Large animal vets, Day 3, 5.7.17

Equipment loaded, the vet and I headed to a yard for the first patients of the day.
The first horse had similar symptoms to the horse we saw the previous day, with lumps, so the horse was treated for an allergy.
On my work experience with equine vets, I saw how difficult it can to pinpoint an allergy like with any species due to the large range of environmental variables.
Something that is not covered by my biology specification is allergic reactions, so I decided to read up on this topic in my great big red biology bible due to my great interest in immunology.
An allergen is an antigen that triggers an allergic reaction, a heightened immune response. During the primary exposure of an allergen, B cells differentiate into plasma cells and produce IgE. Individuals, in this case horses, with allergies will produce a large amount of this immunoglobulin. This is an issue because IgE binds to mast cells and on the secondary exposure of an allergen, this antigen attaches to the IgE bound to the mast cells. As a result, the mast cell with lysis and histamine, serotonin and heparin are released.
In generalised responses, histamine released in large quantities can be fatal due to bronchioles restricting and arteriole dilation. However, in this case the allergic reaction has caused lumps in the skin.
Antihistamines can work by competitive inhibition by occupying histamine receptors.
The second treatment was a topical corticosteroid which is absorbed into the skin and reduces inflammation by constricting blood vessels and inhibiting the chemical reaction causing inflammation. Steroids are naturally occurring hormones.
The second horse patient was due a routine dental examination.
Due to the hay and feed components of a horses diet, with less grazing, the teeth are not naturally wearing down. Therefore, the vet used a hand rasp to smooth the edges of the teeth whilst the horse had a gag on. Routine visits, like with humans, prevents serious dental problems. A horse with sharp edges to their teeth can be difficult to work, due to the pain from the bit.
Once we were back at the vet practice, I started reading my goat veterinary book, until a lame goose was brought in for an examination.

A non steroidal anti inflammatory was administered in order to reduce the inflammation and pain. NSAIDs inhibit cyclooxygenase, COX, enzymes which have an important role in the process of inflammation.
It is vital to note that cyclooxygenase enzymes produce prostaglandins that activate platelets, they protect the lining of the stomach and intestine, it is not an ideal long-term drug for conditions such as arthritis.

The final case of the day was a cow with a serious case of mastitis that was unaffected by the usual course of antibiotics. Therefore, an E-coli infection was suspected which is an environmental infection that has entered through the teat end.
Vets have an major role in implementing methods to reduce antibiotic resistance at farms, and to educate owners about the risks of not completing courses of antibiotics or using them when unnecessary.

Large animal vets, Day 2, 4.7.17

Seeing veterinary practice reinforces that no case is as simple as applying a textbook study. Our first call out was a prime example.

A beef cow had a swollen hind right hock, with a dependent calf yet to be weaned, the cow was going to be culled post-weaning.
There were no obvious signs of injury, anorexia was probably secondary to a lack of mobility caused by the inflammation.
To minimise the pain, a course of metacam was prescribed as the non-steroidal anti-inflamattory will reduce the inflammation thus pain.
Despite culling being the outcome of choice by the farmer, a veterinarian’s primary consideration has to be to alleviate pain for the period of time it is alive, in the patient’s best interest.

When veterinarians adapt a more holistic approach like I have seen on my work experience, they are improving the general animal welfare whilst working with the farmer. For example, the suggestion was made that the cow and her calf are kept in a more confined indoor area due to the accessibility and eradication of competition for food.

Through work experience, I appreciate the nature of large animal work as farming is an industry. Spending a day at a local abattoir, however, demonstrated the strict rules and regulations with animal welfare at the forefront.

The second appointment of the day was a calf castration with burdizzo for management purposes. This is why we see entire bulls with nose rings. The ideal result is more docile and manageable steers with a desirable meat quality.
Like the kids and lambs I have castrated with an elastrator, rubber ringing is only legal in the first 7 days of a calf’s life.
Using a burdizzo is another bloodless technique which can be used up to 2 months of age, after administration of local anaesthetic.
The spermatic cord must be palpated to ensure the vas deferens and vessels are being clamped, which is why calves will not be castrated under a few weeks old with this method.A horse had lumps under the muzzle, which is a symptom of strangles due to swollen glands in the throat. On arrival, the clinical examination ruled out strangles due to the absence of other warning signs such as nasal discharge, depression and a cough.
Strangles is a highly contagious bacterial infection and horses can develop painful abscesses.

The prognosis was that administering anti-inflammatory and anti-histamines will reduce the symptoms as it appears to be an allergic reaction. It was interesting to hear that human anti-histamines can be used for equine allergies, in large doses calculated by a veterinarian!


Cronkshaw Fold Farm, Goat herd update, November 2017

November has been the month of the goats.

In 18 months, I have gone from a ‘put the bucket under the hay-net and put hurdles upside down, avid textbook reader’ to an accredited artificial inseminator with over 2,000 hours of work experience in the veterinary and associated industries.

Before I head off on my winter travels, I will share a blog post about my greatest NON ACADEMIC achievements of 2017, to bring this rollercoaster of a year to a close. A great emphasis on the non-academic because numbers should not define happiness, let’s stamp out the burn-out academic culture.

The quote ‘some beautiful paths cannot be discovered without getting lost’ is fitting. Whilst mental illness will always have negative impacts on my wellbeing and life, every cloud has a silver lining. The road to my heart is paved with goat-hoof-prints, you can read more about my journey here:

From the goat veterinary society meeting to the British Goat Society accredited AI course, November made me feel like the luckiest crazy-goat-lady.
Meeting pioneers of an area of veterinary medicine I am so dedicated to study is an invaluable opportunity to learn from their wealth of knowledge and expertise. Discussing the future of goat veterinary medicine with qualified veterinarians, students, farmers, pet-owners, is inspiring and fuels my drive to make a difference for this super species.

Shout out to my dad for building this brilliant milking stand for the goats, so we could appropriately restrain the goats to minimise stress during the artificial insemination course.

I am sure that if my goats were allowed in my house, they would become part of the furniture. Family!

I had no problem getting my Guernseys to jump up so let’s hope they behave during milking *fingers crossed*.


Although Esme and Lyra were empty, after positioning the probe correctly with the curtain of hair, it is a lesson for future goat breeding.
Despite being the most placid gentle giant, Jasper loves his food (like all goats) so became boisterous at feeding time. I believed that he had spent enough time with the girls to have done the deed, I was wrong.
It is not as though Jasper is going to complain!
They are one happy family again. Fingers crossed for the next month, but what is meant to be is meant to be.

Keeping animals is not all sunshine and rainbows. Like humans they get ill, sometimes we won’t have a definite diagnosis.

In the process of elimination, I took a faecal egg sample from one of the sick doelings. Again, another future blog post will cover the faecal egg sampling service and the main worm culprits that make goats unwell. Thanks toWest Gate Labs for their speedy, efficient service.

The rapid results showed that a relatively large strongyle egg and liver fluke burden had been identified. All of the Boers were treated immediately, to prevent any others from deteriorating.

Back to positive news! On the 13th November, Red the billy goat, was placed in the pen with the Boer does. The joys of kidding time will be a break from my A level exams in the summer, a time to switch off from studying.

Another November achievement is the confidence Lyra has gained. Okay, maybe she now needs to learn manners of not running out of the pen. But the timid ‘Esmé shadow’ is now running around the barn having the time of her life jumping on the straw stairs.

Maisie even walked up to the farm with me to meet my goats.


On the 25th November, I attended the grand opening of the new farm classroom. It was a great event, albeit cold.

A huge congratulations to Dot, who’s vision has come to life through a LOT of hard work!


This is the last goat update of 2017 due to the upcoming blogs of 2017.

So here are a few of my favourite photos from November!

Featuring the incredible goat barn signs commissioned by Sara from❤️

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British Goat Society accredited AI course, 4.11.17-5.11.17

Conveniently timed with my biology ‘human reproduction’ topic revision, I hosted an artificial insemination course at the farm to learn about goat reproduction, and become a BGS accredited AI technician.

The first day consisted of lectures to learn the underlying theory behind artificial insemination.

Here is the anatomy and physiology component syllabus:

If livestock breeding application questions appear in my exam, I am well equipped to discuss the pros and cons of artificial insemination.
The reasons I will use AI on my Golden Guernseys, to selectively breed certain characteristics into a herd. Although Jasper is a lovely billy, AI gives me access to superior sires without the disease risk of transporting goats to different farms.
However, it is important for AI technicians to be aware of the risks of restricted the gene pool due to the limited available semen.

The following day, I learned how to safely handle liquid nitrogen (following the C.O.S.H.H regulations), before practicing safe goat restraining and the AI technique.

The AI prime time is 20-30 hour in heat, when the mucous holds its shape.
Although Daisy’s mucous was runny, the rings of muscle in her cervix were slightly relaxed.
The aim is to insert the gun through 1/2/3 cervical muscle rings, without force. If you cannot do this, then the semen needs to be deposited at the cervix entrance.
On my first attempt, I got the tip of the gun through one ring on Daisy, then two rings on Bella.

Vets can train in laparoscopic AI, and I believe that it is important to have a great understanding as both a goat keeper and a goat vet to work with farmers to provide solutions to goat welfare problems and be able to medically advise breeding programmes.

A huge thanks to Christine Ball and Brian Perry for being fantastic teachers!

Cronkshaw Fold Farm, Goat herd update, October 2017

Long time no blogging.

Balancing A-levels, mental-health awareness work, work experience, practicing flute diploma repertoire whilst starting up my Golden Guernsey herd leaves little time for blogging. We can all make time for the things we love, however- I have plenty of blogs in the works.
After having great feedback on my ‘Animals are my therapy’ blog post, I am working towards compiling a part 2, with other people sharing their stories to reach a wider audience. Busy busy busy! But it is important that whilst we invest our energy into making a change to society’s perception and understanding of mental health, that we look after our own mental health. One word- goats.

Whilst I will always be a perfectionist, finding other outlets for success helps me to continue plodding along despite my world crashing down over losing 3 marks in an exam. I try to ignore the people who support the whole burn-out culture of work, because I should not feel guilty for living my life and balancing my studies, no one should. Discovering my practical abilities, and utilising my sensitivity and empathy as strengths to care for animals has given me a new purpose, one that cannot be defined by a number. I am also not going to draft blogs multiple times, I will simply type what I would like to share and press PUBLISH.

^ A little off-subject, but a reminder to myself that I am breeding goats to learn, not to have perfect award-winning goats that do backflips. Like Boers are susceptible to foot rot, Golden Guernseys can have skin problems. If animals were in perfect health, vets would be out of their job. So over October, I have been researching goat nutrition and changed their diet to a more coarse goat-mix rather than beef nuts. I was advised to purchase an equine mineral supplement due to the higher copper content.
Over the next month, I will continue to learn and try different treatments to improve Lyra’s skin, dietary changes will be seen through gradual progression.
Goats are browsing animals, but they do love to run through the farm yard to the fields to graze on lush grass. I have been brainstorming enrichment ideas, to have a bracket in their barn to insert branches so natural browsing behaviour is encouraged.
They will love their goat playground, when I get around to building it with my dad!
The goats have certainly become part of the Wilson family, but it is important to keep their spreadsheets of finances, health records, weights etc. etc. up to date especially as the herd expands, because they are not pets and having a small dairy herd should be economically viable. Another management learning opportunity!

Jasper has now been separated from the does, so he may go on a holiday to meet some new girlfriends (sorry Esme and Lyra).
I have collected faecal egg samples, but worming will be a separate blog post once I have received the results.

Apart from the great improvement in lead training, and that I am pleasantly surprised the goats enjoy their himalayan salt lick, there is not much more to say… but not to worry, November is a hectic month.

Cronkshaw Fold Farm, Goat herd update, September 2017

As studying is my main priority at the moment with my A level exams in the summer, I have decided to do monthly updates about my work at the farm instead.

September has been a great month, I came back with an abundance of new skills from Finland, bought three lovely pedigree goats and I completed a 24 hour hike with the charity Mind.

Once Esmé and Lyra were settled in (this is where my last blog ended) , I planned to pick up the billy.

I definitely made my chemistry and maths classes aware that I was eagerly anticipating purchasing my first billy goat that morning after lessons.

Fortunately, Pete and I did not get delayed in hours of traffic this time! With handlebars as horns, it was a simple task to get Jasper into the livestock trailer.

To integrate Jasper into the Golden Guernsey pen, I moved Esmé and Lyra into an adjacent stable, enabling the 3 of them to make contact and to share their first romantic meal (of straw because the hay bale had not arrived yet). Roughage to continue to aid rumination.

Jasper was bottle-reared so he is certainly not shy. Whilst he is incredibly sweet, his musky odour is certainly not.

The science behind a billy goat’s scent, however, is fascinating.

There is a hormonal chain reaction, that triggers a doe to ovulate. 4-ethyloctanal is a compound is a primer pheromone, which is explained in the article to be a chemical that causes an aspect of the recipient’s physiology to alter in response.

The chemical reaction between 4-ethloctanol and air, produces 4-ethylocyanoic acid- this is the smell that does are attracted to. So this is an adaptation of a billy goat with two significant benefits for survival, not only does it physiologically encourage a doe to cycle, but the behavioural aspect of urinating on themselves increases their attraction to does.

Since the young billy goats needed to be weaned, it was time for a deep barn cleanse  with virkon to ensure that Dichelobacter nodosus, the foot-rot causing bacteria, will not infect the Golden Guernseys.

On the topic of foot rot, before I moved the young billy goats, I ensured that I had trimmed their hooves along with the rest of the herd. So any infected debris would be disposed of whilst mucking the pens out.

Although they are content with their new home together, Esmé loves the freedom of roaming free in the barn.


There should be kids on their way at the start of March, just in time for my birthday!

24 hour Mind hike, 16.9.17-17.9.17

Walking boots on.

On Friday 15th September, I travelled to the Lake District for the Mind Hike 2017 charity  fundraising event for the briefing.

When it came to the briefing, I cried… a lot! Tears of happiness. Team Falcon were doing the hike for best friends, brothers, sons, husbands, fathers and cousins who have committed suicide. Sharing my story to 20 other people who have been directly affected by mental health, was a cathartic moment. People out there care, speaking about mental health to empathetic people opened my eyes to the possibilities in changing the attitudes towards mental health.

We had all metaphorically overcome mountains in our lives. Using each other’s strength, it was time to literally overcome mountains.

Morale was high, and Team Falcon had a team comedian- Elanor!

Hike highlights included many livestock encounters too, which made the experience even more exciting.

The steep mountain ridges and stony terrain made the ascent of Fairfield more challenging. It was a huge achievement for the whole team to reach the top, it was down to teamwork and resilience. Thanks to Mind for saving my ears from the cold with the wonderfully warm hats!

During the hike, my nickname was the Duracell bunny because of my endless energy and positivity. My competitiveness drove me to run to the top of the summit.

The views were spectacular:

Descent sounded less vigorous that ascent. I stood corrected as we scrambled down rocks, and walking down countless steps.

We made it back to our hostel for dinner, to give us energy for the second half of our 24 hour challenge.

Head torches on.

The evening portion of the hike was certainly fun as Charity Challenge kindly set up an evening snack stop… glow sticks and neon face paint too.
Stars in the sky made the evening section of the hike even more spectacular, whilst gazing into the darkness I saw a shooting star and definitely squealed with excitement. After hiking for 18 hours, you become a little delusional.

Walking through fields of cattle, with our head torches lighting the way, was very amusing. They definitely looked like forces not to be reckoned with as their eyes glowed.

At 4am in the morning, the teams gathered at a pub where we could kick our boots off, and relax whilst watching jungle book. It definitely looked like a group game of ‘the floor is lava’, putting pressure on our feet was so painful that we hobbled. It was not long until we had to set back off, in order to reach the youth hostel for 8am and hit our goal.

The sunrise gave Team Falcon a new lease of life. It signified that the end was near, well timed with my headtorch batteries running out.

As Simon and I saw the finishing line, we decided to run across together- we could not wait to finish! However, I dread to see those photographs.
The mind team leaders were cheering us on, with prosecco and orange juice waiting for us.
I found a dog to cuddle too :).

The Mind Hike was an incredible experience, as I met so many inspirational people who had overcome significant difficulties. Using our combined strength, we successfully completed the challenge but also made friends for life.

Large animal vets, Day 1, 3.7.17

Whilst eagerly anticipating the first pre-booked appointment of the day, a farmer casually brought a pig in the back of his Land rover to the surgery – an eventful way to start my week of seeing large animal practice.
The piglet had neither eaten nor defecated for several days.
After the vet and I scrambled into the boot of the car, door held shut to prevent an escapee, I got stuck in straight away by putting my goat handling skills to use. After all, pigs are certainly not the easiest of animals to restrain, especially when the initial examination requires her temperature to be taken. I cornered the squirming swine, holding her still whilst she struggled, to enable the vet to continue with the health assessment.
The normal temperature range for a pig is 38.6 – 39.5 degrees Celsius. Here is an interesting fact, pigs cannot sweat so prefer the cold. Hence being pictured rolling around in mud, they are cooling off. Pyrexia may be a symptom of the immune response to an underlying condition such as an infection. The core body temperature increases in an attempt to fight the infection. The prognosis was that antibiotics, Metacam (a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug often described as a pain-killer although technically not a pain killer), fluids, and worming the pig would aid her recovery back to health.
Lots of injections meant a lot of pig wrestling… and a lot of noise!
Assessing dehydration through skin elasticity is a quick and simple test.
Alamycin LA was opted over Pen + Strep due to the 3 day duration, making it a long-acting antimicrobial injection.
Metacam is an NSAID. It works my inhibiting the enzymes (cyclooxygenase enzymes) that produce prostaglandins. This is the same reason there can be high risks if a person is not careful with drug combinations since prostaglandins protect the stomach and aid blood clotting. A combination of an NSAID and a steroid can have fatal results, including organ failure and internal bleeding.

The second appointment of the morning was surgery on a dairy cow who recently calved. During our journey to the farm, I was quizzed. “Do you know what a twisted gut is?”.
Cue the most ridiculous response “A stomach that is… twisted?”.
Left displaced abomasum is the correct answer, and I was on my way to assist a right flank pyloric omentopexy.
A vaginal examination confirmed that the cow had metritis from the discharge. Metritis is one of the risk factors for LDA as atony of the abomasum can result in the build up of gas. Therefore, the vet injected Pen + Strep. Also, the uterus displaces the abomasum during calving so failure to return to the correct place can result in an LDA.
I used a stethoscope to identify the ”ping” on the left side which locates the accumulation of gas in the abomasum which has caused it to displace. Interesting to hear something other than heart beats!

Preparing such a large surgical site was a new experience, especially with a cow under local anaesthetic kicking.
The vet made an incision into the cow’s right flank before locating the abomasum and inserting a needle to deflate! The abomasum is attached to the omentum so this is sutured to the peritoneal to hold the abomasum in the correct position. However, if the omentum tears, the abomasum has a risk of displacing once again.
It was a success.

A faecal egg count was waiting for me once I returned to the practice. I correctly identified that there were no worms on the slides! Great practice at the stud farm where I did regular faecal egg counts.
Soon after, another animal was brought to the surgery. This time it was a beloved pet hen with an accumulation of fluid in the abdomen. The vet used a needle and syringe to determine what the fluid was. Unfortunately, it was clear and the diagnosis was ascites caused by liver disease as a result of portal hypertension creating a pressure gradient. The clinical symptom which brought the hen to the practice was the accumulation of fluid in the peritoneal cavity. Increased pressure in the portal blood vessels may cause protein-containing (ascitic) fluid to accumulate into the low pressure space which is the abdomen.

Sadly, the hen was put to sleep at the vets. However, I believe that this is the most humane way to euthanise a hen.
I then accompanied the vet to a livery yard, where I completed the paperwork for a two stage (preliminary examination and walk and trot in hand) pre-purchase vetting. During my time seeing practice at my local equine practice, I had witnessed a five stage pre-purchase vetting! The vet also took a blood sample to be sent off and stored. In stage 1, I used the ophthalmoscope to look at the lense of the eyes to see signs of cataracts forming.

Cronkshaw Fold Farm, A whole new meaning to crazy goat lady, 1.9,17

24 hours after touching down at Manchester airport, just enough time to recover following a hectic husky summer, I began a whole new adventure.

The 1st September 2017 will go down in my goat history. A monumental moment – the start of my first herd, I purchased two beautiful registered Golden Guernsey does.

After travelling to East Yorkshire a few days before I departed for The Arctic, I fell in love with Charlotte and Victoria. Whilst huskies filled the void for 6 weeks, the minute I headed to Rovaniemi airport I was eager to get my goats settled in to their new home without delay!

The day had come- Pete and I (ironic, I know) travelled to Yorkshire in his Land Rover with the trailer ready to transport my goats home.

DEFRA movement paperwork handed over, we were ready to go.

Seeing people’s faces as they passed the trailer was rather amusing. It is not every day that you see goats at a petrol station.

The inquisitive pair quickly settled in, after impressing me with their lead training skills. I was able to walk them through fields with ease.

I did not want to be apart from them for 12 hours, so I set up camp in their pen! Despite the smell, hotel GOAT gets a 9/10 review.

Spoilt goaties 🙂

Time will fly by, and I will be bringing my GG billy goat home before I know it.

After kitting their pen out with new themed buckets, I worked into the night to create their computer records. Including treatment records, weight graphs and payment + receipt worksheets. The husky documents in Hetta were a model example of how to maintain incredibly high welfare standards for animals on a farm. Complete medical histories, vaccination and de-worming schedules, treatment records, heat charts… the list goes on. I can adapt my newly acquired medical check skills to my goat herd in order to maintain the best health.


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.

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