Not for the squeamish: Youngsters job shadow in animal clinic

May 2015 Posted in People
Silver Creek Animal Clinic veterinarian Jenny Bate, left, explains a surgery to Brynn Walker.

Silver Creek Animal Clinic veterinarian Jenny Bate, left, explains a surgery to Brynn Walker.

By Brenna Wiegand

Pressing into the operating table at Silver Creek Animal Clinic, 11-year-old Brynn Walker’s eyes are fastened on the incision veterinarian Jenny Bate is making in the belly of an out-cold dog. Now on tiptoe, she’s riveted as the vet produces the patient’s uterus and ovaries. Brynn listens intently to the veterinarian’s warm and generous instruction.

Usually such time and attention is reserved for high school students, clinic director/animal dentist Kyle Palmer said. However, both Brynn, a student at Silverton’s Community Roots Charter School, and her friend Chloe Nealon, sixth grader at Abiqua Academy in Salem, have proven they’ve got what it takes.

One of Silver Creek’s summer veterinary camps piqued Brynn’s interest. When Palmer told the kids they could come into the clinic sometime to shadow, she took him at his word.

Though 11-year-old Brynn had more in mind, Palmer invited her to come in once so they could see how it went.

“After that it started being once a week in the afternoons,” Brynn’s mother Heidi said. “Then last summer they said she could also come mornings because they do more surgeries then, and I appreciate how supportive Community Roots has been in her taking time off to do that.”

After a similar test, Chloe Nealon, 12, was also invited back on a regular basis.

Palmer is enhancing their experience by supplying them with veterinary textbooks.

“…anatomy and physiology, basic knowledge; pharmaceutical knowledge… Brynn’s just learning a ton and they’ve done an amazing job mentoring her,” Heidi said. “She’s always been very interested in medical things and never squeamish; we have our own animals and she’s always right in there helping with whatever we have to do.”

Even the hardest things, like euthanasia, the girls are learning to take in stride.

“I kind of think that I’d rather help them than watch them suffer,” Brynn said. “I definitely want to do this for a living.”

Veterinarian Jenny Bate spends the most time with Brynn.

“Brynn asks terrific questions, works fast and remembers things that some high schoolers don’t – she’s a pretty impressive kid,” Bate said. “A lot of vets have wanted to since they were kids. …it’s not really a smart financial decision in a lot of ways but it’s a calling. I was the same way.”

It’s why Chloe’s willing to spend an afternoon a week there.

“Chloe has a high level of maturity and is a welcome presence in our practice,” Palmer said. “Normally it would be a little early for somebody to make a career choice, but she seems pretty committed to it.”

When she started volunteering at the clinic Chloe was surprised at how involved they let her be.

“I was thinking of just standing off to the side watching,” Chloe said. “They treat me amazing and whenever I miss a week they think I’ve been gone a while. It’s nice to know they look forward to having me.”

Running the camps that inspired these girls is one of Palmer’s favorite things.

“It’s a really great camp,” Chloe said. “We got to watch some surgeries from behind the window and go to a racehorse ranch.”

The whole clinic is on board with providing hands-on learning opportunities to students of all ages.

“I didn’t have access to that stuff through school,” Palmer said. “Back then, we didn’t have any career guidance and it could have made a lot of difference in my life.”

Shelly Nealon said it’s yet another example of what makes Silverton so special.

“Who else would let a 12-year-old girl into their vet clinic every week and truly have this wonderful relationship with them – to let her be a part of that life and that love?”

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