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  1. As many of you know over 4 years ago now I made the decision to go to vet school. I am now in year 2 (having dropped back a year due to COVID taking away childcare) and I am absolutely loving it!

    This has naturally caused a bit of a decline with my blogging (apologies!) but I thought I'd break the quiet spell with a blog about some of the things I didn't know about vet school until I arrived there!

    Firstly (and this is probably obviously to many, but it wasn't to me!) vet school is hard - really hard!  Each day, 5 days a week, for 11 weeks a semester, 2 semesters a year, it feels like being under an information siege that you need to retain, assimilate and put into context with other information that is being bombarded at you, whilst also needing to read and keep up with your own independent learning at the same time. It is intense!  I strongly feel the reason vet schools have such high entry requirements is not that the content itself is difficult, but that the volume is incredible - so students have to be capable of keeping up with it all!  I think there has been a real tendency to dumb down professionals such as vets in recent years, as information becomes more and more freely available and people do their own research.  This research is invaluable because it is wonderful for owners to be informed on their pet's health and wellbeing, but equally it is worth remembering that researching something on google is very different to being taught content through a degree.  It is just not the same thing.  

    Also, along the way I have seen several friends on the course drop out, drop back or take time off and I know that some of them have had a hard time with disappointed family or friends.  But the reality is that vet school is hard and a huge commitment.  Until you are on the course, you have no idea what it is like and if you are not enjoying it - it's a long time and a lot of work if you've realised it's not for you!  It's also not unusual for exams to be failed and need resitting, possibly repeating a year - this is not a bad thing, it's just a reminder that the course itself is hard and standards are high!

    Secondly I have frequently heard repeated, that 'vet schools do not teach much about nutrition'.  This is just not true.  Being able to assess and advise on nutrition is what is known as a 'Day One Competency' of all new graduating veterinary surgeons with the RCVS.  So vet schools very much teach students about nutrition!  At Surrey we actually have nutrition wound through the entire curriculum, repeatedly for each body system and for animal husbandry.  It does amuse me that there are often reports that vets only study it for one module (one module is normally 150 hours of study, so not insignificant besides!) and that vets are only trained in nutrition by feed companies - in fact if this were the case then qualifying vets would not meet the standard of the Veterinary College on graduation!

    Lastly (and these are just a few of the preconceptions I have had, I will write more as I have time) I was not aware until I joined that the rates of suicide in the veterinary profession are disproportionately high.  There are a lot of issues here, it is a complex problem, but I cannot help but think that the general public attitude towards vet is quite poor.  Vets are often accused of 'being in it for the money' or of 'not caring about pets' for various reasons, but mostly because they have to charge for treatments - they are not a charity and cannot use there time, equipment and skills for free without either running at a loss, not having a salary or burning out.  I have met a lot of people on the course in my year and others, we have lots of differences, but one common goal, we love animals and want to help them.  However veterinary help is an expensive job so each consultation fee goes towards paying:

    • The vet surgeon's salary
    • The salary of the receptionist who scheduled the appointments/calls clients with updates
    • The telephone line
    • The building rent/mortgage and the business rates
    • The salaries of the nurses
    • The cost of storing medication in the premises, ready to be prescribed when needed.
    • Professional memberships and CPD which have to be updated regularly
    • A student loan that for tuition alone will be around £46,250 for current graduates, let alone maintenance loan on top.
    • Electricity, water, heating.
    • Equipment such as kennels and cages, operating table, scalpels etc etc
    • Gas for anaesthetics.
    • Pet food for clients staying in overnight

    I remember looking up the NHS cost figures for a human C section - this was ballpark £1000, vet surgeries only charge a fraction of that for a canine c section, but they still have most of the same costs!  So when the surgery charges what seems like an extortionate amount for a single visit, please remember that you are not just paying for 15 minutes of the vets time,  you are paying for all of the things above too - and for them to be ready in the event of your pet having a life threatening emergency!  So please be kind to your vet - this is their job that they are passionate about and have trained exceptionally hard for and they deserve to be paid for that without accusations of 'money grabbing'.

    So there you have it - my first blog in a year!  I am hoping to write all about vet school as I know so many would find it interesting - many more posts to follow!

  2. If you decided lockdown was the perfect time to add a new puppy to your household, you may have missed out on puppy classes and advice from a qualified dog trainer.  Which is why we wanted to put this video of me (Corrine!) here for free, explaining how you can introduce a new puppy to your household and get a great start on toilet training, preventing play biting, managing chewing and socialisation! 

    Sadly as many of you know, I have had to stop offering training and behaviour services as I'm now a full time vet student at the University of Surrey so you will see mention of my classes at the end of this video which are no longer running, but there are a number of amazing trainers in Guildford now who can help instead. 

  3. Grieving for a Beloved Cat

    by Sarah Sorgi

    Driven by my own current state of loss, I have decided to touch on the subject of grief and loss in this blog.  Should the subject of grief, when dealing with the loss of a much loved animal and family member, be as taboo as it sometimes seems? Can sharing our experience ultimately help with the grieving process that so many of us experience and yet, go through quietly? Should we just get on with it..."oh for goodness sake, it was only a cat!"?

    So, here goes...last week, we sadly and suddenly lost our young cat to the road. Safi would have been two in summer, so she was still so young. Having lost her sister to the same, awful, fate last year, Safi seemed to show no real interest in going near the road (that we know of), instead revelling in the paddocks, fields and stables behind our house. There was good hunting to be had, in the form of mice and rats, and she would frequently come home smelling very much of horse! On the morning of the day she died, she brought home a young rabbit, and both my husband and I thought the same thing...oh damn...young rabbits are often spotted in the grass verges at the side of our road. We suspect that later that day, she discovered this fact too. Now she and her sister are reunited in our garden and I am hoping that they are both terrorising the local rodent population in their blissful spirit forms.

    Safi's untimely death was a massive shock, despite knowing that her sister had met her fate in a similar way. Having her wrenched out of our lives so suddenly has left us broken hearted. Over the last week we have felt the massive hole that Safi's passing has left in our family. And not just amongst the humans...our poor dog, Gizmo, is also now grieving for the loss of his 'sister' – he waits for her to jump over the fence back into the garden, he is confused that he now has full access to the bed that she monopolised for herself...small cat on huge cushion...the dog on the floor ha ha!

    So we find ourselves grieving. 

    Firstly, after the shock of being told by a neighbour that our cat had been hit by a car, to the panic of rushing her to the vet, to the realisation she was gone. In this state of shock, we brought her home and buried her next to her sister, with some of her favourite toys and the open packet of Dreamies.

    Secondly, and this stage is still very much ongoing, is the fluctuating between anger, sadness, guilt and sorrow. I feel angry that (yet again) some careless person had been driving too fast along our road to notice a black cat. I feel angry that we couldn't keep her safe (I am not a strong believer in keeping a cat indoors, but I accept that for various reasons, people do) . I even feel angry at Safi for going near the road when she usually avoided it. Then all of these reasons turn into sadness and the hole in our lives becomes even more visible yet again. Then I feel guilty...I made a silent vow to Toothless when she died that I would do everything I could to keep Safi safe from harm and loved. She was certainly loved, but I guess I failed at keeping her safe – sorry to both of you. This all then descends into a soul-wrenching sorrow, where I would quite happily sell said soul to have my velvet coated, bristle-tailed, stable-smelling gorgeous girl back with her family again (and that goes for her sister too). And then, it all wheels round again...anger, sadness, guilt, sorrow....rinse and repeat! I am sure that with time, the loss of Safi will become easier, she will never be forgotten. Having lived with cats for most of my life, I now find myself in the horrifying situation of being too fearful and guilt-ridden about getting another cat...especially not here! But is that real, or is it the grief talking? 

    Loss of a PetThe process of grief packs a punch. Whether dealing with a sudden, unexpected loss, especially in a young animal, or whether dealing with death that follows the natural ticking clock of  life in an elderly animal...saying goodbye is hard. Struggling to reach the decision, or realising when the time has come to offer our much-loved four-legged companions a peaceful passing, is every bit as traumatic and devastating as having them snatched from you in a split-second.  The grief process remains fundamentally the same. Shock, anger, sadness, guilt and sorrow, rinse and repeat.

    The wonderful thing is that by talking about it (especially with fellow animal-lovers, of which ForPaws is amazingly, luckily blessed to have so many) we get to share our experiences of grief and loss with people who can empathise first hand.  These are people who don't think 'it was only a...'. they're people who have their own tales of loss to tell. That in itself is a huge help in dealing with grief. 

    I thank each and every one of you for taking time to read this tale, and in essence, taking a part in helping me with my grieving process. If you have your own tale or experience to share, please feel free to share in the comments below. It means alot that no matter whether it is sudden or expected, the grief we feel when we lose the animal hearts in our family, we as their guardians can unite to make the sadness and pain hurt that little bit less but more importantly make the happy memories feel much more special.

    Give your animal an extra treat, stroke, play time, we never know when they may be taken from us and in so doing taking a piece of our hearts with them.  We love you Safi!