Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Where are the middle-aged vet techs?

It is not my imagination.  Surely the volume of visits to assorted veterinary offices that I have racked up over the decades have reached a high enough number to satisfy statistical significance. 

Why is it that nearly all the veterinary technicians that I have seen appear to be younger than thirty-five?

Is it the stress of the job?  Can a person administer only so many euthanasia injections, then just can't take it anymore?  Forcing them to embark on a completely different career path?

Perhaps a vet tech is a sort of entry level or transitional job?  After a few years working as a vet tech, do many of them then go on to veterinarian school?  Become an entrepreneur in the pet industry?  Write a book?

Can it be, the abundance of youthful vet techs is an anomaly confined to two or three counties in lower Michigan?

What other explanations might there be for this seeming dearth of mature vet techs? 

How many variables effecting these questions am I overlooking? 

Am I even asking coherent questions?!

Maybe I should just shut up already and simply say thank you vet techs.  Thank you for your love of animals, thank you for your compassion and reassurance to the people who bring their pets into  animal hospitals and veterinary clinics.  Thank you for the gentle way you handle our beloved pets.  Thank you for going through education and training to bring your passion and dedication to fruition.

God Bless the Vet Techs.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Breed Profile: Lhasa Apso

The Lhasa Apso hails from Tibet.  He was originally used to guard the homes of nobility and Buddhist Monasteries.  The Lhasa's post was inside the building, while a Mastiff guarded the outside.             

The Lhasa's original name was Abso Seng Kye which means Bark Lion Sentinel Dog.

The Lhasa Apso's coat is long, heavy, and dense.  It is straight but not woolly or silky.  It forms a part down the dog's back.  This coat requires regular brushing which is why many non show dogs sport a "puppy cut".  Louis, the handsome fellow pictured below, models that short haircut.


The coat comes in many colors ranging from light blond to black.  The Lhasa Apso is 10-11 inches tall at the shoulder and weighs 13-15 pounds.  Lifespan:  12-14 years.  A daily walk and/or play session helps keep the Lhasa fit and calm.

Lhasa Apso Manifesto

- though I have retained guarding instincts, my current job description is companion  

-  I prefer the company of adults and older children, little kids and other dogs- not so much

-  my haughtiness, aloofness and stubbornness are critical elements of my dignified manner

-  if you want a sweet lap dog, get a King Charles Spaniel

see some nice pictures:

Next breed profile:  Kerry Blue Terrier!

Sunday, February 12, 2012


Alpacas, like llamas, camels, vicunas, and guanacos, are Camelids.  They are herbivores with long necks and a three chambered stomach.  Camelids have two toes with sturdy nails, the bottom of the foot is cushioned by a leathery pad.

There are no known wild Alpacas or Llamas.  DNA studies done by archaeozoologist Jane Wheeler determined that Alpacas are the domesticated descendants of wild vicunas and Llamas are descended from wild guanacos.

Alpacas are covered by a soft fleece which grows five to ten inches a year.  The fleece is used for assorted garments and is as warm and attractive as cashmere - without the itch.

Alpacas come in assorted colors and two varieties:  huacaya which has crimped fleece, lamb like in appearance and
suri with fleece resembling cords such as the Puli or Komondor dogs or in humans sporting dread locks.

Alpaca mom with baby, several hours old

Alpaca Procreation Facts

- gestation:  11 months

- mating occurs when the female is ready.  A male that meets with her approval causes her to ovulate.  A couple days later, they have intercourse.  The male will usually return for another, er, go.  If she has conceived, the female will spit at the male.  Mating is concluded.

- single births are the most common, twins are rare

- the baby, or cria, stands and nurses within an hour of birth.

- birth weight:  15-19 pounds

- the cria's toe nails are covered by a rubbery substance to protect the mother's womb.  This rubbery covering wears off quickly after birth as the youngster walks

Like most herd animals, the alpaca is vulnerable to attacks from predators.  A secure fence is critical to alpaca safety.

More Alpaca Facts

- first  domesticated in South America

- height:  36 inches at withers (top of shoulder/base of neck)

- weight:  100-175 pounds

- lifespan 15-25 years

What's the difference between a Llama and an Alpaca, you ask?  

Llamas are roughly twice the size of Alpacas.  Llama fleece is typically not as soft and is less desirable for spinning into cloth.  Llamas are used mainly as pack animals.  Alpaca ears are spear shaped.  Llama ears are longer and banana shaped.

for more information on Alpacas:
Llamas and Alpacas by Sue Weaver (Hobby Farms Books)

Thursday, February 2, 2012

A Not So Somber Anniversary

At this moment a Apricot Canary named Schubert is singing in the next room.

My mother passed away one year ago.  Death anniversaries are not something I go out of my way to commemorate but as this is a first, maybe you'll indulge me. 

Mom loved Christmas, the decorations, the music, the gifts.  Did she ever love the gifts!  My Christmas stocking was always jammed full with everything from earrings to chewing gum- all festively wrapped. 

This Christmas was different.  Dad has his own approach to gift giving.  I received nice box of dog poop bags and some lovely money. 

My first thought was to buy books with the money (never a bad choice).  But instead I waited for just the right thing.  Yesterday I found the right thing.  He is singing today on the anniversary of my mother's death. 

Mom was a very good sport about pets.  She let my brother and me keep earthworms in the refrigerator.  We needed the worms, you see, to feed snakes and turtles and skinks.  Mom even allowed us to continue keeping worms in the refrigerator after one of us failed to secure the lid on the worm container.  The worms had spread out in their search for an escape from their refrigerator prison.  There were worms and sticky worm trails on the walls, the shelves,  the milk,  even inside the fruit drawer. 

Worm trails notwithstanding, Mom often checked with us to be sure the snakes and turtles and skinks had been fed and their enclosures properly cleaned.  Not only did Mom let us have pets, she taught us to care for them, and about them.  She was right.  A well cared for pet is one of the most joyful obligations there is.

And so on this first anniversary of Mom's passing, a pet bird reminds us that there is always joy to be had and joy to remember.