still whilst the vet skilfully injected antibiotics into the eyelid.

img_6154

All of these goats are recovering well and their care was part of the daily schedule. Injection times ranged from 7am to 10pm, catching and restraining a grown doe to inject sub-cutaneously was a proud moment.

Happy days


Some of the best moments were running around a field in wellies with the two hyperactive dogs. Gyppy the Border Collie slept next to me, and every morning started with a long walk. We were in Fitbit competition, that definitely helped.

The phrase “cling like a limpet” was new to me, I had never heard the word limpet before. One day we drove to the coast to go on a limpet hunt on the beach. The dogs enjoyed swimming and catching sticks. I took my first limpet shell home with me.

Once the evening jobs were done, I would snuggle up on the sofa with Gyppy and Mossy!

Goats are characters, doing the morning and evening jobs doesn’t feel like work. One of the doelings screams like a banshee for her breakfast the moment she hears a slight gate creak. William, Rug, Roger, and Bertie were eager to give me bruises to take home by jumping on my back in pure excitement. It was amazing to see how the individual kids had developed, Fred was always my favourite. The little dot has grown into a solid meat goat, who needs a gym membership in the new year when you can be lifting a chunky goat?

It won’t be long until 200 kids are due. Kidding for an extended weekend in March will be my next placement, introducing new life into the world will help with Fred’s fate. It is typical to fall in love with the wethers!

Until then, if you would like to read about my experience kidding in 2017 then I have linked the individual blog posts below.

Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

Day 4

Day 5

Day 6

Day 7

Day 8

Day 9

Day 10

Steph and I got our kid fix at Church Hillbilly. The 2 month old kids had the confidence to jump on our backs! Flashback to May.

The week old kids sweetly skipped around their pen or curled underneath the hay rack. I squealed a few times. It was lovely to visit Debbi and Dave’s Boer goat farm and to cuddle the tiny goats. I am ready for 2018 kidding!

“I always believe that the sky is the beginning of the limit”

So my advice would be to push yourself out of your comfort zone, get on a train or even a plane. This is coming from someone too anxious to leave my house for several months in 2015. There are no restraints or boundaries to opportunities when there is a whole world to explore. I have not only gained invaluable hands-on experience and taken on a lot of responsibilities, I have made friends for life. I will always go back to Moat Goats for placements, they are my goaty family! I learn things from the very high standard of animal welfare and wealth of knowledge that I cannot learn from a textbook. All whilst making great memories and enjoying myself.

I hope you have enjoyed a less clinical blog post and seen the memories that can be made whilst on work experience. If this inspires just one person to take an extra bus to volunteer at an unusual sanctuary, or to take a break from studying and book a week’s placement abroad!

Hetta Huskies

Originally, my intention was to systematically blog my entire time in Finland, I kept a diary. That blog post would progressively become a book.
So whilst there are further husky medical blogs in the works, here is a summarising post as a taster of what is to come on Mammals and Microscopes… watch this space!

‘Lessons from a Finnish Husky Farm’

I am a true believer of everything happening for a reason.

After working on a Boer goat farm for a few months, I was offered the opportunity of a lifetime to travel to Finland for work. 6 weeks in a wilderness area within the Arctic circle, for a husky guide internship. Whilst friends and family exuded envy, envisioning a husky holiday, I was busy chipping away at my 10,000 word application form.

Lesson 1: Always know what you are signing up for

‘As former endurance athletes, we believe that the hardest things in life bring the most rewards and that life is far too soft, nowadays, for the young generation. We believe in creating an atmosphere in which satisfaction comes from having done a job well, irrespective of notice or praise.’

Accustomed to apologising when someone accidentally steps on my foot, I had to prepare myself for the Finnish working culture. Having worked away, lambing outdoors from 6am-9pm for 7 consecutive days, my biggest fear was travelling solo, especially the transfers. So I took 2 trains to Pembrokeshire, to the Moat Goat family, to work for a week (and see my little Fred of course).

Lesson 2: Enjoy the journey

17th July 2017.

Over 24 hours, 2 flights, and 3 transfers later, I saw the HUSKY sign and anxiously walked towards the farm, lugging my suitcase behind.

Functioning on a few hours of sleep at the airport, I was put straight to work on my arrival at 5pm. 200m walk from the farm house, were the cages and circles, home to 200 huskies. As 6 weeks is a relatively short stay to be a guide, the huge task of learning 200 names began that instance.

The ‘lean pathway’ was the exact course we had to take on circles to feed the dogs, winding between the chains to ensure no dogs were missed out during the bi-daily routines. Add carrying two full water canisters, or two buckets full of dry food and offal meat blocks, that is a challenge. A challenge I was eager to set a ‘newbie’ record for.

Aleu, Nakat, Peanuts, Arun, Aslan, Dole, Doffen, Teasers, and Hickory… in my first evening I knew a considerable number of dog names with the corresponding positions.

Lesson 3: Work hard, play hard

After a week, I could identify most of the 200 dogs as work for me did not stop at 9pm. Each night, my studying consisted of memorising the daily feeding plans for each dog (skinny +/skinny/big/small/fat/special) and to know the specific quantities. Feeding timescales did not account for reading off information on a piece of paper; knowing requirements like the back of your hand made the evening jobs far more efficient. Simba did not like dry food, so he got 3 meat blocks each day and 1 cup of dry food; Sausage the oldie had turmeric and psyllium in his small dog quantity food. Imagine the chaos when 3 litters of puppies arrived.

The dreaded combination in the evening was being allocated food preparation, sick dog area feeding (lots of running inside and outside, as the dogs had to be fed on travel chains), before going down to the farm to feed cages…  all after a day of work. I would do 30,000 steps on these days.  Even then, going on a hike post-work or canoeing to the campfire were still enjoyable- there is no stopping husky guides!

Lesson 4: Make difficult tasks into fun challenges/personal goals

“It’s 20% physical strength and 80% mental strength’’. Red faced, slamming down the mallet on the cleaver, cutting 6 meat blocks into a few hundred equal chunks. It took every bit of strength for most of the guides, nonetheless each time I used a stopwatch to create a new record, and I soon hit the timeline. Although it was a dreaded chore, stronger guides could take longer as it largely depended on determination.

Lesson 5: Language barriers are a challenge but they also create comedy

Lorin perfectly stated, “When a campervan or tourist bus arrives, I hope they are French.”

This meant the farm tour would be allocated to the native French speakers; there would be a sigh of relief in the farm house.

My first farm tour was to a deaf German couple, which was a challenge to hit timelines and follow the script, but with the aid of gesticulation and the good old paper and pen, I had a great review.

A few weeks later, when I was driving a quad full of Syrian refugee children around the 2k husky track, I was reminded that there are so many universal languages, and laughter is a significant one.

“I have a hole in my welly”, Damien, a French guide pronounced welly with an ‘i’. You can imagine the tears that streamed down my face during my guide training week at the mispronunciation of “sheet” of paper. I will stop there!

Lesson 6: Strength in numbers

Living in a small guide house (1 bathroom!), with 11 others, I certainly made friends for life. Tough times called for team talks, and a reminder of why we were there- personally, I wanted to push myself mentally and to survive on this husky farm, you needed strength.

Lesson 7: The proof is in the pudding

Whilst lesson 7 is metaphorical for work allocations, In Hetta, the saying is literal. Being able to cook and bake was a vital basic ability a guide had to develop. Or if you are Heidi Wilson, fall on your face with 3 plates of pesto pasta.

First, I need to clarify that ‘pooping’ is picking up the faeces. When I returned home, I forgot that ‘pooping’ was guide language.

Climbing the work ladder meant hitting the timelines on the basic daily jobs of morning pooping and watering, training 4 dogs in 1 hour, and the evening feeding.

Fortunately, I quickly took up part of the medical workload. Administering daily meds, updating records, a colossal project of re-organising the medical cabinet and doing a stock check, clipping nails, squeezing anal glands, weekly in depth dog checks, and x3 a week heat check, need I go on?

Lesson 8: There are not many vets in the wilderness

Part of my time in Finland was spent seeing practice. By seeing, I mean monitoring oxygen and consciousness and administering the anaesthetic agent propofol intravenously throughout bitch spays, and tumour removals, clipping and preparing the surgical site, doing locking cutaneous suturing and individual stitches ON A REAL DOG.

 Lesson 9: “If you wait for perfect conditions, you will never get anything done”

After a morning of in-depth groundwork, I cried into a large pile of poop as there was no time to dwell, the compost needed to be done to the timeline.

Why? I was disappointed with my groundwork.

In hindsight, as long as a being is not going to be harmed and that you have fixed the kennels, then dogs do not care for a perfectly straight ground. I can only imagine what goes through their mind when they dig new holes as soon as a guide goes on to the next circle.

Seeing the bigger picture, on a husky farm and in life is paramount.

An incredibly difficult, but life changing work-away.
My lessons ranged from how to use a dishwasher, to how to develop personal resilience and accept constructive criticism.

Whilst these 6 weeks were some of the hardest times, and I suggested that ‘you will cry at least once’ should be added to the guide manual, I have definitely returned to England with an even greater work ethic and motivation to overcome any personal obstacles whilst growing thicker skin.

I would encourage any other 18 year olds to place themselves into an alien place where they are pushed to their absolute mental and physical limits, to improve themselves and gain new skills.

For anyone who loves a challenge, and to be completely outside of their comfort zone, I definitely recommend travelling to Hetta Huskies.
The experience has made a huge impact on my life, and will certainly continue to shape who I am.
Lessons from a husky farm are interchangeable with life as a sixth form student, I am glad stress has been put into perspective of the ‘real world’, however.

When times are tough, your favourite dog will turn any situation into a positive. There are always the other wonderful guides to offer support and motivation, and it is an incredible opportunity to make friends for life from all over the world.

Thank you to Anna and Pasi for welcoming me to your farm; it was an honour to work on a farm with impeccably high standard of welfare for the sled dogs.

Thank you to all of the guides who shared this experience with me, you were like family!
Until next time.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Equine Breeding and Stud Medicine Course – 17/3/19

1. HOW I FOUND LAUNDER FARM

“SUCCESS IS WHERE PREPARATION AND OPPORTUNITY MEET.”

After expressing my desire to gain more experience and knowledge in the equine sector, the wonderful Woes of Wellies suggested that I looked at Launder Farm Experience Day’s Equine Breeding and Stud Medicine Course.

The team at Launder Farm rapidly replied to my questions on Instagram DMs – I had the feeling that I could not miss this opportunity! I immediately looked at train tickets and reserved my place on the 1-day course in Wales. 

2. HOW I TRAVELLED TO LAUNDER FARM

“LIFE IS AN ADVENTURE.”

Manchester -> Shrewsbury -> Welshpool

If you have read my Moat Goats blog, you will know that I like to hop on a train for a little adventure (even though I usually have bad luck).  Luckily, despite the torrential downpours and stormy winds, I had a pleasant two trains to Welshpool. Made even better with a Pret breakfast. 

The lovely Becky, a member of the Launder Farm team, picked me up from the train station and drove me to Launder Farm.

3. MY EXPERIENCE AT LAUNDER FARM

GREAT TEACHERS

Launder Farm offers the perfect balance of theory and practical learning. 

Before we headed outside we had a seminar on equine breeding and behaviour. As a horse-handling-newbie it was helpful to learn the theory of body language before heading outside. It was also interesting to see the theory recreated by the horses:
Tail lift -> Squat -> Pee
The mare had obviously read the textbook!

As I have completed a goat artificial insemination course, it was particularly interesting to hear the discussion of the use of horse AI. Different aspects of the seminars will supplement your prior work experience and current knowledge.

The second seminar covered colic, lameness, and stud medicine. As my knowledge on horses is far greater than my practical experience, it was the perfect consolidation and summary session. 

The seminars have definitely prepared me for vet school interviews – they can throw an Equine influenza question at me!

GREAT LEARNING ENVIRONMENT

From applying stable bandages and head collars, to moving mares into stocks – I took away an abundance of new practical skills. 

Despite having completed placements at a stud farm, mixed farm and equine practices, and an equine practice, I have limited hands-on-experience with horses.  I can’t thank the staff at Launder Farm enough for creating such a relaxed learning environment. 

No questions were silly questions. ZERO judgement. 

GREAT EXPERIENCE

I can’t recommend Launder Farm Experience Days enough. 
A 10/10 experience. 

 

Secret Hacks for the Veterinary Brain: 3 reasons you need this in your life

AN INTRODUCTION:

As an aspiring vet with mental illnesses, perfectionism (or the perfectionism script) rears its ugly head to tell me that I will not be accepted in the veterinary profession. The truth is, putting your hands up and reaching out for help is a strong act rather than a sign of weakness. 

Finding @katieford.vet on Instagram, I felt a huge weight lifted off my shoulders. A veterinarian talking about motivation, positivity, and mindset.
 Rather than hiding the struggle beneath the high-flying success, Katie talks openly and honestly about the reality many of us face. 

It is a breath of fresh air for a fellow perfectionist to expose how unsustainable a result-driven life is. But wait, now I know that we are not perfectionists, we simply have a perfectionism script.

So you can imagine the elation I felt when I read into Katie’s online personal development course “Secret Hacks for the Veterinary Brain”, aimed at discarding the success and productivity based life, taking control of the present, not living by the script.

3 REASONS YOU NEED THIS COURSE IN YOUR LIFE:

1. A REAL HUMAN BEING

“A role model can teach you to love and respect yourself.”

For me, the biggest difference between other self-help sources is that I know there is a genuinely lovely human being behind the words. Katie promotes all things positive wellbeing on her social media platforms, offering free support and advice for those in need. I have the confidence to reach out to Katie when in need of some words of wisdom, or veterinary-career-related advice. 

2. LEARN ABOUT “THE SCRIPT”

“To compare is to despair”

Thoughts can be isolating – believing that we are alone in our struggles with self-doubt and vicious cycles of negative thinking. 

It has been empowering to identify, acknowledge, and dismiss “the script”. I was first introduced to “the script” through this online course. This is a life-changing step for anyone, I will leave explaining “the script” to Secret Hacks for the Veterinary Brain.

3. RELATABLE EXERCISES WITH 0 PRESSURE

“The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.”

After each lesson, there is an exercise to complete. Each of these is based on your life, finding practical solutions to day-to-day issues or personal difficulties. The exercises are for your own self-growth. No tests to prove you have 100% understood concepts. Nothing to trigger the perfectionism script.

Learn how to work a sausage machine, and how to become a pearl diver. 

CONCLUSION: 

A source of shining hope.

My friend in the sky – suicide awareness


**For my 20th birthday, I am raising money for Papyrus UK in memory of Tom Gallagher. 

Tom was living with countless relentless battles in his mind, the silent war. Now we must fight to create a beautiful legacy, saving lives by raising awareness of mental illness and getting rid of the stigma of suicide.**

Describing the experience of losing a close friend to mental illness is difficult, I have brain blurted to help other people to understand…

rainboww

IN THE BEGINNING

Losing a loved one is like a dagger to the heart. Losing a loved one to mental illness is like a dagger to the mind. We feel lost in a murky sea of fear and desperation.

Perhaps we too experience major relapses in our mental health, turning to self-destructive coping mechanisms. Not because of our friend is now in the sky, but because the thousands of unanswered questions can leave us doubting every action, doubting every word.

Memories become mush. The anxiety-gremlin then morphs these into every reason to blame yourself. New days become new chores, 24 hours to be tormented by 5 words – I was not good enough.

TIME HEALS

It is a blur. The days become months.

However, the storm of guilt and destruction has been followed by a rainbow of new life and motivation.

You no longer go to sleep desperate to never wake up. You leap out of bed ready to take on the day, appreciating the small things in life. Depression may take hold, but nothing is stronger than the motivation of your friend in the sky. Building a legacy requires re-building yourself.

I PROMISE THAT IT WILL BE OKAY

Animals for academic anxiety

ANIMALS FOR ACADEMIC ANXIETY

MY STORY

From the beginning of primary school, or I have been told as far back as nursery, I had difficulties settling in. Every task I completed had to be a replica of the image I created in my head. So, imagine the dread and anxiety little Heidi experienced when she was faced with tests at the young age of 7.

Over the years, I have developed a phobia of exams. Stemmed from low self-esteem and a fear of failure, failure being anything below 100%. Studying became obsessive and compulsive, if I did not complete 12 hours a day then I was a nervous wreck. Ironically, for the past three years, even attempting exams sent my brain into complete meltdown and crisis mode. Believing that a life of 99% results is a life not worth living.

The reality of rigorously controlling something is that it takes a three hundred and sixty degrees turn before beginning to control you. Society deems a 24 hour scheduled life as perfection, I know first-hand how rigid thinking and the need for productivity is in fact a hindrance. Let us praise the “go with the flow” attitude in academia, and those learning through exam mock failures. This is how we must face difficulties in life, rather than working so intensely to avoid the what-ifs.

Only after hypnotherapy and animal therapy can I even say the word EXAM, so now I can shout EXAMS at the top of my voice without fear of irrational curses that will doom me to failure.

I am not lagging behind my high school class, I am on Heidi’s academic journey. The Heidi journey has been full of adventures and life lessons along the way, it is only beginning.

Facing academic anxiety head-on is a huge leap forward on my journey. This journey will change my life, not because of grades that I will achieve or how many hours of work experience I will clock up.
I am escaping from that rat race.

“Once we face our fear, once we treat our anxiety itself as a thing, we can then choose otherwise. Instead of filling the unknown in our minds with expectations of the tragic, we can choose to fill the void with a different expectation – the expectation of adventure.”

ANIMALS ALLEVIATE ANXIETY 

Hypnotherapy is not an option for everyone, I am fortunate to be receptive to this form of therapy. However, animals have the ability to put us in a state of relaxation, they are hypnotherapists in their own right. Animals also help us to eradicate unnecessary anxiety and negative emotions, because remaining calm improve our focus and concentration on the task at hand.

So here are 3 ways that animals alleviate exam anxiety. 

1. SELF CARE

img_0823
Other how-to-overcome-exam-anxiety posts will tell you to have a quality sleep, to eat wholesome and nutritious brain food, to take regular breaks outside.

I understand just how difficult this can be, especially when your self-worth has hit rock bottom. This is where animals can help:
Care for your pet whilst caring for yourself.

You are your dog’s world. You feed them, you take them to the toilet, you make their tail wags. With any animal we have responsibilities away from the tasks that are gluing us to our books.

They encourage us to get outside and take a wander in the great outdoors. I shared the benefits of the outdoors here

2. THE BEST STUDY BUDDIES

Get yourself a furry study-buddy. (Hopefully your dog won’t eat your homework).

During a particularly difficult depressive episode, a litter of puppies literally saved my life. I was reassured that everything had happened for a reason, that Esme the pup was sent to be my companion.

After sneaking Esme upstairs in my dressing gown, she would sit in my knee whilst I studied in bed. Easing the overwhelming fears of studying and exams, when life was already pretty much unbearable, my little pup was the best buddy. 

They divert our attention from the never-ending spiral of worry. From feeling uneasy and anxious, our study buddies help us feel calm and concentrated. 

3. ALTERNATIVE ACHIEVEMENTS

img_9812

“Caring for animals gives you a sense of achievement that is not a graded % or measured in kilograms, but wagging tails and kisses.” – my ANIMALS ARE MY THERAPY post.

Check out my “Animals are my therapy” post to read how animals helped my self-esteem, in more detail. 

Animals continue to motivate me on my journey, to overcome the obstacles with pride, and to shout it from the rooftop so that other people can benefit too.

Heidi x

A how to guide. Veterinary placements abroad.

“IF YOUR DREAMS DON’T SCARE YOU, THEY AREN’T BIG ENOUGH.”

After asking for blog post inspiration on my instagram account , here is a
HOW TO GUIDE: Getting work experience placements abroad.

(With the help of some incredible instagrammers in the online veterinary community.)

Securing placements at our local small animal practices can feel hard enough. Conducting a google survey of the local area to ensure that your email proposals have the highest chance of success, the worry of lacking previous experience to outcompete other aspiring vets, refreshing your email inbox in the hope that a response will magically appear.

So how on earth do you begin searching for placements abroad?

STEPHANIE’S STORY:

THE BEGINNING:

When I initially looked into overseas placements, I did not look for the location. Instead, I looked for placements with the animals I wanted to work with

I remember googling ‘elephant volunteering’, or ‘working with seals’.

It is good to note that there is a whole bunch of programs and websites that run specific programs for vets and vet students. This is so that you get all the information you want about your placement and the animals in regards to the veterinary industry surrounding them. Rather than solely gaining the understanding given to the general public volunteering.

GOOD CONTACTS:

To name a few locations that I know running these would be:
Elephant Nature Park
Wild Inside Vet Volunteers
Worldwide Veterinary Service
Globe Trotting Veterinary
and many more!

Doing this meant that I could do what I wanted to do with animals and worry about the location and getting there later

THE OBSTACLE:

The main issue with overseas placements is money.

So unless you are flushed with cash, I am not, it takes a lot of planning and saving.

I booked my placement in Thailand a year and a half in advance, and I was looking into it two years before the placement. All so that I had enough money for a deposit.

Having a budget and saving for your overseas placement will be worth it!

FOR AUSTRALIAN STUDENTS:

If you are lucky enough to live in Australia (or other locations), the government will actually loan you money to go on 2 overseas placement trips through university. This loan is then added to your HCES university debt and is paid back through tax when you reach the income threshold to pay back your normal university debt.
Here in Australia this is called OS-help –  I wish I knew about it before my trip to Thailand!

DO YOU RESEARCH:

The most important thing is to look into all options when wanting to do an overseas placement.

You could believe that you have an amazing placement lined up in Africa to take care of the animals, only to find out that it is only so other customers can poach them.

Do your research!

Talk to fellow students and see where they have gone. Seek out recommendations. Remember to check to see if the university can help with funding or scholarships for this.

HAVE FUN!:

But most of all have fun and enjoy it while it lasts.

Don’t let anyone put you off by saying “are you really going to go by yourself” because f*** yeah it is amazing!

 

HEIDI’S STORY:

img_2706

Another question was about money. 
With travel expenses, increased living costs, loss of working days (not an exhaustive list!). How can you afford to go on a placement abroad? 

FINLAND

I couldn’t in 2017, when I worked on a husky farm in Finland.

Although my journey to that placement is unique, it is proof that life can may just throw one at you. My first “proper” work experience placement opened the door to work in Finland. After a summer of volunteering in 2016, I was gifted a token to flights for 2017 in order to take on the challenge of husky farm life.

SWITZERLAND

Getting to Switzerland was a different story – Cheap flights.

I am currently packing for my next journey to Switzerland this February, £50 return with easyJet. Animals need care 365 days a year, but every place has its “off peak” month/s. A bonus is taking holiday pay off work for said placement. 

The answer to your flight problems:
sky scanner

“ALL THAT YOU NEED TO KNOW IS THAT IT IS POSSIBLE.”

Living away for veterinary work experience

LIVING AWAY FOR VETERINARY WORK EXPERIENCE 

From medical procedures and kidding events during my stays in Wales, to slaughter house legislation- I have shared plenty of educational content on my work experience blogs.

What about the times watching horror documentaries with hot chocolates during kidding? Headstand competitions in the lambing field? Getting tipsy in Finland after work around the campfire?

The idea of staying away from home for a period of time for work experience can seem daunting. 

But DO NOT FEAR.

Your “hosts” may become second families, you can integrate into the household life and share wonderful memories whilst your sides hurt from laughing so much at inside jokes. 

By running through the placements I stayed away from home, I am going to share some non-vet highlights and funny stories.

1. LARGE ANIMAL VET

Panic! I was locked in the hotel at 4 a.m. by bolted doors when I needed to be out of the door for a routine TB test.
The vet was waiting outside, we could not be late to an appointment. Being 5ft 3 (1.6 m) I had to put my backpack on the floor to use it to jump from, to tap the bolt across with my fingertips. I persisted.
Heidi 1 Bolt door 0.

As the vet was located in a remote area of the Lake District, I had to walk for hours to buy Pepsi Max. Making friends with the sheep along the way, a morning without call outs was spent well.

2. LAMBING

Hopping off the quad for headstand competitions in one of the lambing fields. My childhood gymnastics years are long gone, but my competitive streak is not. I was determined to win.
Headstands soon became bursts of laughter lying on the grass. Just avoid the sheep poop.

I can’t forget about the unique lambing experience. Placenta thrown in the face whilst assisting births, the extra challenge.  I wonder what they must have taught the culprit vet students at vet school? Were they preparing me for weird situations? I will have to wait and see!

3. KIDDING

Who would have thought that the phrase “Clinging like a limpet” would result in a goat-fam walk to the beach to find my first limpets? Now a running joke, kidding placements are not 24/7 goats when you stay with such an awesome family. 

Cuddling up in a blanket watching murder mysteries with hot chocolates is how we liked to spend a night after a busy day on the farm. 

I am grateful for my goat family in Wales! Always looking forward to my next stay there. 

4. FINLAND

Where do I start? 

My first days were spent being trained by a fellow French guide who described the training documents as “sh*ts of paper”. Those sheets made me cry laughing. 

After eating plain pasta when I arrived, I was made aware that I will learn to love pesto and become pesto pasta obsessed. That is true. We must have eaten our body weight x10 in pesto pasta. In a physically demanding job, coming home to bowls full of carbs was awesome. Apart from the time I fell over with 4 plates of pesto pasta, and cried because it was the icing on the cake of stress. 

Supporting immigrants’ integration into the local community in Finland consisted of farm activities such as berry picking, but my favourite has to be quad driving. Driving the quad around the track with a few children clinging on to me for their lives, fun until the quad starts to smoke!

I will never forget my leaving meal in the traditional kota on farm. I brought two of my favourite dogs, Tähti and Tog, to celebrate with! We ate food cooked on the fireplace and I drank until I was tipsy… so no one believed when I shouted, “THE NORTHERN LIGHTS”. As I exited the kota to begin walking to the guide house, I saw the blue bands of colour. 
The response was something along the lines of me drinking too much. 
Imagine the others’ faces when they saw the Northern Lights on our arrival at the guide house! I was no imagining it. 

5. SWITZERLAND

Getting lost on a hike up to Harder Kulm was great. Why? Because I met 2 cool travellers, we finished the hike together and I celebrated with coke zero as they enjoyed a beer as we sat with a bird’s-eye view of Interlaken.  

So, when I arrived at Lauterbrunnen for the Mürren hike, and saw a fellow solo hiker, I asked for a photo taken in order to begin a conversation. I was eager to make friends with more travellers. We decided to hike together, by the end we had already organised a meet up in Interlaken which led to eating out together! 

My host, Vera, and I walked the goats around the town, creating small crowds of people playing with Florian the goat and taking photos. Celebrities of Interlaken. There are too many hilarious moments to share with Vera, but she has become my “Swiss mum”. I already have my third trip to Switzerland coming up in 2 weeks, in the span of 7 months. 

Life begins at the end of your comfort zone

Veterinary work experience: Past, Present, Future

Past -> Present -> Future

Shock horror- attempting to take a more “go with the flow” approach to life in 2019 means I have no work experience booked.

Fortunately, the past few years of hard work have set a solid foundation for another exciting year of placements, to continue to immerse myself into the vet life.

Before committing to posting a monthly overview of my work experience placements in 2019, I thought that it would be helpful to share my past experience.

PAST

DOG DOYCARE CENTRE

(No photos, so here’s a cute photo with Stanley!)

BLACKPOOL ZOO KEEPER: ACADEMY STUDENT 

(Every Sunday for 3 months)

Just giving a tortoise a bath… as you do

KNOWSLEY SAFARI PARK: ACADEMY STUDENT

(1 week)

Feeling tall

SMALL ANIMAL VETERINARY PRACTICE (1)

(1 week)

Small animal surgery confidentiality = cute Maisie to fill the gap

DAIRY FARM / PETTING FARM

(1 week)

Moooove along

SMALL ANIMAL VETERINARY PRACTICE (2)

(1 week)

Here’s another space-filler! I have cared for 3 litters of pups at home.

EQUINE STUD FARM

(Every Sunday for 2 months)

Poop husbandry… how to handle + accurately do F.E.Cs

GENETICS DAIRY FARM

(Accumulated 5 random days)

Being 5ft 3 puts you right in the firing line.

HILL FARM

(1 day)

EQUINE VETERINARY PRACTICE

(10 days)

(Photo is actually from stud farm placement, vet confidentiality!)

BEEF FARM

(1 day)

A work of art – my first calf eartag

LARGE ANIMAL VETERINARY PRACTICE (1) – GOAT SPECIALIST 

(1 week, staying away from home)





A random goat photo – I have lots of those! Vet confidentiality.

WILD BIRD HOSPITAL

(1 day a week for 4 months)

A very countryside photo

HEDGEHOG HOSPITAL

(1 day a week for 4 months)

Always making friends on placement

ABATTOIR (SLAUGHTER HOUSE)

(1 day) 

Exposure and education

LAMBING (2500 EWES)

(10 days, living on farm)

Yes, I pulled these guys out

LARGE SCALE GOAT MEAT FARM (Wales)

Living on farm. Total: 5 weeks in vet work exp. 5 day week maths!

(10 days during kidding
1 week in summer
1 week in winter)

Dream kidding team

LARGE ANIMAL VETERINARY PRACTICE (2)

(2 x 1 week placements = 2 week total)

An important aspiring goat vet milestone.
TAKING BLOOD.

HUSKY FARM IN FINLAND

(7 weeks)

Monitoring anaesthesia and stitching. When there is no vet nurses in the remote practice.

SWITZERLAND WORK AWAY WITH GOATS

(6 weeks)

Goats love me too

GOAT DAIRY FARM

A goat rotary parlour… AMAZING.

ULTRASOUND SCANNING LIVESTOCK

Early days for understanding the images, it is a learning process. Practice makes perfect.

ARTIFICIAL INSEMINATION COURSE 

Waiting for the POP, if you know you know.

EDUCATIONAL FARM

(2 years)

Every child should learn about goats

PRESENT

Placement hosts have become second families, work experience has truly changed my life and shaped who I am today.

As 2018 drew to a close, I was over the moon to secure a full time position working in a kennels/cattery/stables. Full time work experience!

Outside of kennel assistant work:

GCSE tutoring
Learning to drive
Goat keeping

Work experience
Studying
ENJOYING LIFE
Travelling

I have a week in Switzerland booked, and hopefully a 2 day course at a local commercial goat farm soon. 

FUTURE

I would like to post a monthly work experience summary on my blog

Gain experience in a laboratory

Attend more courses

Spread the “Animals are my therapy” word

Here is to a wonderful 2019, with its ups and downs.

Heidi.

Dairy placement: I goat this, 13.11.18

“If you want the rainbow, you gotta put up with the rain”

Not a pot of gold, but even better.

Goats were at the end of my rainbow.

Another day off work is another day heading to the goat dairy farm for work experience as I am eager to continue developing my understanding, skills, knowledge, and abilities, for a future in veterinary medicine.

Immersing myself into goat farming, I can see that the dream of becoming a caprine specialist is not a far-off fantasy. From the large scale milking of Saanens, and rearing Boers for meat, to the pet Pygmies, there is an increasing demand for speciality medicine.

Goats are not sheep, and they are certainly not small cows.
Goats are goats.

“I want to go about like the light-footed goats.” : Johanna Spyri, Heidi.

A Heidi photo update is a great opportunity to talk polled goat genetics, an interesting topic.

Polled is dominant allele, so is expressed in the homozygous or heterozygous state. However, homozygous dominant is linked with intersex does (genetically female) as the intersex linked gene is recessive therefore expressed in the homozygous individuals.

Heidi the goat is heterozygous!

“Change is the end result of all true learning.”

Ensuring that the kids are feeding regularly is a very important job on a dairy unit, because after 12 hours, the kids (with a belly full of colostrum) are grouped into pens. They now have human mothers!

There is a critical time period after kidding, during which the kids can absorb immunoglobulins. After 12 hours, the kids are extremely capable to begin learning how to feed from the teats and enjoy life with their small friends.

“Fall seven times, stand up eight.”

Identified on the farm as a problem most prevalent in the multiples, due to limited space in utero, I was taught how to aid the correction of contracted fetlock tendons. (Tendons connect muscle to bone.)

For some kids, I flexed the hoof upwards repeatedly to carefully stretch the tendon to correct hoof placement on the ground. 
However, more severe cases require splinting for support above and below the joint. A splint was secured with vet wrap, over the soft cotton layers to ensure comfort. 

“Here we goat again”

Another opportunity to milk the 1,500+ goats on the rotary parlour.

With smaller fat globules, and less lactose, goats milk is a great alternative to cows milk. Found in the small intestine epithelium.  lactase is the enzyme that hydrolyses the glycosidic bond in lactose to produce glucose and galactose. If an individual does not produce sufficient amounts of lactase, the lactose is not digested and causes discomfort as it passes to the colon. Diarrhoea results from the lowered water potential causing water to move into the colon, and the bacteria breaking down the lactose release gases. 

Goats milk is also delicious. Have I sold it to you? 🙂

Switzerland part 4: Weekend break

Second family in Switzerland 

img_1827

Switzerland feels like home, the mountains make my heart happy.

After spending a summer in Switzerland, Vera (my host) became my adopted Swiss mother and the goats felt like my own. A 2 hour flight from Manchester to Basel is a great excuse for returning to my happy place for a long weekend. 

It was like I had never been away. Arriving at 12AM, I was greeted by Vera at the door and followed my Heidi signs to this: 

This is a reinforcement of everything happening for a reason. The mutual love of goats brought us together, but I never expected to feel like family.  

I will always endeavour to stay with locals on my future travels, to be immersed into the different cultures, and to avoid the tourist traps.
Hotel tourists sometimes miss out on the authentic experiences, often the most interesting experiences. (Although I can appreciate that this is not everyone’s cup of tea).

Time will pass and seasons will come and go

img_3901

Experiencing Interlaken in the Autumn is a whole new experience. You no longer have to play “the floor is lava”. The blanket of fallen leaves on pathways is a new hiking challenge, not the intense sun rays. (Time is also running out for the important branch collections for the goats!)

2 ladies jogging beside the river with goats is something you do not see every day!

Every mountaintop is within reach if you just keep climbing

Unlike England, escaping from the grey weather requires a simple excursion. Hop onto a bus up into the mountains, just 6 franks from Interlaken to Beatenberg. Fog sea, or fog soup (Nebelsuppe), depending on how you perhaps perceive this phenomenon. 

England could take a leaf out of Switzerland’s book when it comes to public transport. Always on time. Even if there is a period of time between connections, I am either captivated by the surrounding nature or amused by the locals’ animals. 

I gained a new perspective of Niederhorn. Instead of gliding above it during a 2 hour tandem paraglide, I took a cablecar and hiked back to the tourist centre of Beatenberg. The Swiss mountains never fail to take my breath away. 

Awe-inspiring. 

Feeling overwhelmed by the mountains, I sat and cried. It was a cathartic moment. In these moments, “being” is enough. Any extra is a bonus. I am trying to go forward without expecting anything from the world, no longer feeling like a victim. I can be miserable feeling constantly unproductive and unfulfilled OR I can embrace my journey for what it is because life is not a race. No expectations = no failures, just great effort to achieve great things (whatever they may be). Switzerland feels like home, I feel content in the mountains. An unpaved path brought me here, it was not part of a strategic life plan.

img_3951