I have always loved animals and cared for them as best I could. When I was in junior high school, I realized that I wanted to be a veterinarian. From junior high through nearly three years of college, I worked towards this goal; I never achieved it, but I have come close. I worked in a veterinary hospital from the beginning of my 10th grade year until I went in the service 6 years later. I had many pets ranging from hamsters and snakes to dogs and cats; I once even had a pet bat!
I tried to get into the veterinary corps in the Army, but because of my color vision and a two-year enlistment due to the draft, I was instead sent to Germany as an administrative specialist.
Upon returning home, I went back to work at the veterinary hospital and started college again. Other things got in the way, like money; I dropped out of school and began driving a truck. Fifteen years later, I developed arthritis from jumping in and out of trucks all day and I had to find another career.
I was able to land a position as an entry-level cage washer with a large university because of my background. In one year I worked my way to the admin area as an animal procurement specialist. As time passed, I wanted more and began studying for the AALAS LATG exam. After passing that very difficult exam, I left the university and went into the private sector as a facility manager. I attended the Institute for Laboratory Animal Management to further my knowledge and expand my networking base. I now manage two animal facilities with just mice and rats. We concentrate on cancer research.
I mentioned earlier that I have arthritis. Well that is one of the reasons, beside the physical restrictions that caused me to leave my job as a truck driver, that I am in this business. I have had 3 major surgeries for joint replacement. All of these procedures were developed and refined using animal models. Both of my parents had cancer, but survived into their eighties after successful treatment of the disease. The treatment methods used to save them were all created using animals in research.
Who better to take care of research animals than someone who has benefited from that research? Who better than someone who loves animals and understands the need for research? I have shed tears when, after a long study, I have had to say goodbye and thank you to one of the research subjects. But I know that, because of the quality of care given to them by me and the people I've trained, the animals were in good health and happy during their time with us and the research study they were a part of will provide valuable results.
I am currently studying for more management certifications, attending continuing education classes, teaching my employees how to take the best care of our animals, and studying for my bachelors degree. In my job, learning is an ongoing process. Whether you continue on to college (which I recommend) or decided to just jump in with both feet in an entry-level position as I did, the learning and caring never stop.
Someday I hope that I am out of a job and that we can do everything on a computer or some other model, but until then, I will strive to give the animals in my charge the best care possible. Without that commitment, research results are suspect and more animals than necessary would be used. It makes good sense to give them the best of everything.