by Tyler Grogan, CVT
This Fall, I made a big move across the country to Los Angeles. Shortly after my arrival here, tragedy struck my new community. Fires swept across the state and devastated thousands of lives more quickly than I could ever imagine. It was humbling and terrifying to witness. Tragedy can leave you feeling helpless, but one of the most beautiful parts of being a veterinary professional is our unique ability to offer help during it.
The Woolsey fire had been burning for several days when I saw a call for help reposted on Instagram, to which I felt equipped to reply. Veterinary hospitals and animal shelters were being inundated with hundreds of injured and displaced animals. One veterinary hospital was evacuated, and instead of storing their equipment and supplies, they decided to put them to work and offer free assistance at a Red Cross shelter nearby. I had no idea what to expect, but I knew that I possessed the skills they were looking for. I sent a text to the random phone number and started a three day dose of perspective.
In the moment, the work I was doing seemed heroic to everyone outside of it. Some of it was challenging, and some of it was what you may expect. On my first day, an orange Tabby was brought in by animal control. His color was greyed by the residue of smoke, and his fur was shortened on his hind legs. It was clear he had been closely chased by flames. He huddled quietly in his towel, and the amount of singed fur caked to his face made everyone wonder if we would find eyes when we removed it. A physical sigh of relief came over the team and bystanders alike when he blinked two green eyes gratefully, for the first time looking around our tented clinic. He purred and head-butted me as he settled into his temporary home, and all of us fell silent for a few moments while we let the reality of the situation wash over us.
Thankfully, that was only a small part of what our volunteer work encompassed. Much more of the work we did was simply being there for the people and pets who had left their homes with nothing but the most important things to them – each other. We talked to people about their pets’ stories, educated them about symptoms of stress, and let them know we were there if there was anything else they may need. Does any of that sound familiar?
In this recent experience with the California wildfires, I was able to apply my veterinary skills that I use every day to help in a time of desperate need by a hurting community. Now I am not referring only to my experience with emergency medicine, triage or even dealing with burn wounds. Quite frankly, my experience in burn care is fairly limited. The skills I applied even more were my client communication skills, my compassion and my ability to work well in a team.
These are skills that I would argue almost every veterinary professional has to offer. Volunteering as a veterinary technician has arguably been one of the most rewarding times of my career, and I urge anyone that has the opportunity to do so, too.
It’s very easy to forget in the day-to-day that our dedication to this profession is a gift we can share. We get wrapped up in the thankless days, the difficult situations clients can put us in, and the small compensation for our hard work. We often speak of being cautious with what we give away in our businesses, and rightfully so when our livelihoods depend on them. So, take an opportunity to take the business out of it, and I promise you, you will quickly be reminded why you became a veterinary professional. If you’re searching for fulfillment or a reminder that your skills and knowledge are valued in your community – just offer your time.
How You Can Help During Disasters
If you’re a veterinary professional, animal shelter employee or anyone who wants an opportunity to offer help to animals in a disaster situation, here are links of organizations that you can become a part of! Even if you are not available to offer much time, many of these organizations will keep your information on file, and reach out to you if the need for volunteers arises!
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the Unchartedvet.com editorial team.
Tyler Grogan is a Certified Veterinary Technician currently working in Los Angeles. She is passionate about our profession and helping support the superheroes in it! Outside of the clinic, Tyler shares her home with two feisty calico cats and her husband. She loves spending time exploring as much of the world as she can, including her new home of California!