Vet School Lessons To Remember

Two of our veterinary technicians are headed to veterinary medical school next fall.

Exciting? You bet. When I see their bright eyes staring off into the distance, dreaming of the days to come, I can’t help but reminisce about my own adventure in Minnesota. If I can give them just one bit of advice, I would say embrace your enthusiasm but think carefully before volunteering.

Is there a story behind these words of wisdom? Of course.

We were well into spring, but in Minnesota this translates into a daytime high of 60 degrees. Days like these were perfect for putting on a long-sleeved shirt under worn-out overalls. Our class of 84 students was divided into four groups, and the group that I was in headed for the teaching barn. The lesson for the day: horse semen analysis.

“OK, everyone, come closer so that I don’t have to shout,” announced Dr. Lowe. “Does anyone know what this is?”

In Dr. Lowe’s hands was a leather tube that measured approximately 2 feet in length. The apparatus had a rubber inner lining that extended another 18 inches, and ended in what looked like a plastic baby bottle. One of my classmates raised his hand and said that he thought it might be an artificial vagina.

“Correct,” replied Dr. Lowe. “The rubber sleeve within the leather shell is filled with warm water to simulate the internal temperature of a female horse, and the bottle at the end is the receptacle that will be collecting the ejaculate.”

I casually looked around at my classmates, and with some relief noticed a few uncomfortable expressions. I was glad I wasn’t the only one.

“Now, can I have a volunteer?” asked Dr. Lowe.

As the seconds ticked on by, I wondered why no one raised their hand. The silence slowly grew unbearable, so I stepped forward and said, “I’m game.”

As I made my way around the wooden fence line, several of my friends mumbled something about “not a good idea” and “better be careful.”

Dr. Lowe handed me the device and asked me to stand next to the horse-breeding “phantom” that looked a bit like a gymnastics pommel horse. A few minutes later, an assistant brought out a very calm horse that stood to one side.

Dr. Lowe proceeded to give me instructions on what to do, and finished by saying, “OK, John, when the stallion comes out, he’s going to be full of energy. Try not to make any abrupt movements.”

No abrupt movements … what did that mean?

All of a sudden the barn doors burst open and out came a snorting, bucking stallion. His head was darting from side to side and he immediately straddled the horse phantom. I moved slowly and followed the instructions set forth by Dr. Lowe. Ducking to one side, I heard the loud clack of teeth coming together. I barely avoided what appeared to be an attempt to bite my head off.

As I turned to look at my friends, I noticed hysterical laughter by the men and worried expressions on the women. This was definitely a “Kodak moment.” And mission accomplished!

Suffice to say, I thought twice before volunteering again.

Dr. John Kaya is director of the Windward Community College veterinary technician program and associate veterinarian for VCA University Animal Hospital.