A large part of every animal science program are the animals that you learn from. We like to call them teaching animals, because that’s exactly what they do — teach us. Whether it be a horse or a dog or a ferret, they all serve their purpose, and we owe it to them to acknowledge them for their services.
Sometimes it’s hard to be in labs where there are large groups of us learning rectal palpation on a cow. A single cow for multiple people to stick their arm up her butt never seems enough. We usually try to coordinate when the animals need shots to practice inoculation techniques or blood work to practice blood drawing techniques, but sometimes it doesn’t line up. Some procedures, such as rectals, are routine health check-ups, though for us vet students who’ve never had a hand in a cow before, we can’t really call them that.
I know that the animals are there to help us learn, but sometimes we get so caught up in excitement that we get to do a rectal palpation or a blood draw, or whatever, that we forget that we’re working on animals. Learning from these animals requires a mutual respect that sometimes vet students don’t seem to follow through. I watched my fellow classmates doing orthopedic exams, swinging legs around and looking at the leg, but in the meantime forgetting to look at the dog as a whole. We get so focused on our goals, for example to practice an orthopedic exam, that we forget that having multiple learning students improperly putting a dog through a range of motion will probably cause the dog some discomfort.
All this being said, please don’t ever think we abuse our animals. There are very strict policies on how many people can do what to a dog, and after every “procedure,” whether a blood draw or orthopedic exam, the animals have a required rest time. Also, at AVC we have the amazing opportunity to adopt our teaching dogs when they’ve spent a couple years teaching us, and I plan on adopting one to give her a long happy life outside the AVC to express my gratitude for her service in our education.