Though my name was never linked to it on a SOAP or anywhere in the medical record, the first ever Tufts veterinary patient I encountered was an injured Cooper’s Hawk that I came across in Harvard Square back when I was a junior in college. It was initially surrounded by a dozen onlookers gathered to see what was the matter with it. Having had worked with many a bird of prey at the Israeli Wildlife Hospital the summer prior, I knew how to stabilize the hawk in a towel to prevent further injury. The Animal Rescue League of Boston was called, and I handed her to some unknown worker. I went back to my business of being a college student, the hawk was driven to the wildlife clinic at Tufts, and our paths never were to cross again.
Fast forward six years later. A week after my vet school graduation, my girlfriend and I were going for a leisurely walk through a cemetery in North Grafton, listening to the birds, and talking about life. She spotted an object off in the distance about three hundred feet away that was clearly out of place. I claimed it was probably a piece of wood, but she insisted it was a turtle so we made our way closer. Lo and behold, it was alive (albeit lethargic, dehydrated-looking) snapping turtle! Though the history remains unclear as to how the turtle arrived where we found him, it was recognized that he needed some medical intervention since he did not try to escape or defend himself as a healthy snapper would. The scene garnered the attention of a group of kids on skateboards and a couple in a car. I carefully picked up the turtle using the technique I was taught in the wildlife hospital (thanks, Dr. Murray!), covered his face with a towel, placed him in a box the couple provided, and drove him to Tufts where I had alerted the wildlife intern on call. He was in good hands, and I could leave feeling satisfied. Thankfully I listened to my girlfriend and went to see the “piece of wood.”
I was not a vet student for either of these chance encounters, but these animals can be seen to symbolically help begin and end my career as one. I am very grateful to the people in my life me who spurred me on to get my degree in order to help patients, not as a student, but a vet.