Friday, July 3, 2020

If you can, take a chance on a “work-in progress” rescue ~ Alex, Receptionist

My whole life I have always loved dogs. I hounded my parents for years until they gave in and let us adopt a sweet little puppy from a broken down animal shelter in the middle of nowhere. When she unfortunately passed away from old age a little over a year ago, I knew I would not be able to be dog-less for long.

Like some sort of cosmic event, I had been looking at Kodiak’s picture on the rescue website for almost a year at that point. I was sure he would be snatched up quickly because he was so darn cute to me. Since I wasn’t in a place where I could adopt him at the moment (our family dog was very dog aggressive, which meant she ruled the roost her whole life) I hoped someone else would welcome him into their home in the meantime.

However, lo and behold, right when I was still aching from the loss of my childhood dog, Kodi’s picture swam back on my radar on I couldn’t believe that he was still up for adoption, considering he was a young dog, happy, and friendly looking. Regardless, I applied to four different rescues, trying to keep my options open but the rescue I adopted Kodiak from reached out first and seemed incredibly overjoyed to see interest in hi
m finally. We scheduled a meeting for the next weekend and it was love at first sight.

I learned quickly that the reason Kodi was up for adoption so long (3 YEARS!) was because he has some nervousness issues. Because of that the rescue had spent ages trying to get him adopted with little success. I was undaunted. Kodiak ran up to me immediately when I went to greet him, and I just knew it was going to have to be me to give him the chance to flourish like he has always been meant to.

I’ll be honest, Kodiak is not the easiest dog, he can take anywhere from ten minutes to an hour to warm up to people. He is not the immediately lovable dog that most people are overjoyed at meeting, he’s picky and likes to get to know people first before he graces them with his attention. He used to be averse to any dog coming up to him and would sometimes snarl or snap if they tried to sniff his mouth in a normal dog greeting. He didn’t know what beds, toys, stairs, cars—honestly, I could go on and on with the list of things I have now desensitized him to.

However, despite these initial flaws I wouldn’t change a second of the last year and a half that I brought Kodiak into my family. He came with me when I moved states, started new jobs, started graduate school, and is always there at my side to take on life. I have been shocked and amazed at the progress I have achieved over the last year. I have watched Kodi come out of his shell and trust in more people than just me for once. I have finally taken him to some dog parks and watched him run around and enjoy himself to his fullest recently. He wouldn’t even let my mom pet him when I first got him and would run away and growl and hide behind a table. Now, he still takes a little bit to warm back up to her but he is actively looking for pets and love. Kodiak rarely growls from nerves or fear anymore and seems overall more confident and happy as every day passes.

It hurts my heart to think that Kodiak sat in a rescue for three years before I happened upon him. I’ll be the first one to tell you that it hasn’t been easy working with a dog who was literally afraid of everything and would only trust me to do anything for him. However, if you have the ability to take that chance, to accept a work-in-progress dog into your life, please do. Kodiak has become the love of my family, friends, and people I have met. He is so caring and smart. The effort I have put into him has been resolutely paid back in kind and I know I cannot wait to see what the rest of life holds for him and us.

Friday, June 5, 2020

Cows are Wonderful Creatures ~ Meg, Veterinary Nurse

            I grew up in suburban Minnesota, very close to the Twin Cities. As you can imagine, that meant that I had little experience with the farming community. How I managed to end up as a Dairy Cattle Research Intern at the rural University of Minnesota Morris campus is as much your guess as mine. I spent the summer after my freshman year of college chasing after dairy cattle in wide open fields, all in the name of research. There were several life lessons that I learned that summer, mostly taught to me by cows.

            Now, you might be wondering what on Earth a cow can teach you. They are stigmatized as being unintelligent, and sometimes scary, creatures. But boy, is that wrong! Everything I learned about cows and farming I learned the hard way (the first thing that comes to mind is experiencing just how much electric fences hurt, especially when you think they’re turned off but aren’t). Here are some valuable lessons I learned during that wonderful and exhausting summer:

            1) Calves are cute, but the diseases they can carry are not.

As part of a pain mediation study for dehorning procedures, we spent a lot of time working with calves. Placing jugular catheters, administering medication, dehorning, and observation meant many hours of close contact were spent with adorable calves. When I developed bad GI symptoms I was surprised to discover that I had contracted E. coli (likely from the close contact with the calves). After sitting in agony with horrific stomach cramps for a week, I quickly learned that while calves are cute, snuggling with them is probably a bad idea.

             2) Patience is a virtue.

This lesson is something that everyone realizes at some point in life. Mine came while trying to catch a nervous heifer that had gotten through some feeble fencing. She had become a bit nervous while we were moving her group’s grazing area to ensure that they didn’t over-graze any part of the pasture. This is a routine event, but young heifers are obviously a bit more nervous and inexperienced. She made a break through the fencing and so I quickly ran over to try and tempt her to go back through to where her other heifer friends were happily munching away. She started enjoying herself immensely and thought that we were playing a game…. I’m not sure how much time I spent chasing that heifer (they’re faster than you’d think), but I know I definitely have never been more exhausted in my life. I believe that it was purely her decision to go back to her group. Once she’d had enough fun, and realized that I looked about ready to pass out, she unceremoniously trotted back over to her friends. Cows can be stubborn animals, but it just takes a bit of patience to achieve the end goal.

               3) All the long days and hard work were worth it.

12, 13, and sometimes even 14, hour days were the norm that summer. I have never worked harder in my life. The work was very physical, but it also challenged me intellectually as well. I learned how to create my own research project and worked throughout the summer to gather data and troubleshoot complications. I quickly grew fond of dairy cows, a sentence that I never thought I’d say. They each have their own individual personalities, and it was a privilege to get to work with them every day. Everyone has their own opinions regarding things such as “organic” products, use of antibiotics and other medications in food animals, and food animal welfare. While I only saw a small portion of the dairy industry, I was able to formulate my opinions based on my experiences. I learned so much that summer and it has shaped my opinions and thoughts on all of those issues since.

Farm work isn’t for everyone, but I think everyone should take the opportunity to experience the fresh air and beautiful creatures. It’s hard work, but so worth it.