For as long as she can remember, Claire has wanted to become a veterinarian. From her first day on campus, she's been super excited to experience every aspect of the Vet program. Her favorite day so far? Getting to visit the Animal Rescue League in Boston — especially since she just filed the paperwork to start her own dog rescue organization at home.
How did you find out about Explo?
I think my mom got the name of it from a friend, and she thought I should check it out and I did. And I thought it was cool!
I gather that you wanted to be a vet for a while. How did you get interested in it?
I've always been interested in animals, dogs especially. And ever since I was little, I wanted to be a vet, and I wanted to work in medicine. I want to specialize in dogs, especially since I run a dog rescue…
Do you really?
Yeah. I just started it a couple of months ago, and I hope to have possibly a clinic one day with a special segment off of it to house some rescue dogs that are up for adoption.
Wow! Tell me more!
Right now, I've established it as a 501(c)3 organization — I'm still in the process of filing — but right now we're looking for foster families for our dogs. We have two foster families ready to go right now, and I'm hopefully going to get in my first dog or two when I get back home from Explo. Our city animal shelter agreed to work with me to foster their dogs, because their dogs only have 10 days before they're euthanized at their shelter. So when we find adoptable dogs that we think we can place easily, we take them out at the last minute, place them with the foster families, and try to find them a forever home. And once we do find the forever home, the dog will go from the foster family to the forever home.
What made you decide to go into rescue work?
My mom started a project called the Huckleberry Hill Project, which is basically a cooperative where we get kids from around the area and all our friends together to choose a big idea to reach out and help the community. Mine was starting a dog rescue. The project hasn't even started yet, but the coop helped my project get the jump start it needed.
That's really cool. So do you have any pets at home?
I have one dog. His name is Tuggles, a border collie-dalmatian-kemmer feist mix that we rescued from an organization called Shelly's Angels Saving Strays. They rescues dogs from Tennessee and brings them up here to get adopted, because there's such a high percentage of strays and kill shelters in Tennessee. I found him on a website, and contacted them, and they said that he had recently been hit by a car, and broke his back… it was his back left tibia. So to fix it, they implanted a plate in it, put screws in the plate and wrapped it with wire to keep it in place, and they said it had healed nicely. So we adopted him about 9 months ago, and he was the sweetest little boy! But after a while, he started favoring his left leg, and he was really limping. He looked like he was in a lot of pain, so we took him to a specialty vet emergency hospital. They took an X-Ray of his leg, and they could see that some of the screws were way too big and were poking out, so he had big lumps in his leg that were really hurting him. He had to have another surgery to take it all out, and now he has nothing in his leg — I have the plate at home. And he's a completely different dog — he's so much more energetic and happy now.
That's awesome! Is he your first pet?
I used to have a dog named Cookie, that I got when I was four. When I was little, I didn't know about puppy mills, and my parents bought her from a pet store. She had a lot of medical problems, and I was really too young to take care of her by myself, so we gave her to my aunt. So now my auntie spoils her, and she's really happy!
What excites you the most about the rescue work you'll be doing?
I want to help as many dogs as I can — any animals, but really dogs. And I want to study veterinary medicine, and set up a dog rescue clinic where I can care for their injuries and diseases and try to save their lives. Those are the two things I really want to do. And when I get older, I want to have a farm, and I want to set up both the rescue clinic and the pet sanctuary on the farm.
I can picture it! So you're in the second week of the Vet program. What do you think so far?
I think it's fun! It's a really fun program, all the kids are really nice, and I really love all the trips we get to go on. Like last week, we went to the Animal Rescue League of Boston, where I got to ask a ton of questions about how to set up a rescue organization, how to get foster families, and how to advertise. They gave me a lot of awesome answers — they have 190 foster families, and I'm really jealous! But I loved touring their shelter. And then we went to NEADS, where they train assistant dogs for military veterans, and that was really interesting. We learned about the prison program, where they take the dogs to prisons and have the inmates with with them there. It's a really amazing program, because it gives the inmates tons of responsibility. And then yesterday, we went to the zoo. It was good. We got a backstage tour of the zoo hospital, which was all heavy metal and bars and gates everywhere, and it was really heavy duty and hard core. When I become a vet, I definitely want to be able to get close to the animals without having to anesthetize them, so I don't know if working with exotic animals is for me.
Maybe not! Tell me about meeting the veterinarians here on campus.
They were awesome. We got to meet with Dr. Dani Cimino twice, and it was so cool. The first time last week, she talked about X-rays and brought dogs in so we could do diagnostic assessments on them. It was awesome! And today, we got to learn how to suture and look at slides that she got from one of her patients. There was this one cat that they spayed and neutered. When they do any kind of surgery, to make sure the animals are breathing correctly, they stick a big pipe down their neck to make sure that oxygen's always getting to their lungs, and they clip their tongue up like that. After the surgery was done, they pulled out the pipe, and there was a lot of phlegm on the end of the pipe. So they took the phlegm and put it on a slide, and they saw lots of lung worms. They had to treat the cat for lung worm, and Dr. Cimino said the cat is fine now. But it was really cool to see the worms under a microscope. She had some pretty amazing slides.
Cool! Who else did you get to meet?
We got to meet Rob Nager, who came to teach us about pet CPR, which was really awesome. We got to learn how to do mouth-to-mouth on a dog, and it was really, really cool.
Now imagine for a minute that your friends are thinking of coming to Explo next year. What would you tell them?
I would tell them to definitely come. You get to see and experience so much amazing stuff and meet so many different people. The Vet program is incredible!