“Can you work there if you’re afraid of dogs?” Imani Smith asked the Belleville Animal Clinic workers who were speaking to the veterinary classes at Belleville East.
Yes, said Cheryl Yarber, the clinic’s administrator.
Veterinary technicians Dawn Moore and Ryan Murphy joined her in listing the myriad jobs available to those wanting to help animals without working directly around them, including laboratory work and office duties.
“If you like caring for people and their pets, this is for you,” Moore told the class.
The four veterinary science classes at Belleville District 201 — two each at Belleville East and Belleville West — are the first of their kind in the schools.
Students so far this school year have studied terminology, anatomy and physiology, teacher Jared Hemmer said. Students need to have already taken two years of science and received at least a C in those classes in order to take the veterinary science class.
Murphy, who got a bachelor’s degree in math and computer science before finding his way as a vet tech, said no two days are ever alike at the clinic. He’s been bitten hard enough to remember a handful of times, he said, but more often takes a paw to the face or neck, which can be more painful.
Moore has a bachelor’s degree in animal science, but says the job of a veterinary technician is “lots of hands-on and common sense.” She said students could go to 18-month programs as well, and vet techs often start at minimum wage.
“It doesn’t pay to be a vet tech,” Moore said. “Don’t get me wrong, Ryan and I support our families.”
She suggested students job shadow to see if it’s a career for them.
Volunteers aren’t allowed at the clinic, Yarber told classes, but students are welcome to come in and shadow the workers to get a better feel for the job.
Murphy told several classes that the rewards of being a vet tech are helping people by helping their animals.
Yarber brought three dogs and a cat to the classes, along with golf-ball sized bladder stones from a 30-pound dog and a microchip and scanner.
The three dogs, German Shepherds Kane and Carma and small mixed-breed Cinnamon, stay full-time at the clinic and each have jobs.
“Cinnamon is very social,” Yarber told the classes and is a comfort to people when their pets are ill.
“Their main job, in addition to Kane and Carma being great guard dogs, is they are blood donors,” Yarber said.
Dogs can receive a blood transfusion without a typed match once in an emergency situation, Yarber said. Part of Murphy and Moore’s jobs are to draw blood, as well as everything from preparing animals for surgery to cleaning up their messes.
The Belleville Animal Clinic cares for the canines in area police units, as well as for the arson dog at the Belleville Fire Department.
The clinic is not staffed 24 hours a day, Yarber said, but they sometimes answer late-night calls and other emergencies, sometimes drawing on the fire station’s resources.
She said on occasion the clinic needs an emergency oxygen tank to transport a pet, and they “bang on the firehouse door at 2 a.m. They say, ‘Here you go,’ and we’re off.”