I have always known that I want to work with animals. I always had pet hamsters or parakeets at home when I was growing up. In my teens, my main focus was on horses; I wanted to learn as much about them as possible. When I was finally able to drive, I went to work for a horsemanship stable where I was taking riding lessons; I learned a lot of useful information about caring for horses there. Every chance I got, I worked with people who could teach me about horses. I worked at a breeding farm, a polo barn, and a private stable. Whenever the vet came by for routine spring immunizations, colic cases, a foaling mare, or accidental injuries, I would ask as many questions as I could think of. However, I still wanted to learn more.
At my public library, I searched for colleges that offered animal-related courses, and was able to find one near where I lived. I enrolled and, after studying hard for two years, I completed my Associate in Applied Science (A.A.S.) degree in Large Animal Science in 1987. I was interested in completing my undergraduate (4-year) degree, so I enquired about another agricultural college that offered an animal-related bachelor degree program. I was told about a college in a different state that offered an Equine Science curriculum, so I set up an interview to visit the college and speak with representatives about course offerings.
I was also invited to meet with other individuals from the various animal science departments. One of the departments was called the "Laboratory Animal Specialization," and I met with the chairman of the department. I had never heard of the field before, so I decided to be polite and listen to the information that was being given to me. When all was said and done, I spent more time discussing small animal courses and potential future opportunities in the lab animal science field than I would have imagined were out there! Up to that moment, I thought that the only way I was going to be able to work with animals was to become a veterinarian, which I knew I was not cut out for. Other "typical" animal-related jobs such as a private practice veterinary technician, animal shelter technician, or a pet store clerk, were not really appealing choices to me. However, I wanted very much to find a challenging occupation with animals, and it certainly sounded like I was now on the right track.
All of these opportunities made me very excited about my future! Plus, I would be able to work with many different species of animals in a growing industry that needed someone like me, who cared about animals and was interested in the progression of biomedical science.
I was going to be able to contribute and help make a difference to animals, as well as people, with this career. I decided that lab animal science was it for me. They had me hook, line, and sinker! Two years later, I had my B.S. in Animal Science, my Lab Animal Technician (LAT) certification through the American Association for Laboratory Animal Science (AALAS), and lots of practical experience working with a variety of animal species in several regulated facilities. In addition to all these qualifications, I was meeting many wonderful people who would help me learn as much as I wanted to know about all kinds of animals. In the course of my educational and professional career, I have worked with a wide range of animals, including mice, rats, rabbits, hamsters, guinea pigs, turtles, frogs, cats, dogs, ferrets, chickens, sheep, turkeys, many different kinds of monkeys, pigeons, tree shrews, dairy cattle, beef cattle, pigs, horses, and fish. I’m always waiting for the chance to encounter something new! Sometimes, when you're not looking, the opportunities present themselves before you and you have to take advantage of them. So, if you care about animals, don't look away. This may be the career path for you!