Victoria’s Story: Animals are my entire world

VICTORIA

Victoria 1

ANIMALS ARE MY ENTIRE WORLD

MY MOTIVATIONS CHANGED

Victoria 2

As a vet student, it probably goes without saying that animals are my entire world, but perhaps not for the reasons you’d think! 

I’ve wanted to be a vet for as long as I can remember, and certainly back then my reasons were most likely to do with liking the idea of spending my time nosing on other people’s farms and seeing to their cows and sheep. However, somewhere along my journey, my motivations changed.

CONSTANT SOURCE OF COMFORT

Now, following a long string of work experience and a little more life experience, I understand how important animals are to so many people and am constantly amazed by the unique role they play in the happiness of humans. So, if someone were to ask me now why I want to be a vet, I wouldn’t be making something up or stuttering on ‘erm…I don’t know’ anymore.

Animals are a constant source of comfort and strength, whether that be as a loving fur friend, or in the context of livestock, provide a lifestyle that may be hard work and unsociable, but is one that so many people are defined by, and I never find it hard to motivate myself to help people keep the animals that mean so much to them.

FEELING AT HOME

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As a child, I was lucky enough to spend a lot of time on my grandparents’ small holding, where my Grandad taught me almost everything I know about looking after sheep, which remain my favourite animals to work with. I learned to feed lambs, feed sheep, get them into the shed, carry lambs so the mothers would follow and so on, but the most striking thing I learned was that I never felt more at home than when I was surrounded by animals.

KEEP PLODDING ON 

As my love and understanding of animals grew, so did my motivations to train as a veterinary surgeon, so you can imagine how happy I was to end up here at the University of Liverpool on their Veterinary Science course. I am truly thankful every day that I got the opportunity to train, but that doesn’t mean that vet school has been a smooth road! Of course there’s the obvious, such as exam stress (I HATE exams!!), deadline stress, and the stress you get just trying to keep on top of lectures, but there’s also tiredness, being away from home (especially when you’re ill- it’s awful being away from familiarities and feeling on your own!), and pressures like finance that most of us have never had to deal with before.

Sometimes, the stress gets too much and you wonder why you bother; but then Easter comes around and you get to go home and do work experience placements, usually on a lambing farm in first and second year. For me, just a couple of hours on a farm is more than enough to remind me why I wanted to do this in the first place and helps me keep plodding on, even when the workload seems way too heavy for me.

A WHOLE NEW SENSE OF PURPOSE 

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One farm in particular has become a huge part of my world, and that’s an arable, dairy and sheep farm up in the North East of England. As I said, vet school is great but is definitely not always plain sailing, and I have faced many challenges since coming to Liverpool: adapting to being in a city, feeling inadequate, and sometimes feeling just out of place and useless in surroundings that just don’t seem quite as much like ‘home’.

I was struggling most in my second year at uni, which is when this farm took me in. Suddenly, I felt like I had found something I was good at (milking cows and lambing sheep) and this kick started my motivation and gave me a whole new sense of purpose. Even when I’m doing okay, this place brightens up my day in a way that nothing else seems to. I have learned so much from spending time on this farm and love the place and the people very dearly.

ANIMALS ARE MY WORLD

In short, animals are my world and I truly believe it’s the same for a very large proportion of people in the world. Being a vet and a farmer has become a massive part of my personality and makes me who I am: I may be looked down on for having dirty hands, I may be called hypocritical for ‘loving animals but still working on farms where they are bred for food’, I may be told I’m not clever enough and I can’t do it, but at the end of the day, I was made to be a vet and my love of animals will not let me fail.

VICTORIA

Blog: https://barkingmadvet.video.blog/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Barking-Mad-592686627844164/

A vet student’s perspective: Animals Are My Therapy

INTRODUCTION

After following Barkind Mad Vet for a while, I was keen to reach out to Victoria to contribute to Animals are my therapy.

In the meantime of writing her personal story to share on here, Victoria has shared the wider perspective as a vet student on her blog. 

So here is part one of Victoria’s Animals are my therapy story.

BARKING MAD VET BLOG POST:

Following last week’s blog, I have started working on a much more personal post surrounding the title ‘Animals Are My Therapy’, on a blog published by an amazing pre-vet student with a special message to share.

My animal therapy story has been one of the hardest things I’ve written so far, mainly because after sitting with a blank piece of paper, I didn’t know where to start! I quickly realised that animals have shaped my personality and now my career choices in countless ways. Although I can’t think of a specific significant event, being surrounded by animals has grown to be what makes me feel at home.

I could now go off on a tangent with several anecdotes and memories, but I want to focus on the bigger picture; I know for a fact that I am not the only person who finds comfort and strength through a four-legged friend (or a feathered friend!) and this is my major motivation for training as a vet.

The obvious role of a vet is the one most people see: a general practitioner in the consulting room with them, trying to cure their dog’s recent stomach upset or treat his painful leg. However, if you look a bit closer, you see the vet taking time to explain what’s wrong with the pet, describing different treatment options, going through positives and negatives, being patient, and helping the owner make a decision. When you can help an owner leave the vets feeling reassured and confident that they’ve made the right decision, it is just as important and just as rewarding as treating their pet.

Working as a vet on a farm is quite different to working with dogs and cats; whilst farmers do passionately care about their livestock, a vet has to be more aware of the business element of the decisions a farmer has to make. As you’ll know if you’re read some of my other blogs, I spend a lot of my time on farms when I’m back home in the North East and I know how much a farmer wants to help his stock. There is no better feeling than when a vet helps you design a treatment plan which allows the cow or sheep or pig to be treated within you budget! Alongside being their livelihood, farm animals are quite often the pride and joy of their owners, who have been working hard to build up their pedigree for generations; this explains the disastrous consequences the Foot and Mouth outbreak of 2001 when so many farmers faced severe depression and even suicide after losing their stock.

So, as a vet, vet nurse, vet student, nursing student, or an aspiring veterinary professional, it’s super important to remember what an amazing job the profession is doing in working to make sure that humans can keep their animals in the best possible conditions, and keep their four legged friends by their side for as long as possible. Keep going everyone, you’re doing great!

If I’ve not quite convinced you how much animals mean to humans, or if you just want to read some amazing animal therapy stories, check out the ‘Animals Are My Therapy’ tab of Mammalsandmicroscopes: an amazing set of stories put together by an awesome soon-to-be vet student! Well done Heidi, your message is super special and very very important!

FOLLOW VICTORIA

BLOG: Barking Mad Vet

FACEBOOK: Barking Mad

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:

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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.”

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

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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

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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?