The Macabre Mite

My Take Tuesday: The Macabre Mite

As a veterinarian, I see and treat a variety of pet diseases. Skin diseases are very common at my practice. Some of these skin conditions are caused by parasites. I recently diagnosed a pet with a condition called sarcoptic mange. Sarcoptic mange is caused by a parasitic mite (Sarcoptes scabiei) that burrows just beneath the surface of the skin. 

Sarcoptes scabiei mites bury into the skin of healthy adult dogs and puppies and feed on material in and on the skin. Sarcoptic mange is also known as scabies and is zoonotic, which means it is transmissible from pets to people. 

Mites are distant relatives of ticks, spiders, scorpions and other arachnids. Over 48,000 species have been described. Sarcoptic mange (scabies) is an infectious and contagious type of mange mite often picked up from other dogs or unclean environments.  

Symptoms of sarcoptic mange may include intense itching, scabbing and hair loss of most commonly thinly haired areas of the coat such as the ears, elbows, legs and abdomen. While diagnosis is made by performing a skin scrape, these mites are often difficult to find. However, when I see them, they are unforgettable. 

I imagine that many horror movies were inspired by staring at this mite under a microscope. Even though we see it commonly, seeing it under a microscope makes me itch. A lot. Just writing about it makes my scalp and arms itch. 

Just watch this short video clip. 

Does this not make you itch? 

And that is my take!

N. Isaac Bott, DVM

Tempus Fugit

My Take Tuesday: Tempus Fugit

This past week marked 14 years since my graduation from veterinary school. I can’t believe how fast time has flown by!

Over the course of the past fourteen years, I have had many accomplishments that I am proud of. It has been a most remarkable journey.

It seems like just last week when I was saying farewell to some of my dearest friends and colleagues. Members of my class have traveled all over the world and have already left an impressive mark on the field of veterinary medicine. Many have completed residences and internships.

Some are private practitioners. Some are clinical pathologists, oncologists, zoo veterinarians, surgeons, cow calf specialists, internal medicine and equine specialists, mixed animal practice owners, epidemiologists, FDA oversight veterinarians and USDA food supply veterinarians. I am fortunate to have spent my veterinary school years surrounded by such exceptional people.

Looking back at my journey, I could not have dreamed of the adventures and opportunities that awaited me in my first decade of veterinary practice. It has been an exhilarating ride. I have been knocked down several times during this journey. With each failure, I have tried to get back up, dust myself off and move forward. Hard time times have come before, and they are bound to come again. When they come, I grit my teeth, bow my head and ride straight into the wind. Each struggle has been followed by myriads of opportunities. One cannot fully appreciate the highs of life without experiencing the lows. As Ernest Hemingway aptly observed, “Night is always darker before the dawn and life is the same, the hard times will pass, everything will get better, and sun will shine brighter than ever.”

Timing and chance have tremendous bearing on each of our lives and careers. I have had successes and experiences that were not in my wildest dreams when I graduated. I have performed veterinary work in 8 countries, 27 US states, performed reproductive work on 39 different species, performed over 70,000 small animal examinations and have helped build a successful private veterinary practice. I have also published 10 scientific papers and just recently authored my first textbook chapter.

I cannot think of a profession that is more rewarding. I have had the opportunity to travel to many faraway places to share some of the successes I have had with today’s veterinary students. I very much enjoy the opportunity to do this. I always encourage students to be different and to follow their hearts. My advice to them is to always seek self-discovery and self-improvement. There is very little satisfaction when comparing oneself to others. So much time is wasted when trying to be better than someone else. The true test of success is measured when looking at your own improvement and progress. Are you better than you used to be? If you focus on being your best-self your potential is unlimited. When using others as a comparison, there will always be someone bigger, better or stronger.

Each of us are unique. Look at your thumb. Your thumbprint is a testament to your uniqueness. Your individual thumbprint is different than any of the billions of individuals that are alive today. No one ever has, or ever will have the same thumbprint. Your identity is as unique as your thumbprint. Your perspective and personality are not shared by any other person. These traits are arrows in our quiver of individual contribution. Why is it so difficult to acknowledge this? Self-awareness is the key to harnessing and honing this uniqueness in an effective fashion. As we become self-aware, we are able to visualize, assess, nock, draw back and place a precise arrow in the bullseye of our desired target.

Thank you to my many mentors who have guided me and made me what I am today.

I look forward with optimism at the journey ahead. I have found my passion. I love what I do.

And that is my take!
N. Isaac Bott, DVM

Hazel and the Skunk

My Take Tuesday: Hazel and the Skunk

As a teenager growing up in the small town of Castle Dale, I looked forward to summers at the end of each school year. Summer meant freedom from both homework and sitting at a school desk. 

For me, a perfect summer day would have to include vanilla ice cream, snow cones and strawberry shortcake. The tranquil Castle Valley evenings provided frequent opportunities to cook hot dogs, hamburgers and steaks on the grill, corn on the cob on the stove, and juicy Green River watermelon slabs with each meal. 

Summertime also meant hard work. Apart from the irrigating and farm chores, there were a number of elderly widows in Castle Dale that would hire my siblings and I to mow their lawns each week during the summer. 

Hazel was my favorite. Her small house stood just north of the new recreation center in Castle Dale. Hazel was like family to me. Her friendly demeanor and kindness were manifest each and every time I mowed her lawn. 

She had a small but verdant lawn that surrounded her small gray house. Along the south end of her property, huge trees stood as sentinels protecting the house from the frequent Castle Valley wind. The deep green leaves of the tall trees overlooked a perfectly manicured garden with straight rows of Swiss chard, chives, radishes, peas, carrots, spinach and lettuce. 

Her lawn was difficult to mow. The frequent flowers and bushes required extreme care and precision with the lawn mower and edger. I would frequently graze her chives and the onion smell would instantly give away my error. 

“On no, you hit my chives!” she would say. I anticipate that she planted larger quantities each year knowing that some would certainly fall prey to my mower. 

After finishing the mowing, Hazel would prepare red punch and cookies. I would sit on a couch in her living room as I savored the snacks week after week. Hazel would ask about how my life was going, and she would tell stories of her Seely and Livingston pioneer ancestors that helped settle Utah and build the iconic Salt Lake Temple. 

Hazel loved cats. She had a cat door that would lead out to the back yard from her kitchen. She would place a large bowl of cat food in the center of the kitchen and the cats could enter and leave as they please. 

On this particular day, Hazel commented about how much cat food she had been going through. She noted that she would have to fill the cat dish 3 or 4 times a day and that each time she entered the kitchen, the bowl would be empty. 

As I sat on the couch, I had a clear view of the cat bowl in the kitchen. As Hazel spoke, from the corner of my eye I noticed some movement near the bowl. As I turned my head and looked into the kitchen, the biggest skunk I had ever seen wobbled over to the food bowl and began gorging. 

“Hazel!” I exclaimed. “That is not a cat, it is a big fat humongous skunk!” 

“My laws!” she gasped. “Get it out of here!” 

As I jumped up, the startled skunk made a dash for the door. Its overweight body condition inhibited it from any appreciable speed. The large belly nearly dragged on the ground as it meandered away. As it leaped for the cat door, the front half of the body exited perfectly, however, its back half didn’t quite make it. As the obese animal heaved its back end though the door, it simultaneously and voluminously sprayed the contents of its scent glands in my direction. This wallop of its defense mechanism filled the entire kitchen. 

If you haven’t experienced the mephitic smell of a skunk from up close, the odeur fétide is actually a thick, volatile, oily liquid that obtains its pungency from sulfur-based thiols. There in nothing that smells worse than skunk spray inside your nose! 

Hazel and I exited out the front door. We propped open the kitchen door and placed a fan on the floor to help air out the house. We laughed about it for hours. 

Hazel passed away shortly after Memorial Day in 2003. I sure do miss her. 

Each and every summer day brings back the fond memories of Hazel, the obese skunk, and the all-you-can-eat Mephitis buffet. 

And that is my take!

N. Isaac Bott, DVM

Chris LeDoux

My Take Tuesday: Chris LeDoux

Wednesday, March 9, 2005 was a typical day. During this stage of my life, I was finishing up coursework and getting ready to graduate from Southern Utah University. My classes ended at noon and I found myself with some time free in the afternoon and decided to go shopping for a new chest of drawers. 

I jumped in my Chevy S-10 and headed south on Main Street in Cedar City, Utah.  I noticed remnants of a recent snowstorm lingered on either side of the road piled up along the sidewalks. Per usual, I listened to KONY country when driving around town. A Chris LeDoux song came over the waves. Instinctively, I cranked up the volume and listened to the tune. As the song ended a second Chris LeDoux song began to play. Hearing a Chris LeDoux song on the radio is not an everyday occurrence. A radio station playing two songs in a row was unheard of. My heart sank. I knew something had happened. As the second song finished, the DJ announced that earlier in the day, Chris LeDoux had lost his battle to a rare form of cancer called cholangiocarcinoma.  

Chris was a man’s man. Anything he did, he did well. He wasn’t born with extraordinary talent, but with hard work and dedication he became extraordinary.  He was an award-winning sculpture, a world champion bareback rider and a world-class country music musician. Chris worked hard at everything he did.

Chris’ music was a constancy during my youth. When I was working on the farm, I often would listen to his songs. One song talked about digging and tamping postholes and stretching the wires tight. Another detailed the intricacies of irrigating alfalfa. His lyrics seemed to represent a lot of what I knew in life. Still to this day, as I’ve had the opportunity to travel, I often find lyrics that mention the cities and places that I visit from Spokane to Manhattan, Salt Lake to Seattle, up north from Billings to the Yukon River and down south from Fort Worth to San Antonio.

I had the opportunity to see Chris perform dozens of times in concert. He was such a gentleman and the best performer I have ever seen. Today marks 18 years since his passing. 

In his last studio album, Chris recorded a song called The Ride. The lyrics describe facing death with dignity and grace. They say, 

“Well, I know some day farther down the road

I’ll come to the edge of the great unknown

There’ll stand a black horse riderless

And I wonder if I’m ready for this

So, I’ll saddle him up and he’ll switch his tail

And I’ll tip my hat and bid farewell

And lift my song into the air

That I learned at that dusty fair

Sit tall in the saddle, Hold your head up high

Keep your eyes fixed where the trail meets the sky

And live like you ain’t afraid to die

And don’t be scared, just enjoy your ride”

Thanks, Chris, for living a great life and for teaching this cipher from Castle Dale, UT so many lessons about life through your determination, example and lyrics. Good ride cowboy! Good ride!

And that is my take!

N. Isaac Bott, DVM


My Take Tuesday: Snowball

It was a busy morning at the clinic. Mrs. Robins arrived right on time for her scheduled appointment. She was a long time client at the clinic and was always pleasant during my interactions with her. Her hair was white, and always perfectly styled. She greeted us warmly as she came through the front door. She carried a white fluffy cat inside a pink pet carrier.

Snowball was her name. Such a name is suggestive of a soft white fluff-ball, a sweet angelic and innocent kitten. She was due for her annual vaccinations and a wellness checkup.

However, this kitty’s name is what I would call a major misnomer. Clearly, this kitty received its name long before its true nature was known.

All too often, I hear the phrase, “Doc she is an angel at home. She is just the sweetest thing.” Mrs. Robins repeated the phrase verbatim as we entered the exam room.

Snowball was sitting peaceful in her carrier. As I peered through the door of her carrier, I noticed a couple of warning signs.

When a cat is distressed, it will crouch in a unique form with the legs and tail pulled in under the body. They will extend their neck, flattening the ears against the head.

Cat bites and scratches are painful and notoriously prone to infection. As a veterinarian, I have to be very careful and observant. A cat bite on my hand could literally make me useless – everything I do on a daily basis, from surgeries to physical examinations, requires extreme dexterity and use of my hands.

“Snowball doesn’t seem very happy today,” I observed, “We need to be careful taking her out of her carrier.”

“Don’t worry doctor,” Mrs. Robins replied, as she swung open the carrier door, “She will come right out.”

Snowballs exit from the carrier was reminiscent of a rodeo bull exiting the chute during the NFR. She came flying out, hissing and swiping at everything in her path.

She leaped from the table and landed directly on Mrs. Robin’s head. She immediately extended her claws on all four feet simultaneously and plunged them into poor Mrs. Robin’s scalp.

Almost in an instant, snowball fell from atop the terrified woman’s head. Clinging desperately to a white wig. As she hit the floor, she released the hair piece and hissed. Mrs. Robins reached down and grabbed the wig and placed it back on her head.

“Wow!” she exclaimed, “She is sure mad at you!”

Dealing with a spitting and hissing feline in a demonic rage is a dangerous predicament, and can present a formidable challenge to any individual, let alone one smelling like a veterinarian.

Snowball then looked at me, hunching her back, while aggressively growling and spitting. She leaped towards me, as I jumped back. Her trajectory was clearly aimed at my upper body, and as I moved, she adjusted her posture mid-air and redirected. Her extended claws sank into my pants. I felt her claws sink into my skin and she climbed upward and onto my lab coat. She came to a stop on top of my right shoulder. Ironically, a moment of tranquility ensued. The hissing stopped and she retracted her sharp claws.

Seeing this an an opportune time, I grabbed the rabies vaccine and removed the syringe cap. I had to be supremely careful that I wouldn’t be knocked or in some other way accidentally discharge the injection into Mrs Robins or myself. At last, I found a piece of leg and carefully thrust the needle through a felted mat of fluffy white hair and into the muscle beneath.

Snowball’s reaction was unremarkable. She did not hiss or spit. She didn’t even growl.

I gently placed her back on the examination table and finished the remainder of the vaccinations and the examination.

She purred as I looked into her eyes and examined her mouth.

She entered the carrier without any hesitation upon completion of the appointment. I stood dumbfounded, what I had just witnessed made little rational sense on any level. Aggression like this that is episodic and transient, is something even animal behavior experts don’t fully understand.

“Wow, Doc, she must have just had a little rage she needed to get out of her system,” Mrs Robins stated, “She really is such a sweet little thing.”

I smiled as I glanced at the content Snowball, as she sat purring and comfortable inside her carrier.

My legs began to sting, as I felt a trickle of blood run down the front of my knee.

As Mrs. Robins left, I noticed her white hair remained immaculate, and despite having been tossed and trampled around by a wild feline, not a single piece of hair was out of place.

And that is my take!

N. Isaac Bott, DVM


My Take Tuesday: Skunked

A few months back, a Boy Scout troop stopped by the clinic at the end of the day for a tour. As I showed them around and answered their questions, I couldn’t help but reminisce about my time as a boy scout.

The year was 1995.

Boy scout troop 306 of the Castle Dale 1st Ward embarked on a week long 50 mile hike during the month of July. The hike began on a Monday at Ferron reservoir and ended on Saturday at Indian Creek Campground in the beautiful Manti Lasal National Forest.

As a 14 year old kid, I was just like most of the other boys in my troop: wholly naive and completely unaware of my ignorance. My sense of adventure far outweighed sound logic and I was prone to encounter trouble because of my mischievous nature. My little brother Caleb and my best friend Zac were my partners in crime and were witnesses to myriads of situations that shaped our imaginative Boy Scout days working on merit badges, monthly camp outs and high adventure events that eventually led to each of us earning the rank of Eagle Scout. These experiences consequently helped make us into the men we are today.

On the second night of this long hike, we made camp at a place called Cove Lake. This beautiful lake is just a few miles from the scenic skyline drive and is nestled in a large grove of Douglas Fir and Ponderosa pines.

As Boy Scouts do, we set out to set up camp and explore the lake. We soon found out that we were not the only species inhabiting the camp on this particular night. We shared the campsite with one of the most widely distributed mammals in North America, Mephitis mephitis, or the common striped skunk. The fecund creatures were everywhere. As we floated around the lake on a makeshift raft, we could see dozens of them around the waters edge.

We clearly had a dilemma. Almost immediately, the skunks began ransacking our tents and food supply. These smelly striped critters were endlessly curious about the bipedal invasive species that had entered their territory.

Passive in nature, skunks will avoid contact with humans and domestic animals; however, when challenged they are amply prepared to protect themselves.

If a skunk feels threatened, it will give a warning which includes hissing, stomping of feet, and elevation of the tail. Failure to heed the warning signs will result in the unlucky aggressor being sprayed with the skunk’s anal gland secretions. Skunks are highly accurate in their aim and can spray 7 to 15 feet away!

A dozen rambunctious boys were immediately perceived as a threat by the striped beast. They seemed to coordinate the invasion of the camp, approaching from all directions.

A scout watching the skunk rodeo spoke to me, “Hey Isaac, if you hold a skunk by its tail it can’t spray you.”

The notion had some truthiness to it, after all, if it can’t plant its feet it likely wouldn’t be able to empty its scent glands.

Without any further thought, I reached out and grabbed the nearest skunk by the tail. I lifted it directly in the air and held it suspended with my arms straight out.

The little guy simply twirled slightly and lined his backside to my face and fiercely sprayed with all that he had.

It went directly in my mouth and up my nose. It covered my entire face and some even got in my eyes.

I immediately began vomiting uncontrollably. By eyes burned and my vision became blurry.

What a lesson! Take my word for it, a skunk can certainly spray when it’s feet aren’t off the ground. This equivocated logic is dangerous.

As Mark Twain once observed, “It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.”

The odeur fetide that I experienced is actually a thick, volatile, oily liquid that obtains its pungency from sulfur-based thiols. There in nothing that smells worse than skunk spray inside your nose!

It took weeks before I stopped smelling skunk.

Frantically, I raided the food tent in search of cans of tomato juice. I found 8 cans and a can opener. I then took a tomato shower. I scrubbed my head in it, my whole body was covered in tomatoes. You haven’t lived until you take a shower in tomato sauce.

The rest of the week proved to be much less adventurous. I was forced to sleep in my own tent and I walked behind everyone else along the trails.

Now when I see a skunk, I give it plenty of space. And I tell everyone that I can that contrary to popular myth, a skunk can spray even when being held off the ground by its tail!

And that is my take!

N. Isaac Bott, DVM

The Fragility of Life

My Take Tuesday: The Fragility of Life

Just west of Castle Dale, Utah, the sky above Horn Mountain turns a beautiful cinnamon on clear summer nights as the sun sets over the place that I call home. These summer nights smell of freshly cut grass and alfalfa, of roses and cottonwood trees, of sagebrush and lilacs.

If you are heading west along Bott Lane, just past the tall poplar trees, lies a piece of ground that was homesteaded by my great-great grandfather. This piece of land has passed from generation to generation, from fathers to sons, and has always remained in my family.

On the east side of this piece of land, a silhouette of a Ford Tractor and a Hesston Hydroswing Swather were visible on many beautiful summer evenings during my childhood. On the tractor, sat my uncle Jerry Bott.

Jerry was a giant of a man. He stood over 6’4”. His gentle demeanor and kind heart were his most precious of character traits. His soft voice and carefully chosen words were never cross or unkind. At least two times every day, I would be able to greet my uncle as I would enter his house before milking our cows. He became my constancy, my anchor, as I grew from a small child into the man I am today.

On this particular night almost 30 years ago, in 1990, my uncle Jerry was cutting the first crop of hay. The tall grass makes this cutting the most difficult on the equipment. Constant attention must be given to the rotating wheel and hay knives that were prone to clogging.

This time of year, hen Ringneck pheasants are on their nests. They sit so still that even the loud rumbling of a tractor and the ground tremors of the hay cutter leave her undeterred. Occasionally, these hens are injured or killed as they sit on their eggs. The nest, whether it be full of chirping hatchings or incubating eggs, is left to the merciless predators from the air and the nearby fortress of trees and Russian Olives that run along Cottonwood Creek.

As the sun faded behind the towering cliffs of Horn Mountain, I stood on my parents’ lawn, looking eagerly at the approaching two-toned tan GMC Sierra. My hero was coming home for the night.

As Jerry exited his truck, he held under his arm a brown paper grocery bag. His long stride headed towards me instead of his house across the street.

As he approached, he called my name.

“Isaac,” his low and gentle voice called, “I have something for you.”

He handed me the brown paper bag.

Inside, a green towel was wrapped gently around 8 medium sized olive-colored eggs.

“These are pheasant eggs,” he continued, “and they need to be cared for.”

“Isaac, I know that you will do a good job at taking care of them.”

I looked in the sack as Jerry walked back across the street and into his house.

“How do you hatch pheasant eggs?”, I wondered as I entered my parent’s house.

My incubator was nothing special, just a Styrofoam box with a small heater inside. Knowing that peasant eggs incubate for 23 days, I set the temperature and humidity and carefully laid the eggs inside.

I faithfully turned the eggs three times a day for three weeks.

Somehow, the incubation was successful, and the eggs all hatched out. The tan chicks had dark brown stripes that ran parallel along their backs.

I was overjoyed when I told my uncle Jerry about my accomplishment.

“Uncle Jerry,” I exclaimed, “I did it! The eggs hatched!”

“That is great!”, he responded, “Isaac, I knew you could do it.”

His response and validation filled my system with light and my soul with joy.

The world with all of its power and wisdom, with all the gilded glory and show, its libraries and evidence, shrink into complete insignificance when compared to the simple lesson of the fragility and value of life that my uncle Jerry taught me that warm summer evening.

Over the years, uncle Jerry often repeated this encouragement as I navigated the brambles and thorns of life. When I graduated high school, then college and eventually veterinary school, his reassurance illuminated my understanding of my potential and his unwavering love and support. He gently counseled me, “Isaac, find your passion. Cultivate it. Work hard and be the best that you can be. And then share it with the world.”

There are days that change the times and there is a time to say goodbye. My sweet uncle Jerry passed away in late 2016. His loss left a tear in the eye and a hole in the heart of all my family members.

There is a place beyond the clouds, in the cinnamon sky to the west of Castle Dale, where a precious angel resides.

Somethings never change. Yet, there are things that change us all. This experience changed me.

My uncle Jerry’s lesson, from long ago, was not lost on me.

Each and every day, I remember the immense value of life, as I attend to my four-legged patients.

As lives are saved and others are lost, I remember how important it is for someone to take initiative and to tend to the responsibility to care for the helpless and to speak for those without a voice.

This is a lesson my dear uncle Jerry so effectively showed me how to apply and live, and it is a responsibility I take most sacredly.

And that is my take.

N. Isaac Bott, DVM

Kissing A Camel

My Take Tuesday: Kissing a Camel

During the month of November, a few years back, I had the opportunity to travel to Williams, AZ. 

Nestled amongst the Ponderosa pines and Douglas-firs of Arizona’s Kaibab National Forest, Williams is a magical place this time of year. The Christmas season is already in full swing there. All of the restaurants along the historic Route 66, are decorated and lit up with colorful Christmas lights. The scenery is breathtaking, and the atmosphere is most jovial.  

Just 8 miles east of Williams you will find the Grand Canyon Deer Farm. Originally established in 1969, this exceptional educational treasure – owned and operated by Randy and Pat George since March 1987 – offers a terrific interactive animal experience for adults and children alike. Initially opened as a Deer Farm the business has expanded over the years and has now became a fully-fledged Petting Zoo with over 100 animals including Bison, Camels, Goats, Llamas, Elk, Porcupines, Fallow Deer, Mule Deer, Reindeer, Coatimundis, Miniature Donkeys, A Zonkey, Pot Bellied Pigs and Wallabies. 

While there, I performed two artificial insemination procedures on their female resident reindeer. We were also generously treated by Pat to a VIP experience with the animals. As a veterinarian, it will come as no surprise that I love animals. Spending time looking at different animals and watching their behavior is my favorite thing to do. The Grand Canyon Deer Farm is a unique experience, as it allows you to pet and feed myriads of these animals. My children especially enjoyed the up-close interaction with the animals. 

“Hey dad, I just kissed a camel!” Those were the first words I heard from my young daughter’s mouth as she came running up to me. The excitement in her voice made me pay attention. “You what? A camel?” I asked. “Yes dad,” she responded, “You need to do it. Come here.”  

The procedure is simple. Place a carrot in your mouth. Stand near the perimeter of the pen. Lean in gently. The camel will reach out and gentle take the carrot from your mouth. In the process, the camel’s lips will definitely touch yours! As camels do not have upper incisors, there is no danger of getting injured during this activity. 

This is a place everyone should have on their bucket list. When visiting the Grand Canyon or even Las Vegas, making the trip to Williams to visit the Grand Canyon Deer Farm is definitely worth it! 

And that is my take!

N. Isaac Bott, DVM

The Value of a Mentor

My Take Tuesday: The Value of a Mentor

During the last year of most veterinary school programs, time is set aside for students to spend away from the veterinary school immersed in clinical practice in what is known as a preceptorship. At Washington State University, this is a four-credit (four-week) guided preceptorship experience. 

I didn’t have the luxury of visiting the list of clinics that provided a mixed-animal (a clinic that treats large and small animals) preceptorship because of my chaotic schedule of rotations at the veterinary school. Instead, I sat in an office and read over a binder of information about the possible selections. A new clinic had just been added to the book that was offering a guided preceptorship for the first time. The name of the clinic was Mt. Spokane Veterinary Hospital. It was located north of Spokane, in Mead, right off Newport Highway. I had a gut feeling that this would be the best place for me to complete my preceptorship. I would be the very first student preceptor at the clinic. 

Of all of the training I have received during my career as a veterinarian, I count the four weeks spent at Mt. Spokane Veterinary Hospital as the most influential and consequential in where I am today. 

I found the team at the hospital very welcoming and nurturing. Every team member made me feel welcome from day one. I quickly learned of the flow of the hospital and began assisting in appointments and surgeries. 

Drs. Randy Scott and Luther McConnel were very generous with their time. 

Having a student dampens the efficiency of the clinic as it requires much time and patience. Busy veterinary practices can be extremely intense to the exclusion of student education. I found their practice to be the exact opposite. The case load was vast and diverse, but they took the time to make sure I felt involved and that I was learning about the routine cases that rarely present to veterinary school teaching hospitals. 

Veterinary school does not provide much surgical experience. We learn anatomy and have extensive classroom training on tissue handling and surgery, but actual hands-on surgery is something that is typically acquired away from the veterinary school. 

During my month working with Dr. Scott, I had the opportunity to tweak and refine my surgical skills. Dr. Scott never criticized me, rather he gave me pointers on how to hold surgical instruments and how to precisely use a scalpel and place suture knots. He did this in a manner that was constructive and not condescending. He created an environment of learning. He saw something in me that I did not see. He taught me to trust my skill and my ability as I entered the real world as a practicing veterinarian. He became a trusted mentor. 

Dr. Randy Scott is a truly unselfish person who helped me with little in return. He was genuinely altruistic. He built my confidence, encouraged me to grow, and patiently watched me fall and regain my balance. He saw something in me that I didn’t even know I possessed. 

The word “mentor” as applied to such a person has its roots in Greek mythology. In the Odyssey, Mentor was a character who advised and protected Odysseus’ son Telemachus. A 1699 novel called Les Aventures de Télémaque (“The Adventures of Telemachus”), introduced a character named Mentor who served as Telemachus’ tutor. Mentor was the hero of the story, and turned out to be Minerva, the goddess of wisdom, in disguise. The modern usage of the term “mentor” seems to have arisen from that book.

A great mentor wants you to succeed, and he or she will actively support your success with words and action. The great mentor will never be envious or feel threatened by your growth; he or she will congratulate you on your triumphs and help you recover from your setbacks. The generous mentor will make connections or offer resources that could be useful to you whenever he or she can. Most important, a generous mentor believes in your potential, and communicates that to you freely and with hope. The generous mentor supports you to become the person you want to become.

How grateful I am for the mentorship I received under Dr. Randy Scott. Looking back at all the opportunities I’ve had as veterinarian have pivoted on the training that I received from him. My first veterinary work on deer, elk and moose all began during my time at his clinic. I would have never had the courage to work with reindeer without this essential knowledge base. My surgical skill, from the way I hold my suture and my needle drivers, to the way I perform orthopedic surgery, all began and were nurtured under his mentorship. He taught me that what we did was small and beautiful- but that the animals we helped were precious.

Over the years, I have remained close with Dr. Scott. He has even stopped in to visit my veterinary hospital in Springville. He has done so much for me and taught me so much about science, about life, about everything. My biggest fear has always been in letting him down. I work my hardest so that he can be proud of me and to show him that his trust in me was not wasted. 

The true test of one’s character comes when there exists no sphere of recognition potential, no roar and support of a crowd and no chance of fame or fortune. Being simply motivated by the genuine desire to help others, never entertaining the thought of self-interest, is the defining characteristic of a good mentor. 

If you are lucky, and few of us are, at some point in your life you acquire a good mentor. Timing and chance aligned in my life and I was able to find one. I will forever count this mentor as a cherished and dear friend. 

And that is my take,

N. Isaac Bott, DVM

Pictured are Dr. Randy Scott and I at Mountain West Animal Hospital

The Itch is On!

My Take Tuesday: The Itch Is On!

Spring is a beautiful time of year in Utah County! As winter loses it overpowering grip, new life emerges. The smell of flowers, fresh green grass and the sound of birds chirping will invoke feelings of happiness in those yearning for warmer weather.

During springtime, a dichotomy of sorts is presented. While I love this time of year immensely, its arrival brings in the annual ritual of sniffling and sneezing, a runny nose and itchy eyes. Atopy, the genetic predisposition to allergies, has plagued my family for generations. We all have severe allergies to grass, alfalfa and flowers.

While growing up, a rosebush outside my bedroom window would bloom beautifully this time of year. This rosebush brought me seasonal misery and debilitating symptoms and endless nights of wheezing, sniffing and itchy red eyes. I hated that rosebush! I remember having such severe attacks, that I would lay in bed with a cold washcloth over my eyes, unable to sleep or do anything productive. On the worst of these nights, I scribbled a journal entry at the height of allergy season that simply read, “Today more allergies, oh I hate them.”

I have sympathy for my veterinary patients that suffer from allergies. All to frequently, they present in complete disarray. Instead of the runny noses, itchy eyes, sneezing or wheezing allergies mean to many people, pet allergies typically show up as scratching, chewing, rubbing, head-shaking or severe ear infections. Often dogs present with bleeding paws and open sores all over their body. These lesions are caused by continuous scratching. This insatiable itch drives them crazy. Every waking hour they spend trying to scratch the itch away.

Allergies are by far the most common illness I see as a veterinarian. It is sad to see pets suffering so. When pets suffer, they are at least as miserable as we are — and likely much more.

With each case, we try to provide suggestions specific to your pet, your region and your season, but in general, you can help your pet a great deal with an allergy-prevention regimen in the home.

Concurrently, you can limit the amount of dust and other irritants pets sweep up in their coats by vacuuming and using electrostatic cleaning products (such as Swiffers) on floor surfaces as well as using room or whole house filtration systems. And while you may have heard that frequent shampooing strips the skin of essential oils, veterinary dermatologists now recommend bathing pets at least every week (up to everyday for extremely at-risk, allergic pets) during the spring and summer to help wash allergens off the coat and skin before they can be absorbed and trigger an allergic reaction. Spray-on products or wipes for a dry bath will often do the trick and may be a great deal easier than bathing for some dogs and almost all cats.

Often, it’s not just about airborne allergens or parasites: Pets suffer from food allergies as well. Allergy reactions to pet food are usually caused by proteins, and can include beef, egg, milk or cheese products, soy or even fish. If food allergies are suspected, your veterinarian will guide you through food-elimination trials to find the culprit and recommend a diet that’s both nutritionally complete and contains pre-digested proteins. If your dog suffers from a food allergy but still needs to take medications, Greenies Pill Pockets Allergy Formula capsules may help. These are little pouches, made from peas and duck that facilitate medication administration by providing a yummy pocket for a pill.

Please don’t let your pets suffer. Schedule an appointment and let’s work together to provide the life free of pain and suffering that each of your four-legged family members deserve.

With modern veterinary options and a world of new products to help, the pet with allergies can be managed better than ever before. And that means you and your pet will both sleep better, after you’ve stopped the itch.

And that is my take!

N. Isaac Bott, DVM