By Rachel Bryson-Brockman

vet1Does your heart melt at the sight of a puppy bounding towards you? Or at a kitten’s gentle purr? Becker College students who are so affected have the unique opportunity to get hands-on experience with live animals that are taken to Becker’s Veterinary Clinic. Students majoring in Animal Science assist licensed veterinarians in treating these animals, gaining invaluable experience and expertise.

Open to the public, Becker’s Veterinary Clinic is a teaching hospital that offers small animal outpatient care, minor surgical care for small animals, exotic animal appointments, and grooming. It is a primary care facility, meaning it will only help with minor problems ~ it does not treat critical care cases or animals requiring major or emergency surgery.

“The most frequent type of appointment we encounter is an annual wellness checkup which includes a physical exam, vaccinations, fecal exams and heartworm tests for dogs,” says Dr. Gail Hartman, the Becker Veterinary Clinic Director. “Since it is a teaching hospital, we are not able to be as busy as other veterinary clinics, because the process of teaching the students takes time. We see probably 25 animals a week, with most of them being cats and dogs, with the occasional rabbit or bird.”

While there are four professors who are also licensed veterinarians on staff at the clinic, the students play a huge part in the care of the animals. Baylee Phillips, a Veterinary Science major at Becker, stresses her huge workload and the hands-on experience she gets. “The program requires a great deal of work outside of the classroom. Becker requires that we have ‘Exam Room’ for a semester during both our freshman and sophomore year,” she says. “We are involved with Becker Veterinary Clinic clients and act as the veterinary technician. It is great experience.”

Besides the animals that come in needing treatment, the clinic accepts homeless animals that the students work with for the semester. The animals come from Second Chance Animal Shelter in East Brookfield. “We love taking animals from shelters, because it helps decrease the amount of overcrowding and euthanasia,” says Phillips. The students are all assigned “Kennel Rotation,” where they are given a week to visit the clinic every morning and take care of the animals ~ walking the dogs, cleaning the cages, and feeding the animals. “At the end of the semester, the animals are adopted out to both clients of the clinic and students and faculty,” says Phillips. “Most of them end up being adopted instead of sent back to the shelter, so it is a happy ending all around.”

There are eight Animal Sciences concentrations at Becker: Animal Care, Veterinary Technology, Veterinary Science, Pre-Veterinary, and Equine Studies (which encompasses three other concentrations that are headquartered at the Becker College Equestrian Center in Paxton, MA). All students involved in Animal Sciences, except for those involved in Equine Studies, have some sort of involvement in the clinic. But even if Becker students are not majoring in Animal Sciences, they still have the chance to interact with the program animals. “There is an animal club that students can join that gives them many opportunities to spend time in the clinic with the animals,” says Phillips.

It isn’t all work and no fun for the Animal Science majors at Becker ~ animals can be unpredictable, and that has led to some comical moments inside the clinic. Phillips remembers a time when a guinea pig didn’t want to cooperate. “We are so used to dogs and cats, so it was different to see a guinea pig,” she says. “He was screeching, scratching, and biting, so my professor found a breathable nylon sock to put him in, so we could radiograph him. He looked like a little sausage ~ it was so funny to work with him.”

So if you’ve got a pet in need of a check-up, why not bring him or her on over to Becker’s clinic? You won’t be disappointed by the animal lovers there.