Dr. Danya Wants to Know: What are My Grads up to, and Who are they Kissing?
INTERVIEW: LAURA TAKACS, STAUTZENBERGER
Thanks to social media, I get to keep in touch with many of my Animal Sciences/Vet Tech graduates after they have moved onward and upward post-college-life. Laura is one of these fabulous grads, and it has been a joy and an inspiration to network with her now as colleagues. Laura is a true hero, protecting the most helpless among us, and putting herself in danger every day, and every night. She gets little thanks, and even less time off.
Please join me while I chat with Laura Takacs, RVT, ACO and plain old super-hero:
First, the basics: tell our readers who you are, when you graduated, and in what program?
I am a mother, a daughter, a sister and a friend! I find it important to include these roles because sometimes when you are in the rescue field you get swallowed up and take some of these roles for granted or let them go by the wayside. I am also an Animal Control Officer, a Veterinary technician, a certified euthanasia technician, and occasionally an instructor. I graduated from the veterinarian technician program!
Why did you decide to become a veterinary technician? I can remember being five years old and telling anyone who would listen that I wanted to become a veterinarian! Funny, I was in the aerospace business for over 25 years before finally starting my path in animal sciences. Or even entering the world of animal care and animal welfare at ALL. I eventually quit the engineering position and went to work at a veterinary clinic as an assistant, and volunteered at the local animal shelter. When my daughter started college, I decided to go back to school to fulfill my career with animals.
Do you recall what then inspired you to choose being an Animal Control Officer? Did you see that coming all along? What moved you down that path? Well, when I was at Stautzenberger we had a guest speaker. A veterinarian that was working with the United States department of agriculture. She had shown us a film of cows being brutalized by workers at a factory farm.… At that moment I decided that I was going to protect animals.
Oh! That must have been Dr. Norma Jean. She was fabulous.
Laura, you were what we diplomatically call a ‘Non-traditional student’ – meaning you were not 18 and still living with mom and dad when you enrolled. What were your biggest obstacles getting through school, and how did your own life experience impact your time at Stautzenberger? Being older and returning to school was a little scary, however, my excitement over taking the path to fulfill a lifelong dream, and tremendous passion about the field, pushed me to show up on that first day, and every day after that. The Stautzenberger staff and faculty were excellent resources and I fell in love with my fellow students! They were all wonderful young ladies, I kind of felt like a mom to most of them. My studies were fun at times because we created study groups and helped each other to succeed!
I think those study groups, or study-buddies, are some of the best ways to get through school, AND build long lasting friendships. How did you overcome the obstacles, or tough times? Passion!
And how did you manage just the daily balance of school/work/pets/sleep/sanity? It was a hard road, but a fun road. I definitely had to study more than some of the other students. When we get older, we don't remember things as well or retain them as well as when we were younger. It was definitely a challenge working and being a mom and my fur babies were a little perturbed with me because they did not get enough time with me and had to suffice with four walks! I believe as long as you try, and keep pushing along you will succeed! It may seem like it is a crazy road and taking forever, but in reality it is over in the blink of an eye! If anyone gets stressed and feels like they can’t make it they should definitely talk with someone at the school or their fellow students for help. The help will be there if you ask for it!
What do you know now that you really wish you had known going into it? I can’t really say. I did the best I could and I turned out ok.…
You certainly did! More than ok. You have a few years behind you as both a vet tech and an ACO; what are the most rewarding parts of your work? Helping animals and helping people. I am big on educating people instead of chastising them. Being able to create new programs in the city that help animals and the residents. Meeting fellow animal control/humane officers and sharing creative ideas. I was able to decrease our euthanasia rate considerably. I believe the most rewarding though is seeing a broken abandoned animal being brought back to a healthy mental and physical state and being adopted into their forever home, or if it is a wild animal being released back into its habitat as a strong healthy survivor!
What are the toughest things you deal with on the job? Ignorance! My position, of course, can be heart wrenching. The things I see and deal with can break a person. The acts of cruelty and neglect that you deal with can seem unfathomable. I hate the things that I see but I will never turn away from an animal or human in need.
In 5 or 10 years, what do you suppose your work life will look like? Well, I am hoping that we will have stronger laws, for example the Dick Goddard law that recently went through the house for most animal cruelty to be a felony. More educational programs regarding animals both domestic and wild! People having the resources and support to keep animals in their homes, less euthanasia, and more widespread acceptance of TNR, (Trap/neuter/return), to decrease the feral cat population AND make it healthier and more stable.
Thinking about current trends in animal welfare, animal care, veterinary medicine, what are some of your hot-button issues, the topics about which you are most passionate? Uggghhhh, I get a lot of people who dump their animals. Just drive to the woods and open their door. I also get people who turn in a “found” animal and in reality it is their own. Of course cruelty and neglect, they are all huge hot-button issues.
Working in ANY part of the animal care field is physically and emotionally exhausting. Working in animal rescue is that times infinity. How do you recharge, keep from feeling hopeless and, fight compassion fatigue? The first thing I have found to be the most important is to realize when I am having compassion fatigue. When I realize it, I can seek help. Yoga, meditation, walking, and seeking a therapist are several good tools to use. Snuggling with kittens is a good idea too. A mandatory vacation, for me preferably near the ocean did wonders for me! First vacation in 10 years and it was only 5 days at the beach, but it worked. I highly recommended it!
Can we take a moment to acknowledge your own crew of fabulous pets: Oh boy…. I have a 15-year-old Border Collie/Bernese Mountain mix. I lost my 15-year-old boxer 2 Christmas’ ago.
How about any newbies who are with you now, curtesy of your job? I have adopted three birds, a cat, and two miniature American shepherds. I foster when I can, but I only take in what I can afford to take care of financially and emotionally.
What words of wisdom, advice, encouragement or warning would you like to impart to prospective or current animal welfare & management, or vet tech students? Love yourself, love your job, take care of yourself, always be willing to learn, never be a know it all, and treat every person and animal with care and respect. You never know what they are struggling with!
Learn more! Learn what you love, and love what you do.
Talk to us about working with animals in any aspect of animal care or animal welfare, or just to learn more about our amazing animal rescue partners.
Stautzenberger College offers diploma and degree programs in Animal Sciences.
In addition to diploma and degree programs, Stautzenberger College also offers short, sweet & cheap certificate courses for members of the community, like our Animal Warden, Animal Control Officer program which provides attendees the opportunity to learn about animal health, animal behavior and animal law.
Written by: Danya Linehan, DVM
June 11, 2016
Danya Linehan has been working with animals since 1983, practicing veterinary medicine since 1993, and has been a proud member of the Stautzenberger College Family since 2006. (Danya Linehan is old). Dr. Danya is the Program Chair for Animal Welfare and Management Program with the College.
As the part time shelter veterinarian at Cat Welfare Association, she is part of an amazing animal welfare team.
Danya shares her home, her rescue mission and her life with fellow animal advocate Mike Parks. Mike and Danya are owned by a lively crew of cats; they are currently one cat shy of being the crazy cat couple.
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