My Take Tuesday: Why did you become a veterinarian?
I hear this question on a regular basis. Each veterinarian has a story about why he or she decided to pursue a career in veterinary medicine. Most veterinarians share a commonality – that they have always wanted to be a veterinarian as long as they can remember. My story is a little bit different. I have always loved animals but didn’t decide to become a veterinarian until the age of 21.
To tell my story, I must start at the beginning.
I was raised on a small farm in Castle Dale, UT. My first responsibilities as a child were to feed the chickens and gather the eggs. I began this task at 6 years of age. Each year we would purchase a variety of baby chicks from Murray McMurray hatchery. They would arrive at the post office on a scheduled day. I would wait with eager anticipation for this time. To me it was just like Christmas.
My dad would let each of us pick out a chick that was “ours”. I would always name mine. I first experienced the remarkable human – animal bond with my chickens. I cried when they died. As a child, chickens became my favorite animal, and remain so until today.
Even though I spent my entire childhood around animals, I did not put much thought into becoming a veterinarian. In high school, I took an aptitude test. The test results suggested that I would not make a good veterinarian. I was not introverted. According to that particular test, I could not be successful as a veterinarian. Assuming that these tests were accurate, I pushed the veterinary idea out of my head and considered a law degree.
After I graduated from high school, I spent the next two years in Peru. I was immersed in a culture so much different from the one I was used to. It took nearly a year for me to adjust and to speak fluent Spanish. I remember walking down the street in Casma, Peru one day and seeing a group of men in the process of castrating a bull. It was a sight that I will never forget. They were beating the testicles with a large stick in an effort to destroy the testicular tissue and render the bull sterile. The brutality was sickening. I remember feeling so sorry for the bull.
That night I laid in bed thinking about why they would castrate a bull in such a barbaric fashion. I realized that perhaps that was the only way they knew how. Maybe they didn’t know any better. I decided at that moment that I would do all I could to teach these farmers a better way. Having a farming background, I was very familiar with animal husbandry and felt confident that I could help educate the farmers in this part of the world.
My first patient was a pig named Walter. He was a family pet that lived in a house in Casma. Walter had an attitude and his owners needed to have him castrated. I had a friend named Duilio Davelos that owned a pharmacy in town. I visited him and purchased some lidocaine, suture, iodine and alcohol. The procedure went flawlessly. Walter recovered very quickly. News spread of the event. Soon after, I began sending my free time on Monday’s castrating pigs. I found that these farmers were open to learning new methods. The supplies were very inexpensive, and my services were free.
Next came chickens. Because of my time spent as a child taking care of baby chicks, I was able to teach basic poultry care and even help make incubators to boost production. I soon began helping with llama and alpaca herds. Soon, other curious Americans participated in this. In fact, a human dermatologist raised in Provo, UT had his first surgical experience South of Trujillo, Peru castrating pigs! It was very fulfilling to be able to help people out in this fashion. I felt like I was really accomplishing something. I was giving them something that would change the way they would treat their animals. No longer would they brutally castrate their animals without local anesthetic. They also knew how to surgically prep the skin, which eliminated so many post-operative infections. I was helping people by helping their pets. It made me so happy.
As my time in Peru came to a close, I boarded a plane in Lima and headed back to the USA. As I sat in my seat, I reflected on the past two years. My thoughts kept returning to the animal services I rendered. It was in that moment, high in the air, that I decided to become a veterinarian. I landed in Utah, and a few weeks later began my first college classes. After 8 1/2 years or arduous study, my goal was reached, and I became a veterinarian.
I often reflect on the decision I made. I look at how happy I am now. I love what I do. I love helping people by helping their animals. I have never had a boring day, nor have I ever regretted this career decision. I really feel like it is what I was meant to do.
So much in life happens by chance. I was fortunate to have my agricultural upbringing. It prepared me for the future. It is impossible to look forward and connect the dots of the random chances in our lives, but looking back, I can see it clearly.
I am glad that I had the chance to provide animal care in a faraway place and how that opportunity led me down this remarkable path I am on today. I cannot imagine doing anything else.
And that is my take!
N. Isaac Bott, DVM