Dr. Danya Wants to Know: What Are Our Vet Tech Graduates Up To?
Thanks to social media, I get to keep in touch with many of my Animal Studies/Vet Tech graduates after they have moved onward and upward post-college-life. Syd is one of those, and she’s one I think more people should know. Syd has always been open about her own struggles, her animal welfare causes, and just about everything! That’s one of the things I love about her. The tenacity with which she tackles animal welfare issues and achieving her goals in spite of obstacles make this woman an inspiration. PLUS she’s funny.
Please join me while I check in on this remarkable human:
Danya: First, the basics: tell everyone who you are, when you graduated, and what you are doing with your degree now?
Syd: My name is Sydney Palmer. I graduated from Stautzenberger in 2010 as a veterinary technician. I recently moved back to my home state, California. I plan on furthering my education by enrolling in school to be an alcohol and drug addiction counselor as well as getting certified in animal assisted therapy (specializing in feline behavior and training). I want to help people get through their problems using the benefits of animal therapy. I know from experience that my own pets have been vital in helping me get through my own issues.
Danya: Why did you attempt the arduous task of becoming a veterinary technician? Or entering the world of animal welfare at ALL? The glamour? Fast cars? Big money?
Syd: I decided to become a veterinary technician for probably the same reason everyone else does! For my love of animals! I have always been passionate about animals, especially rescues, who usually need extra care. And I have so many of my own, getting low cost vet care by working for a clinic helps a lot!
Danya: What were your biggest obstacles getting through school?
Syd: My biggest obstacle during school was coping with my mental health issues while trying to study, do homework and presentations and pass exams. I suffer from severe depression, anxiety, insomnia and ADD. It is very difficult to study, do homework, do presentations and pass tests when you have no motivation due to depression, exhausted from insomnia, constantly stressed out and can’t concentrate. It’s difficult to try to get through class when no one even knows what is going on inside. I had weekly doctor visits and medications that were always being changed around so trying to get everything done was a constant struggle.
Danya: How did you overcome those obstacles, and manage the daily balance of school/work/pets/sleep/sanity?
Syd: I managed to cope with my issues primarily with the support of my family, friends and the fabulous staff at school. I was able to be honest with some of my teachers and advisor about why I would suddenly break down in class or fall asleep during lectures. It helped that they understood what I was going through and were able to talk to me when I was having bad days.
Danya: What do you know now that you really wish you had known going into it?
Syd: What I wished I had known before becoming a veterinary technician is how physically and emotionally taxing it is. You are not always appreciated by clients, coworkers or your employer. Different clinics expect you to know and perform various tasks, as well as require you take on certain responsibilities. Certain clinics only allow you to do a limited amount of the things you learned to do in school and it can make you feel somewhat useless. It is hard to find that “perfect fit.” I have a tendency to be the one to get scratched or bitten. I’ve been bitten in the face by a Doberman. I’ve had a fingernail torn off by a cockatoo. I’ve been attacked by countless terrified cats. A high pain tolerance is a great thing to develop.
Danya: Now that you are in the field, what are the most rewarding parts of your work?
Syd: The most rewarding aspect of being a vet tech is being thanked and appreciated by the clients and their pets. With some, you cultivate a relationship and become attached to their pet. One woman would only bring in her full grown male iguana to have his nails trimmed when I was working. She started calling me her iguana’s girlfriend. Yes, my boyfriend was her iguana. When you feel truly appreciated, it’s an amazing feeling. What I also found extremely rewarding was bottle feeding babies. We not only had kittens but also opossums, squirrels, chipmunks and rabbits since we did wildlife. I absolutely love it. I didn’t even mind having to be up every few hours. Since I have insomnia anyway, it was never a big deal.
Danya: What are the toughest things you deal with on the job?
Syd: The most difficult aspect of this job is putting your time, effort and emotion into saving an animal and it still passing away or being euthanized, especially the ones you have a connection with. Going in to treat an animal in critical condition or being called in on an emergency is always hard. The client’s emotions often vary from breaking down completely or trying to be strong and void of feeling. Trying to console them is rough. Another hard part is having an animal come in who have clearly been sick for a while and the owners claiming it “just happened.” You have to restrain yourself from wanting to strangle your client.
Danya: In 5 or 10 years, what do you suppose your work life will look like?
Syd: I hope to be training animals to be used therapeutically to help people suffering from issues similar to my own. I know how much my own pets have helped me during hard times. They need me to take care of them, which gives me motivation to be responsible and make sure they are well cared for. Some of my cats can recognize when I’m depressed and will cuddle up to me, purr and give me head boops. People truly respond to the love, affection and devotion animals provide and I hope to be able to help people in the same way that my pets have helped me.
Danya: Thinking about the current trends in animal welfare, animal care, and veterinary medicine, what are some of your hot-button issues, the topics about which you are most passionate?
Syd: I am most passionate about rescue animals, especially senior pets. Older animals are usually overlooked at shelters and some people lose interest in their old pets due to reduced activity and increase in care. My most recent addition is Bogey, a seventeen-year-old blind Chihuahua with a stage four heart murmur. He was found wandering in the middle of the street in Middleburg Heights. It was pretty clear that someone had abandoned him there, most likely due to his increasing health issues. He gets around fairly well since he can still see shapes and shadows, as long as I don’t rearrange the furniture constantly to confuse him. It breaks my heart to see people have their pet for so long and carelessly abandon them because they’re old, no longer adorable little puppies or require more care. I have four senior Chihuahuas and my cats vary in age but I have taken in senior cats that require extra care. Beauford Kitters and Contessa de Winter were two orange tabbies I took in from clients until they passed away. And although I only had them for their final years, I loved them as much as if I had had them since they were kittens. I feel that it is an extremely fulfilling and rewarding experience, even if it requires a little more effort and love.
Danya: Would you care to give a shout-out to your own crew of fabulous pets, particularly those named for some key aspects of your academic experience?
Syd: A special shout out to Brutus, the cat that has my heart and his name tattooed on me!! To the mini canine pack: Leeloo, Ceasar, Jayke and Bogey!! To all my beloved cats: sisters, Ham and Bacon, The Meta, Noodle, Detective Snacks, Inspector Morris, Sir Squish-A-Lot, and Pickle. As far as the ones I adopted while at Stautzenberger, their names were inspired by the classes I was in. We begin with Boophilus Annulatus (Boo), and the siblings: Golgi Apparatus and Ribosome (nicknamed Rhino). Yes, I know I have quite the clowder!!
Danya: What words of wisdom, advice, encouragement or warning would you like to impart to prospective or current animal welfare & management, or vet tech students?
Syd: Advice for students? Enjoy your education. Make your presentations silly, creative and educational! In one presentation about the treatment of cattle, I glued white patches of fabric to a black hoodie to look like a cow and attached cow shaped ears to a headband. Silly, I know, but it got everyone’s attention. During another about the effect of a snake’s venom on their prey, I made a sock puppet snake and rat and simulated the whole process of attack, envenomation and eating.
Advice for the new vet techs? Having worked at four different clinics, I have seen cliques form among the staff. Avoid the drama! Coworkers might talk about you behind your back, and about others to you. Do not get involved. It can be incredibly discouraging, enraging and hurtful but don’t take it personally. Usually, they are the ones with personal issues that they need to take out on someone. Just do the best job you can as a proud veterinary technician.
And don’t forget to do your continuing education credits, even in your first two years (and make sure to keep track of them!)
Danya: Finally, who is your favorite teacher in the whole wide world?
Syd: My favorite teacher?? Trick question!! Dr. Linehan, of course! She was always incredibly supportive and positive. I was able to talk to her about my battle with depression, anxiety, insomnia and everything else I had going on. She always went the extra mile if you needed additional help. She has a great sense of humor (proven by her appreciation of my comical presentations), a huge heart for rescue cats, and is an overall amazing woman. I appreciate her in more ways than she knows. She is my role model! I want to be like her when I grow up!!
Danya: THANK YOU Syd! On a somber note, mental health issues are startlingly prevalent amongst our animal care colleagues. Many resources are available for help & support. A good place to start is the Veterinarians and Mental Health: CDC Results and Resources.
Somber note over. I threw in the favorite teacher question as a joke – we have a running 8-year favorite student/favorite teacher banter going that I suspect will last forever. Her answer is so darn touching I’m leaving it in. And putting it on my resume’.
Want to be like Syd?
- 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 Studies.
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. Call the Brecksville Campus for more information: 440-838-1999.
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.